Read time: 6 minutes
- Your internal dialogue is what’s known as self-talk. It can be either positive or negative.
- Learning to use self-talk to your advantage can have great health benefits.
- Learn how to implement positive self-talk with a daily practice.
How you talk to yourself determines how you think and feel about yourself. Those internal discussions you have can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Often, though, we only really clue-in to self-talk when we cast a negative light on ourselves.
Life never goes according to plan—it typically throws various curveballs and setbacks that we aren’t prepared for, which can lead to anxiety, stress, and a negative self-perception. Immediately, then, those self-deprecating thoughts begin to surface, like: I’m a failure; of course it’s my fault; or I’ve blown it, what’s the point?
It’s in these moments of self-defeat that self-compassion in the form of a pep talk or a note to yourself can help you shake yourself from the negativity, allowing you to look past the self-doubt and see another side to your own story. Read on to learn about the importance of self-talk and how to talk to yourself in a way that empowers you.
What Is Self-Talk?
Self-talk can be either positive or negative; it’s that constant inner dialogue based on both conscious and unconscious beliefs and biases you possess about yourself. This voice, which we often interpret as our own, talks to us throughout the day about worries, concerns, hopes, and fears.
More often than not, self-talk tends towards the negative. That negative inner voice has a significantly more destructive influence than the positive one. We are hardwired to remember negative experiences and messaging over positive ones, possibly due to a survival mechanism or an instinctive reaction that ensures vitality.
Positive self-talk, on the other hand, talks down to worry and bolsters confidence. It is not a positively false narrative of reality, but a way to speak to yourself with compassion, understanding, and care. Speaking to yourself in this way can allow you to see things from a different perspective, one that allows you to keep moving forward rather than being consumed by unrealistic negativity.
The Importance of Self-Talk
Self-talk will determine the course of your life. It’s the voice that is with us from the beginning, right up until the end; it’s the one we hear the most throughout life. Therefore, it has great influence over our thoughts. And what you think will determine how you feel; how you feel will determine what you do and how you live your life.
This relationship—among emotions, feelings, and actions—is cyclical. Self-talk becomes thoughts; thoughts convert to emotions; emotions play out in actions. Thoughts and actions work in parallel to reinforce patterns and behaviors, creating a reciprocal loop of either positive or negative self-talk.
What’s more, the health benefits of positive self-talk can be life-enhancing. Researchers at Mayo Clinic have found that crafting a positive internal narrative may lead to health benefits like lower levels of stress, better psychological and physical well-being, better heart health outcomes, and increased life span.
How to Give Yourself a Pep Talk
Self-talk is very effective. But it’s key that you’re using it to your benefit, not your detriment.
When getting started on a new, positive self-talk habit, consider pep talks you’ve heard before. People use them all the time—at work or at play—to motivate themselves and others. Pep talks provide essential encouragement at a critical moment when motivation has hit rock bottom.
According to Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield, leading experts in motivating language theory (MLT), there are three key ingredients to every successful pep talk: direction giving, expressions of empathy, and meaning making.
A truly inspirational pep talk requires concrete information on how to overcome the challenge at-hand, praise, gratitude, or acknowledgement of the task’s difficulty, and why the challenge should be welcomed.
To put this into practice, it’s also worth noting that your point of view also matters. Researchers have found that speaking to yourself in the second- or third-person (using pronouns like ‘you’ or your first name) rather than the first person (using pronouns like ‘I’ or ‘me’) results in further success.
Using these outsider pronouns gives yourself some distance from the given situation. Creating distance between yourself and the challenge set before you can allow you to think more clearly and see the situation from a more logical perspective.
Next time you find yourself in need of self-compassion or motivation, try something like this:
For something shorter, try a variation of the below:
Good morning [xx]! Have fun today. Be generous with your energy and heart. The world needs more of your joy, spontaneity, and kindness. Celebrate all of the actions you take today. Here we go.
Hey there, friend. I really don't know what to say to you today! I know your week has not gotten off to the start you wanted. You're sleep-deprived and concerned about [xx]. I've noticed that because you're feeling low your self-talk hasn't been too kind lately and that you've been spiraling a bit. Remember not to get ahead of yourself today. Try to stay in the moment and take it one step at a time. Start with your own little corner of the world and just keep going. Big hugs.
You can say this out loud or write it down in the form of a note to yourself. Whatever works for you in the moment is exactly what is needed. Remember to speak to yourself genuinely and authentically. Use words that resonate with you in the moment to truly make these self-talk practices effective. Try implementing these practices when you catch yourself in a negative self-talk spiral and see how it begins to transform your journey.
This article has been clinically reviewed by Jamillah Hoy-Rosas, MPH, RDN, CDCES, and VP of clinical operations and program design at One Drop, and Dr. Harpreet Nagra, PhD, VP, behavior science and advanced technologies at One Drop.