Self-Talk: What stories are you telling yourself?

Each of us has a repertoire of stories that come to mind in response to external circumstances. If you’ve faced a lot of rejection, perhaps you are inundated with tales about how your parents said you wouldn’t amount to anything, or maybe the automated script of those who bullied you in school might kick into high gear when you don’t get the job.

These stories can cause you to shrink away from your own dreams. It is important to do some work to become aware of these narratives so that you can start to change your self-talk into something that builds you up without tearing you down.

Pay attention: whose voice is that, anyway?

I have my own experiences with turning my self-talk away from negative to positive. Step one required me to develop an awareness of my thoughts because thoughts lead to feelings, feelings to actions, and actions into patterns of behavior. I didn’t have the greatest childhood; I have been called all kinds of things outside of a child of God. It took deliberate work to separate what I was told about myself from who I actually am. This is an essential part of the healing journey. By realizing that you soaked up others' ideas through introjection, you can take your healing into your own hands by doing identity work.

Listen to your thoughts. Sit in a silent place and just listen to what story your mind tells you about why rejection happens; you may find that the voice telling the story doesn’t sound like yours. Maybe it sounds like a caregiver, a teacher, or a bully. Because they had some authority over you, it was easy to believe their version of who you are. By doing this, you will start to change the programming that has caused you to stay safe and live your life in your own power. You become who you are and not who they said you are.

Why should you go through the pain of examining your self-talk?

There’s an old moral about a dog tied to a tree. It would walk around the tree in tight circles due to the rope’s short length. One day, the dog’s owner decided to remove the rope from the dog’s collar. He expected the pooch to run off because it was finally free. What did it do instead? It continued to walk around the tree as if the rope still bound him to it. Why? Because of programming.

Don’t be like the dog that is stuck in the same pattern. Luckily, as a human being, you have the ability to be awake and aware, to listen to your thoughts, and to act as a conscious collaborator and creator of your own life.

How do you make a change?

As I stated before, I was able to start by becoming aware of my own thoughts and self-concept. By listening, I could deduce where that programming originated, offering self-compassion by figuring out why it occurred. With age and introspection, I have been able to think differently about myself, enabling myself to love myself in the dark and in the light.

In your journey, you will start to believe in yourself when you understand the self-talk that originated somewhere else. At that point, you can choose to affirm yourself based on your own qualities. What do you like about yourself? What lights you up? What causes you to lose track of time when doing it? Knowing answers to these questions can help you to develop better self-talk.

But what if your mind is telling you the truth?

Let me stop you right there; anything your mind dredges up from past mistreatment probably isn't true. It was probably false then, and it's definitely false now. No, you are not hard to love; yes, you are worthy of love and life simply because you are alive. No, you aren't too much; yes, you have all you need to fulfill your dreams. You have a choice and the power to change your self-talk to a voice that supports you rather than tear you down. Affirmations are hard to muster at first, especially when your inner critic is louder than anything else. Keep on trying. You will never arrive, but you'll benefit from the practice.

If all else fails, put one of your baby pictures on your phone. Picture yourself as that little one; does he or she deserve the rough language you're thinking? Or does that little one deserve the best, like affirmations that keep that sparkle in their eye? I have tried this myself, and it has led to so much healing. This technique was brought to my attention by Rhonda Britten, a veteran coach who appeared on "Starting Over" in the early aughts.

A portrait of my inner child

When was the last time you took the time to listen to your inner voice, and what did you find out? Let me know in the comments!


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