One of the most common struggles I recognize in my clients, or humans in general, is the difficulty in maintaining positive self-talk. Self-talk is our internal dialogue. We speak to ourselves more often than others may speak to us. We have conversations about what we may need to do that day or noticing something within our daily interactions. There may often be conversations or comments about other people (good and bad), but we also have conversations and comments about ourselves (good and bad).
When our conversations and comments within ourselves tip the scale toward the negative side, we often find ourselves feeling anxious, sad, angry, depressed, fearful, or disgusted. This may be related to our character or our body image or even ruminating on mistakes from the past.
One of the things I try to remind my clients is that this is a normal part of human existence. As far as I can tell, everyone struggles with some low self-esteem or negative self-talk from time to time. Our world is created to make mistakes and to have failure a part of our existence. However, it is important to find ways to change those conversations, to begin to notice and emphasize our astounding and unique qualities; to praise ourselves. I have found in my work (personally and professionally) that often times we forget some of the “simple” ways we can increase our self-esteem and our self-talk. It can be helpful to be reminded, as well as, implement changes into our internal dialogue if we feel that the conversations we are having with ourselves are no longer motivating or making us feel good. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if our internal dialogue is what is causing our emotional symptoms, which is another post.
Through my experience as a therapist, I have come up with a few “simple” strategies to implement in our daily lives to help increase our positive self-talk. Here are 7 ways to improve your internal dialogue.
1. Be honest with yourself
We are talking honesty, not negativity. It is important to identify the facts about ourselves in order to have full honesty. To be honest means that you recognize the strengths and limitations. Honesty also allows us to see the limitations in the most realistic way to help create change. For example: “I am really great at being compassionate, but sometimes I have trouble holding onto the past”.
2. Fact check yourself
Just like with most data, facts are necessary to help educate ourselves and to arm us with the best information possible. When our internal dialogue is telling us how bad we are, the facts we acquire can help us fight those internal thoughts and debunk the myths about ourselves. For example: “I do everything wrong”. Fact: “I do somethings wrong, but I also do somethings right like…”
3. Practice heathy self-care
Self-care is important for everyone. Healthy self-care is knowing where your boundaries are, being self-aware with your energy level, and practicing different tools to rejuvenate yourself. Examples include taking bubbles baths, going for a nature hike/walk, enjoying a hot beverage (tea/coffee), meditating for an extended period of time, petting an animal, playing with your children, going to the gym, or journaling.
4. Ask for feedback
If you are particularly struggling with a certain thought or a past mistake, it can be helpful to ask a friend, family member, or someone you trust for their feedback about their interpretation of the issue. Sometimes it can be helpful to hear another person’s point of view that you trust; it helps us get out of our own heads and see things in a different light.
5. Meditate or create quiet time
Meditation or prayer can often be a place where people find forgiveness, understanding, and acceptance within themselves. Contrary to what pop culture shows us, meditation does not have to be sitting in nature, sitting with our legs crossed, and for hours at a time (although that’s great too!). A simple 2-20 minute meditation can do the trick and you can do this sitting or laying in your bed. There are a lot of different apps out there for this, but my favorite is Calm.com.
6. Do daily affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements we say about ourselves. The more positive statements we say about ourselves, the better we become at self-talk. One of the most common worries I hear from my clients is “what if I say too many positive things that I then become too confident or arrogant?” My response is usually “we often fear of becoming something that isn’t in our nature to become.” Meaning, if you are someone who struggles with positive self-talk, the likelihood of you becoming too confident and arrogant is low. This is often something we say to ourselves to place a barrier from doing it (due to legitimate and normal concerns or fear). An example of a positive affirmation looks like: “I am strong,” “I am capable,” “I am really good at making people laugh,” or “I am proud of myself for being confident.”
7. Seek support if it becomes too hard
If at the end of the day, you feel that the tools you have tried have failed or if you feel like you need some extra support in this area, seek support from your friends, family, church community, neighborhood, colleagues, or even a therapist. You are worth the time and dedication in making your self-talk positive and motivating, not negative and limiting. Invest in yourself and let us know if we can help in any way.
Alyssa Wright, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker practicing in Fort Collins, Colorado. She specializes in counseling with tweens, adolescents, and young adults struggling with identity, self-esteem, parent/family relationships, substance abuse, trauma, and anxiety. To schedule an appointment or consultation with Alyssa, call (970) 889-8204 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.