By Essie Bester
What do you think about in the afternoons on your way home from work? Do you relive your daily successes or do you focus on the obstacles you encountered? Do you belittle yourself or wish you had someone else’s skills? Beware! Your self-talk can hinder your effectiveness, satisfaction and professional success.
Self-talk is your internal dialogue. It shapes and determines your self-image. Effective use thereof can help you to enhance your self-confidence, improve your focus and give you that extra drive that you need to get your dream job.
In contrast, negative self-dialogue is debilitating and causes you to start questioning yourself and doubting your own capabilities. Eventually it results in a vicious circle, as the more you doubt and correct yourself, the more you allow others to doubt you and their reaction lets you doubt yourself even more.
What makes self-talk so treacherous is the fact that a lot of it occurs unconsciously, while it appears that the human mind is inclined to focus on the negative. We chide ourselves in ways we would never tolerate if it was an employer, spouse or someone else.
How do I change my self-dialogue?
- Talk to yourself the way in which you would talk to a friend
Focus on using your name instead of “I” when talking to yourself. This will enable you to distance yourself psychologically from that primitive part of your brain (and its inherent egocentrism) that focuses only on survival, and allows you to talk to yourself as you would to a friend. It helps you to process an external incident as if it happened to someone else. In this way you lower your anxiety while improving your self-control. With time you cultivate more wisdom and the negative voice that restricts your possibilities is curbed.
Your brain (which focuses on survival), like the zoom lens of a camera, is wired for tunnel vision so that it can target threats. Your heart rate quickens, your pupils enlarge and you breathe faster while you prepare for fight-flee-freeze actions. During these moments your self-dialogues make life-or-death judgements that limit your ability to see possibilities. With time you construct blind spots of negativity without realising it. Choose self-dialogues that allow you to stand back during a challenge, look at the big picture, and contemplate a wide variety of possibilities, solutions, opportunities and choices.
- Challenge negative thoughts
While self-dialogue that communicates inferiority, weakness and uselessness leads to a lifestyle that reflects these qualities, psychologist have through research determined that positive confirmations give us a wider perspective that combats the brain’s tunnel vision and helps us to strengthen our self-worth. When your self-dialogue continuously affirms that you are worthy, strong and good enough, your conduct will reflect strength and worth.
Listen to how you talk to yourself.
Determine the validity of your self-dialogue. Do you overreact or are your self-dialogues irrational? Make adjustments.
Correct your self-dialogues continuously when you realise they are negative.
Give yourself another chance if you make a mistake. Learn from your mistakes.
Acknowledge – without being detractive or belittling yourself – when you have made a mistake.
- Identify (and experience) your feelings
When you become aware of unpleasant feelings – such as anger or frustration – you should try and observe the feelings impartially and as something separate from yourself. By acknowledging your feelings in this way instead of ignoring them, you create psychological distance that allows you to move to a condition where you can look at the situation calmly, sympathetically and with a clear mind. It helps you to determine the actual problem (the trigger) so that you can once again perform more competitively and with self-confidence.
There is a direct link between being kind to yourself, happiness, wellbeing and success. Fortunately, according to researchers, positive emotions such as loving care and kindness can be developed in the same way as mastering a musical instrument.
Kindness to yourself enlarges your emotional arsenal. It heightens empathy and the expression of empathy can have far-reaching consequences in your personal and professional life. Employers who display empathy are more inclined to keep employees, increase productivity, lessen staff turnover and create a feeling of belonging in the organisation.
In the same way a bit of empathy with yourself (loving care and self-forgiveness), instead of being so hard on yourself, can help you to bounce back quicker the next time quicker and achieve success.
So, apply yourself to practise kindness and positive self-talk in difficult situations and enjoy the improved performance and quicker recovery from setbacks – regardless how dire the circumstances.
Using self-talk to enhance career satisfaction and performance https://academic.oup.com/ajhp/article-abstract/65/6/514/5128151?redirectedFrom=fulltext