Lately, I’ve been caught talking to myself. “Who are you talking to, Mom?” my daughter will ask. From my husband I hear “Did you say something to me?” Being caught in the act of talking out loud has forced me to evaluate what I’m muttering under my breath. Upon examination, I realized my self-talk was too negative. I’m no life coach, but it seems logical to me that the more positive your inner voice, the more confident and happy you will be. Here are some of the most common negative things we tell ourselves, along with their positive counterparts. As you read, think about the little voice inside your head.
1. I'll put forth my best effort
“I can’t do that” turns into “I’ll try,” or “I’ll put forth my best effort.” Even better is “I can” or “I will.” If you are trying to avoid unhealthy behaviors, use “I’m choosing not to” as a motivating phrase. Don’t let your inner “I can’t” become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
2 . Even if I fail, at least I tried
Replace “I might fail” with “Even if I fail, at least I tried.” Think about what you might learn from the process of trying and failing. Talk the situation through in your head. “If I fail, what’s the worst thing that can happen?” We often talk ourselves out of opportunities for growth because of our own internal fears.
3. See your true beauty
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? This recent viral video by Dove about true beauty shows how women described themselves differently than total strangers did. Look in the mirror and describe yourself. Are you immediately drawn to your perceived flaws? Change your inner dialogue about your body and appearance. Be grateful for the marks of aging and life that make you unique. I’ve been working on this one. My once-loathed freckles are now a part of me I accept and like.
4. "I think I can." Listen to your inner voice
It’s normal to feel stressed or burnt out. How you manage those feelings has a lot to do with your inner voice. I like to think of the Little Engine from the children’s book The Little Engine That Could. She was determined to make it up the mountain even when others doubted her. She repeated “I think I can” as she chugged up the steep tracks.
When I feel overwhelmed, I take a few minutes to meditate and calm down. I think about the stressors affecting me and how I can deal with them. I try to see what thoughts rise to the front of my mind. Those thoughts I deal with, first. Then I adopt a positive mantra like “I think I can” or “be your best self” to help me through the day. My inner voice often tells me dark chocolate will help, as well.
Teenagers and young people often take too much stock in what others think of them. As you become an adult, your self-confidence should cease to be an external thing and become more internal. You can help this process along by moderating your self-talk. Your inner voice is the most important one you hear. What is yours saying to you?
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.