“You can do it.” Those simple words give us confidence, strength, focus and energy. We could all benefit by speaking such encouraging words to ourselves. Instead, most of us accept whatever observations our minds automatically serve up, and for many of us these statements are far from positive.
In fact, many of us routinely undermine ourselves with negative statements. “Here we go again.” “This situation stinks.” “I can’t do anything right.” Such thoughts run through our mind far more often than we realize and drag us down throughout the day. These negative statements are based on life long habits that started in childhood. After all, even kind parents had to tell us all the things we weren’t allowed to do, things to fear and draw back from. As we adapted to repeatedly hearing “no, you can’t” we incorporated this negativity into the things we said to ourselves. As adults we’ve been telling ourselves “I can’t ” for so long, we accept the negative messages without question.
When we’re ready to grow and move on, we need to learn about and challenge these old, self destructive habits. By becoming aware of our negative statements, and substituting positive ones, we increase our energy and optimism. “You can do it” gives us a refreshing positive spin in any situation. The things we routinely say to ourselves also contribute to our self esteem. To create a positive mental atmosphere in which to move through life, we need to believe that it’s okay to say positive things to ourselves. As we explore and experiment, we find out for ourselves how positive self talk boosts our self esteem and effectiveness.
In addition to encouraging statements, we also benefit from soothing words that calm us when we get tense and edgy. When we’re trying to deal with difficult situations we need our wits about us to help focus our minds on the goal and reduce tension. However, despite our best intentions, old habits may compel us to throw fuel on the fire of our negative feelings by saying inflammatory things to ourselves. “Dammit, I can’t take it anymore” adds to our tension and makes us feel worse. Instead, we can learn to say “It’s okay, this will pass” to help us settle down and behave more appropriately. When we verbally soothe ourselves we improve our poise and focus, become kinder to others, and continue the task at hand more effectively.
Our thought habits may be just as negative about others as they are about ourselves. When we feel edgy or down, we may try to cover up our bad feelings with habits that mentally tear down the people around us. When we say “That stupid idiot” we justify our cruel words by telling ourselves the other person “really is a stupid idiot.” Whatever the other person’s qualities, the fact remains that these negative judgments add to our own tension and may spill out and make others feel worse as well. Negative self talk about others reduces the chances for a productive interaction.
Instead of blanket criticisms of those around us, we could improve our own mood and our relationships by saying “When I think about it, I might do the same thing in his or her position” or “I can appreciate the diversity of human beings. He or she is different from me, and that’s okay.” By learning to say soothing, uplifting things about other people, we calm ourselves and improve our poise and clarity.
When we become adept at positive self talk, we can improve our response in difficult situations. For example, we may be concerned about a repetitive tense scenario with a boss, spouse, child or parent. As we learn the kinds of things we typically say to ourselves in those situations, we can plan affirmations that relieve the tension. By rehearsing soothing, kind, encouraging and forgiving statements ahead of time, we can create harmony.
Our encouraging statements have a powerful positive impact on the people around us, and take on additional meaning when addressed to our children. As they hear our encouraging words they will grow up learning to incorporate positive statements into their own self talk.
Some of us instinctively fear that speaking positively to ourselves is wrong, as if our habitual negative thoughts are somehow more truthful. Perhaps in the back of our child minds, we still feel that our parents knew best when they told us all those negative things about ourselves. As long as we accept that, we stay stuck in self destructive thought patterns. At some point, we need to take a stand and accept that we have the right to challenge our own unhappy self destructive thoughts in order to achieve our goal of becoming a happier person.
Unlearning old habits and learning new ones takes time. After all, our habits of negative self-talk were built up over years. However, with patience and persistence our self-talk gradually improves, and we’ll be amazed at how a more positive thought stream influences the way we act and feel. We’ll find that we’re better at doing the things we want to do, and more tolerant of the challenges in our lives.
See Also: Child Within, Cognitive Therapy, Leadership, Meditation, Self Talk, Soothing
The power of positive thinking by Norman Vincent Peale
Awaken the giant within by Tony Robbins