It’s human nature to focus on negative thoughts – to obsess over bad things, both real and imagined. This habit can cause us to mistake our success for some kind of fluke or internalize our shortcomings in a way we often don’t with our strengths.
It’s a matter of chemistry. When self-talk becomes critical or fearful, our bodies produce more cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the “thinking center” of our brain. We may perceive a higher level of negativity than actually exists – a side effect which can last 26 hours or more – and the longer we ruminate, the longer the problem lasts. Fortunately, we can override our tendency toward negative self-talk.
Pronouns are Important
In one study, participants who silently referred to themselves in the second or third person, or used their own names were calmer and more confident, performing better than those who referred to themselves using “I” or “me.” They found no correlation between whether the research subjects were anxious or calm at baseline, but both types benefited from the shift in language.
Try asking yourself explanatory questions like, “What does this mean?” Why does it matter?” Another study shows how people who explain ideas to themselves learn almost three times more than those who don’t. When you answer the questions you’ve posed to yourself, focus on positivity, room for growth, and goals for change.
Visualization is another form of self-talk. Art Meisel, productivity expert and founder of Leverage, creates micro-goals and then visualizes himself completing each one. He says, “Focusing on smaller chunks and working through the obstacles I might encounter makes a larger goal seem less insurmountable.”
So you see, self-talk involves more than daily pep-talks into the mirror. It’s a shift in thinking that takes time and practice, but we believe you’re more than capable of making a change. What do you think?