Much of your thinking involves a combination of mental images and inner chatter which creates your feelings and emotions. By becoming aware of your self talk and beginning to deliberately manage them you will be directly influencing both your feelings and emotions.
Every waking moments we talk to ourselves about the things we experience. Our self-talk, the thoughts we communicate to ourselves, in turn control the way we feel and act. John Lembo
The mindset of a ‘winner’ is produced by positive self talk. Self talk is your mental evaluation of your behaviour and performance. In other words it is the conversation that goes on in your head. Your self-talk is built by your thoughts. Unfortunately for many the vast majority of these conversations are repetitive, full of negative thoughts – focused on the things you should have done, the things that went wrong, telling yourself that you aren’t good enough. Each conversation that you have with yourself supports in your mind who you are and what you are capable of. It will build or pull down your self-esteem and self-worth.
The higher your sense of self-worth and self-esteem the more competent you will be dealing with the challenges and difficulties life will throw at you. When your self talk focuses on self-doubt and is always critical of you then you are unable to see the best and bring out the best in yourself.
Have you ever made a mistake then played it over and over in your mind? “How could I have been so stupid, why didn’t I keep quiet, why didn’t I say, Why didn’t I do it like that instead, why do I keep messing things up …” The problem is compounded by the fact that we often repeat these conversations over and over again, reliving the mistake, keeping it at the forefront of our mind. We stay focused on all the negatives from our experiences and this then builds a negative belief about how we handle this type of situation.
In sport positive self talk can help you to succeed by motivating you to beat your opponent, or do your very best at an activity. Self talk is the thoughts and beliefs that you have about yourself and your ability. It can help raise your game or drag you down.
When I am weight training I find self-talk an incredibly powerful ally. I will repeat over and over again positive affirmations such as:
- I have trained hard.
- I am strong.
- All I can expect of myself is to do my best at this point in time.
- I am improving all the time.
- I can find the way to beat to lift this weight.
- I have enough strength for this.
- I can push through the pain.
- I can do this.
As I think these things and have these thoughts, I start to feel more confident and strong. I talk to myself calmly and positively about what I need to do to create my best performance. I prepare my mind to achieve feelings of readiness, resolve and determination.
When those heavy weights are in my hands, I focus inwardly, I feel my body full of energy, sense my muscles feeling strong, and then say to myself:
- This is a light weight!
- I’m more than able to get the reps out successfully!
- Come on!
- Just do it!
- Smash It!
- Easy Lift!
- Focus, Core Tight!
- Let’s go!
Bruce Jenner the Olympic gold medallist in the decathlon in 1976 explained that he used to interpret his increased heartbeat, muscle tremor, rapid breathing, increased sweating just before the decathlon as a sign that he was too nervous and wasn’t going to do well. These thoughts inevitably led to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once he reframed these feelings and thoughts and told himself that he was ready, prepared both physically and psychologically, and that those symptoms were a sign of readiness and positive signals to compete his successes improved dramatically. This led to his ultimate triumph at the Olympics.
Tennis legend Pete Sampras often talks about he used positive affirmations and self-talk to psyche himself up, telling himself that he could beat an opponent. Even when he was on court, losing, he would remind himself that he has been on this court before, played the same opponent, and could shift gears with some positive self-talk reminders that “everything is okay.” This self talk led him to achieve so much.
Every sportsman knows their real battle is not so much on the field or court, but inside their heads. You absolutely must manage your mental side if you want to be the best. No matter how great your physical condition, or your skills at your sport, unless your head is right, you won’t be the greatest success you could be.
When you tell yourself you can’t handle something you tend to stop looking for solutions. You ensure you are right, and find yourself unable to deal with the particular situation. There is a big difference telling yourself you can’t handle something and asking yourself how you will handle something. Doesn’t the second thought feel more hopeful and produce more creativity? Negative self talk will always end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.
“You can change who you are by changing what you say when you talk to your mind.”
Positive self-talk will help you to create a new life. You become a different person. You literally change who you are by changing what you say when you talk to your self. If you don’t like what you hear when your mind talks to you, you can use positive self-talk to change the message and push your inner voice in a positive direction. You can make your life as positive as you want. What you say to your mind is your roadmap to the future. Each word takes you to a specific destination. Make sure your self-talk is positive so it takes you where you want to go.
I want to add in here, that as a parent you must realise the impact your words have on your children. Your words strongly influence their future beliefs and self talk, they have ‘power’ over your child’s mind and future.
There is a big difference between saying:
- “Aren’t you wonderful”
- “Look at what you can do …”
- “You can do whatever you want”
And the alternatives:
- “You are a bad child”
- “You are no good at”
- “You will never amount to much”
So please understand the impact of your words on your children’s inner mind chatter. One of the greatest gifts you can give to others is to help them build their own sense of self-worth.
Back to you. Control your self talk so that it is constructive, inspiring and increases your belief about what you can do. When the results you produce are less than you would like, you can set yourself up for future success by changing the conversation in your mind about that event. Don’t focus on your limitations or dwell on your fears. Put your energy on focusing on what you do want and who you do want to be.
So from now on aware of your thoughts and see which of them are positive and helpful to you, and which are negative and need to be changed.
Begin to pay attention to your self-talk. Notice what you say to yourself and how you say it. Do you constantly criticise yourself inside your head ? Or do you constantly criticise and blame others? Can you hear yourself constantly bemoaning your life, your mistakes, or how life ‘treats’ you? Do you hear yourself moaning about how unfair life can be?
Negative self-talk is demoralising and debilitating, but you are so used to it you don’t consciously pay attention to it and therefore do not challenge it. It goes on and on in the background .
So from now on you must constantly monitor your thoughts. When you notice a negative one, change the self-talk to positive by first using a firm inner ‘voice’, and just say “Stop!” Immediately think of a positive thought right away. This disrupts your minds negativity and forces you to rethink. It is very important to practice recognising your negative thoughts and turning them into positives.
We all talk to ourselves, either out loud or mentally. When your self-talk is positive and helpful it will empower you. When it’s unkind, critical, anxiety-laden, it makes you feel bad, destroys your confidence and lowers self esteem.
From now on pay attention to it. Each time you recognise that you are doing your self-criticising or self-undermining pause, remind yourself that it’s just that old habit you’ve got into, and that from now on you’re changing this habit.
Top athletes and winners in every field think positively, using self-talk to build on their self-belief and confidence. They focus on improvement not on worrying about poor performance or negative consequences of failure. They build on earlier successes and don’t dwell on failure or poor performance which helps them build a positive self-image, confidence, and personal belief in themselves.
He who would be useful, strong, and happy must cease to be a passive receptacle for the negative, beggarly, and impure streams of thought; and as a wise householder commands his servants and invites his guests, so must he learn to command his desires and to say, with authority, what thoughts he shall admit into the mansion of his soul. James Allen