When was the last time you did an inventory of how you speak to yourself? How often do you judge yourself harshly or say nasty things to yourself about your actions or behavior? Is it on a daily basis, occasionally or rarely? How often do you speak in a positive manner to yourself about your present and future? Are you supportive? Nurturing? Is this tone of voice familiar to you on a daily basis, occasionally or rarely?
In general are you paying attention to, or ignore, the little voice talking to you about you?
While it might seem obvious that how you speak to yourself matters, we don’t think enough about how powerfully our internal dialogue shapes our self-concept and the impact it has on our present and future.
As a classically trained musician, I was taught to always see what is wrong. My ability to spot a mistake, ‘the hole’, as well as where I am at fault, works like a high powered microscope. In my 20’s and 30’s, my fear of failure and critical voice was at a record high. I look back on those years, and wonder how I ever was able to succeed at all. Everything felt so incredibly difficult to do. And then one day, I realized that I was standing in my own way of succeeding at the level I wanted. I had no one to blame but my critical self.
While it has taken me the better part of a decade to change how I speak to myself, the difference it has made is incredible. Things come more organically to me and I am so much more able to go with the flow and learn from my mistakes. I am now able to use my critical eye to take more risk, more effortlessly, by using it to create a better (non judgmental) strategy. I also have come to recognize how much more confidently I walk around in my skin and shoes now too. It’s amazing what being consistently inwardly supportive to yourself can do for you.
So let’s take a moment and break down the internal factors that shape your self-concept. They are:
Internal Dialogue: This is the continuous conversation that you have with yourself about everything that happens to you. This dialogue is constant and usually happens at the same rate at which you would speak out loud. This continuous conversation often provokes a physiological change in our demeanor.
Labeling: Human beings tend to organize things into categories. We categorize other humans by labeling them into groups, subgroups, classes and functions and we even label ourselves. For better or worse, these labels have a powerful impact on our perception of self because we tend to “live” the categories we’ve attached to ourselves (“I’m a loser” or “I’m a winner.”)
Tapes: These are beliefs that have become so deeply ingrained that they “play” automatically in our heads and influence our behavior without our awareness. Unlike labels (“I never win”), tapes have context: “I won’t get the promotion because I never win.” Tapes are dangerous and potentially self-defeating because they have the power to set you up for a specific outcome.
Fixed Beliefs & Limiting Beliefs: Fixed beliefs are the beliefs we hold about ourselves, others, and life’s circumstances that have been repeated for so long they have become ingrained and are difficult to change. Limiting beliefs are the beliefs we have about ourselves that limit what we reach for and achieve. They also cause us to block any conflicting positive information while confirming any new negative information.
Whatever you believe about yourself, you will live up to that truth. If you believe you are incompetent and worthless, you will live down to that truth. If you believe you are powerful and capable, you will live up to that truth. Listen and observe carefully what you are saying to yourself and how you are saying it for a week. Write it all down in a journal and then review it. By becoming more aware of how you are speaking to yourself you can begin to make significant changes that can profoundly, and immediately, begin to make positive changes to your life and career path.
Your self talk matters greatly. Don’t let it rob you of becoming the person you really want to be seen as by the rest of the outside world.
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