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How Do You Talk To Yourself? Watch Out For These Three Phrases

July 21, 2023

I’m Cherylanne.
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We all have this inner dialogue that’s running constantly. When it comes down to it, we’re all silently muttering to ourselves all day long about us, about the people around us, about the environment that we’re in. And while sometimes it’s helpful – positive self talk, or saying things to ourselves that are uplifting can actually help alleviate stress – I’ve been thinking about big themes about which we talk to ourselves that seem to get in our way the most often.

When it comes down to it, there are three main phrases to watch out for in your self talk:

  1. The “Shoulds”. This is criticism, and often is referred to as the inner critic. This self talk could be directed at ourselves, other people, or even our surroundings. So for ourselves, it might be things like, “I’m always late” or “I’m so overweight, I don’t deserve this ice cream.” Criticism of others is where we’re looking around at the people around us and noticing what we wish were different. “My husband is so boring. Why doesn’t he ever want to do anything?” Criticism of surroundings might include thoughts like “This car is junk” or “This job is so beneath me.” And if you listen to the themes about criticism, these are the “shoulds.” The way we think things ought to be, that the people around us should be, that our surroundings should be. We have this ideal that’s often rooted in closeted perfectionism of what we think the world should be like, and our constant evaluation of everything around us and ourselves creates this constant suffering.
  2. “The What Ifs”. The word anticipation has a bit of a positive connotation, but in this case, we’re talking about the negative side of anticipation. And this could be in one of three subcategories. The first is fear. “I am afraid of what could happen” or “I can’t apply for that job. What if they think I’m a loser when they see my resume?” The second is anxiety. “School is starting, what if my kids get sick?” or “What if I made the wrong decision?” The third subcategory of anticipation is doubt. “What if this presentation bombs?” or “What if I run out of time and I can’t get everything done?” This is doubting yourself or doubting what’s possible. So, if you find that your inner dialogue is punctuated with “what ifs,” then you may be falling into this pattern of anticipatory thoughts.
  3. The “If Onlys.” Ruminating thoughts are really about the past and can show up several ways, one of those being guilt. “I can’t believe I lied about that to my boss.” Another lens on rumination is shame, such as “I lost my temper with the kids again. What kind of an awful mother am I?” The third area that fits into rumination is regret. “If only I had called this person back, I didn’t realize it was the last chance I would have.” It’s all about this desire to rewind time or go back in time and get another chance to try again and do it differently.

So why does all of this matter? Well, our inner dialogue is something most of us are not tuned into. It’s kind of unconscious or subconscious, just running in the background. And because of that, we don’t realize that it could be creating this giant detour sign on the way to our dreams. When our inner dialogue is focused on criticism of ourselves or of others, the anticipation of all the things that could go wrong, and all the what ifs from the past, then we get stuck in a big traffic loop and we can’t get out of it. So we just go around and around and around in our minds and we can’t find the exit.

We have to get back on the road to go in the direction of our dreams. We really have to change the way we talk to ourselves and find a thought that’s more helpful. Otherwise, it’s like a giant blinking light right in the corner of our consciousness. And instead of focusing on the dream, instead of focusing on where we wanna go and focusing on the goal we have, we’re distracted by this blinking light.

So if you’re walking around out in the world with any of these negative self-talk patterns, pay attention to your inner dialogue. Really tune into it. And if you’re struggling to figure out what is going on in your head, or if you want some help rewriting that language, set up some time to chat with me about if coaching is the right next step for you.

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