I recently came across an interesting video of a forensic artist drawing two images of the same woman, one based on how she speaks about herself, and the other depicting that same woman as described by others, complete strangers. Would you be shocked to learn that the women described themselves in much harsher and negative ways than others saw them?
Although the video is short and simple, it made me think about the topic of self-talk. Self-talk is what we say to ourselves, day in and day out, much of which we aren’t fully aware of, and which impacts the way we think, how we feel, and even how we act. Sometimes this talk is positive (e.g., “I can do this.”), but all too often it’s not.
Think back, how many times just today have you criticized, judged, scolded, mocked, or been unkind to yourself? Now think about the impact this has on your mood, self-esteem, curiosity, and willingness to take risks, be bold, be brave? And it doesn’t end there. The danger is not just that we start to believe this dialogue, it’s also that since most of the time we don’t even realize we are having it, we are even more susceptible to its power and fallacies.
If you doubt the power of your word, think about having this same dialogue with a close friend. Can you imagine telling them what you say to yourself? And now think of their reaction and the powerfully negative effect you could have on them. Now realize that this is you speaking to yourself. In this case, you may very well be your own worst enemy.
So, what can you do about this? The first and often most difficult step is awareness. Pure, simple, clean awareness of what you say to yourself and the effect these words have. Every time you look in the mirror, listen to what you say. Every time you compare yourself to your friend, coworker, boss, neighbor, the girl in the magazine, listen to what you say. And, if after listening, you realize you are putting yourself down, think about how you would talk to your closest, most loved friend if she were the other person in the mirror. How would you encourage and support them? How would you nurture, love, and embrace them? Now try this on yourself and notice the effect. Let the outcome be the proof you need to motivate this change.