“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me!” These words first became popular in the 1990s when a character named Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live would say them to himself in a mirror. While we loved to laugh along with Stuart, it turns out that self-talk, or internal dialogue, is no laughing matter.
The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology found that talking to yourself makes your brain work more efficiently. Of course, we all want efficient brains and more brain power – so talk away, right? Not necessarily. It depends what you are saying to yourself.
If your internal dialogue sounds something like this: “That was a stupid thing to say. You are an idiot!”, then you might want to consider changing your tone. While it seems like a simple thing to just talk to ourselves more positively, it turns out that making the switch from negative to positive is relatively simple…but it is not easy. For many of us negative self-talk is so ingrained into our neurology that we don’t even consciously know we are doing it. We’ve been talking to ourselves like this for so long it has become a familiar pattern. Eventually it feels like it’s “who we are”.
What if you could mind hack that negative talk to something a bit more uplifting like, “I have great ideas. I can succeed with this project!”? That would be the kind of self-talk we would all like to efficiently and consistently have running around in our brains making us more confident and less anxious with each passing day.
Thankfully, our brains are highly adaptable and we have the power to change. First we must be mindful of the voice inside our head, then weaken our negative language and strengthen our positive language.
Here are some easy steps you can take today to start you on your way to making those positive self-talk changes for self-empowerment.
Be aware of what you are saying to yourself.
Write down your negative phrases. (Example: I can’t understand computers.)
Write down a counter phrase to your negative phrases. (Example: I will learn how to better understand computers.)
Repeat the negative phrases in the most whiney and small voice you can imagine. Do this 10 times.
Repeat the counter phrase in a confident, loud and proud voice. Do this 10 times.
By giving those negative phrases a whiny child-like voice and repeating it in that way many times, you are “flushing out” the negative charge in that idea and taking away its power over you. By repeating the positive counter phrase in a confident manner, you are giving it strength and thereby giving yourself the confidence the phrase inspires. The more you practice this simple exercise, the more your brain will efficiently process the information by judging the negative message as powerless and weak, and the positive message as one to be listened to, respected, and repeated.
By the way, Stuart Smalley was played by SNL cast member and staff writer Al Franken, a man who is currently a United States Senator. I guess his positive self-talk paid off…
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