Self-talk follows us wherever we go.
What do you think when you read the message on this shirt?
One of the first take-aways might be: “what a positive message!”
And yeah, it is a great message to send to kids. Having dreams and aspirations is an important thing.
But if you’re reading this, you’re probably not a child. You’re a full-grown adult that’s been through some stuff. And seeing something like this on a shirt might cause you to have different reactions.
Depending on where you’re at, it might cause you to say, “yeah right”. Or “that’s not true”. You could feel jaded by life and not about positivity right now.
I get it.
When your relationships aren’t going well or you’re not feeling jazzed about your job, you don’t exactly feel like doing a back flip. And who could blame you?
Sometimes when we mess up in a relationship or make a bad decision, we hear an inner voice scold us. This inner voice can also be referred to as self-talk.
I know you’re nodding along with me. Even if you look like you’ve got it all together, you have an inner voice, too. It’s usually the voice of someone who influenced us as a child. I almost said, “it’s someone who cared for us”, but if you hear this voice call you a “loser”, that’s not exactly “care”, is it?
Let’s face it…if you grew up in a certain era where positive messages weren’t emblazoned on children’s clothing (if you were born before the 70s or 80s, you definitely get where I’m coming from), you might have heard stuff about “tough love” or being told “you should be seen and not heard”.
Most people today approach parenting differently. Not everywhere or every family, but there’s more of an acknowledgement that harsh words from a parent can wreak havoc on us well into our adulthood.
This so-called internalized voice might have once been a critical parent or a mean teacher who put you down. And as you grew up, you picked up the ball and ran with it.
You’re so eager to please that you absorbed those mean words and save them the effort of saying those things. You just say them to yourself now.
You mess up at work and you criticize your inattention to detail or failure to focus. An argument with your wife can cause you to say you can’t do anything right. You mess everything up.
Sometimes you don’t even realize you do this. That’s how insidious the self-talk is. It’s like bamboo. It seems innocuous and then when you don’t notice, it’s choked your entire yard.
This self-talk or inner voice can be tamed and you don’t have to be victimized by it forever. Once you start to acknowledge its existence, it might be so tempting to dismiss it. But truly listening in and hearing what it tells you and when it starts yapping provides you valuable information.
You might ask yourself whose voice is it? Who spoke that way to you? What was your relationship like with them? Listening to your self-talk might help you work toward developing a different relationship with your inner life. Getting acquainted with what is within yourself also moves you in the direction of better emotional regulation and could also enhance the relationships you have with others.
If now feels like a good time to get the ball rolling, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You might be ready to make some changes in your life. Virtual therapy is available and I am licensed to provide this service to anyone living in New Jersey. While it might not feel like you can do anything, like the shirt says, taking the initiative to make some changes means that you are doing something right.