Inspired living

How to make self talk work for you

Positive self talk

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It’s those quiet, secret messages we hear in our head that tell us we’re not good enough, not thin enough, not clever enough, not funny enough. They may be so quiet and secret, you don’t even know that they’re happening. And it’s something we all do in some way. Welcome to the world of negative ‘self talk’.

Self talk is that voice in your head that speaks to you and tells you things about who you are and who you’re not, who you should be, what you look like and what you can and can’t do. It can be positive or negative. However, based on the work that I do with people, generally it is negative.

I’ll give you an example of my own negative self talk some years back. I’m a late bloomer with driving. I learnt when I was 33 (and pregnant). Not a good idea. But that’s another story. Anyway my big issue for many years was a lack of confidence and panic about reverse parking. So this is how it went. I would see a parking space. My negative self talk would go into overdrive while I was trying to drive! It would say (and loudly), you can’t do it, people are going to watch you and see how bad you are, you’ll embarrass yourself, you’ll crash into a car, people will be waiting, you won’t have time, etc etc. So you can imagine how much that helped me. We’ll get to what I did to overcome this later.

Self talk is that voice in your head that speaks to you and tells you things about who you are and who you’re not, who you should be, what you look like and what you can and can’t do.

I imagine you will have your own version of negative self talk. What are the messages you say to yourself? Do you have any idea how often you say them? Some common ones are: I won’t be able to do it. I’m not good enough. Other people are better. I’m fat. I’m ugly. Often we’ve been doing this since our childhood and often we are repeating the messages others have given to us. Parents, sisters, brothers, friends, teachers, bullies. They can all play a part in contributing to the messages we tell ourselves…and the impact can be devastating. The impact can be that those key negative messages block you from embracing opportunities, trusting yourself and feeling confident enough to take on new challenges. If you are told repeatedly that you are not good enough, how much harder is it for you to feel confident in your life, your work and your relationships? These messages can prevent you from embracing a positive and whole-hearted relationship or that job that challenges and inspires you.

The good news is that we all have within us the capacity to lead our own change. It may not be easy but it is possible. If you realise that your messages relate to deep past pain and trauma, therapy can really help. However, if you are wanting to blitz your negative self talk right now, there is one option worth trying and that is what I did with my reverse parking dilemma.

I created some new positive messages and trained myself to say them repeatedly to drown out my negative messages. Each time I needed to park my car, I would say to myself (and with conviction) –  I can do it, I am a confident, skilled reverse parker. My commitment to this new positive self talk didn’t transform me overnight but did over time calm me when I was reverse parking. It refocused me in a positive way and allowed me to show myself that I could calmly and confidently do it. Importantly, although I didn’t always park perfectly, after some time, I did not see my ‘failure’ as another piece of evidence to show that I couldn’t park. It was simply one occasion of not doing as well in the context of feeling confident and trusting in my ability overall.

So for all of us, one of the challenges is to consciously and honestly identify our negative messages. There may be one. There may be many. Once you have your list of negative messages, then you’re ready to develop the antidote, your positive messages. These are also called affirmations. Louise Hay is famous for highlighting the importance of affirmations in transforming your thought patterns and healing your life. Importantly, make sure your positive messages are as positive as they can be, like – I am a confident, capable person who can achieve everything I set my mind to, rather than – I can probably do this. It might sound funny but you could even try saying to yourself, I am fantastic! or I am awesome!… and see how it feels when you repeat it regularly.

Once you have your positive messages ready, then you need to repeat them and many, many times. Think about how many times you’ve been repeating those negative messages. Work on repeating your positive messages at least five or ten times more than you have been saying your negative ones. The more the better.  Try to catch yourself whenever you’re repeating any negative messages about yourself and focus on again converting these into positive self talk. It will get easier with practice.

Over time, this approach can make a real difference to your life.  It can help you to let go of unhelpful, negative thinking and embrace life with confidence and enthusiasm.  You can do it.  Lead Your Own Change.



Tulsi van de Graaff is a former lawyer with a psychology background as well as an experienced management consultant, workplace trainer, facilitator, presenter and coach. She is the founder of Lead Your Own Change and for over 7 years has been working with individuals, teams and organisations to solve their communication and conflict challenges. She also helps develop emotional intelligence and resilience, create positive personal and cultural change, manage change and uncertainty and enhance relationships and communication. Tulsi runs public workshops including Teen Talk: a communication workshop for mums and teen/tween daughters, Couple Talk, to enhance couple communication and Beyond Breakup, for people healing after a break up.

Tulsi is a volunteer facilitator and presenter for Dress for Success Sydney (DFSS). At DFSS, she runs workshops for women in need, including Finding Your Vision and Trusting in Your Ability as well as coaching training for DFSS volunteer coaches.

For more information check out Tulsi's website, www.leadyourownchange.com, her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/LeadYourOwnChange/ or email Tulsi at Tulsi@leadyourownchange.com