The Power Of Self-Talk

mental health in women mental wellness

Who here remembers the TV shows we watched as children with the devil and angel perched on our favorite characters' shoulders, whispering their counsel? I sure do. It used to make me laugh, seeing this tiny red character wielding a pitchfork, saying, “You know you want to do this,” while the angel, halo aglow, countered with, “No, don’t. Don’t do it.” It all seemed innocent, meant for entertainment. Yet, these shows mirrored something profoundly impactful in our own lives: we each harbor a little devil and angel inside, influencing our thoughts, emotions, and consequently, our behaviors.

Self-talk, an unconscious habit, wields incredible power. It's often, though not always, ingrained in our childhood. What we tell ourselves as adults often echoes the words we first heard from our caregivers, who laid the primary foundation. Others like friends, relatives, and teachers added their influence, forming the secondary conditioning.

If you were fortunate to be raised in a home where caregivers granted space for emotional expression, allowed you to be yourself, and showered you with unconditional love, both in words and actions, the angel likely held sway over the devil. You would grow up confident, understanding your core values, loving yourself, feeling internally secure, and possessing healthy resilience. Your self-talk would be positive, affirming, and you’d naturally gravitate towards the brighter aspects of life, approaching challenges with rationality. You'd be attuned to your emotional side, adept at regulating and accepting your feelings. Building and nurturing meaningful relationships would come naturally, and you’d think critically in a constructive manner.

However, the peril of self-talk lies in being raised in a dysfunctional household. If your caregivers were absent, abusive, or derogatory, feelings of inadequacy can fester, leading the devil to overpower the angel. This sense of unworthiness permeates your subconscious, seeping into your social life and educational experiences. You might find it challenging to forge meaningful relationships, as negative self-talk becomes a formidable obstacle. Phrases like “I don’t deserve this” or “I am not good enough” become a constant refrain, leading you into a dark abyss with the pieces of a ladder but no tools to assemble it.

When the very caregivers who conditioned these thoughts are the norm, changing them feels daunting. You’ve built a skewed resilience to toxic negativity, convincing yourself that all is well, even when you feel like a wreck. As an adult, you possess the power to change, but how do you alter something you can't even discern?

The answer lies in awareness, support, and compassion.

If you’ve listened to my previous podcasts, you'll notice I emphasize the power of choices. Shifting from negative to positive self-talk is an ongoing choice you must consciously make. It's not like discarding old clothes; it's a process where initially, every day demands a deliberate choice until it becomes second nature.

For example, challenging your negative self-talk becomes crucial. Initially, it'll feel unnatural, like swimming against the current. Despite its harm, negativity is comfortable, and breaking free requires self-awareness. Pay attention to your thoughts and actions. When you catch yourself slipping, seize that moment, redirecting your thoughts towards the positive.

Imagine if you habitually say, “I don’t deserve love because everyone walks away.” This single belief sabotages friendships, destabilizes relationships, and leaves you feeling unworthy and undervalued. As you embark on your healing journey, this belief might resurface, especially in moments of stress or hurt. In those instances, you stand at a crossroads. You can either replay that old narrative like a broken record, or you can pause, saying, “No. I am hurt now, but I know I deserve love, and I am worthy of being unconditionally cherished for who I am.” That choice is transformative.

Healing from trauma and subconscious wounds is not an overnight feat; it takes years. However, it is profoundly rewarding. Relapses are a natural part of this journey. Be kind to yourself in those moments, extending your own forgiveness if you've been unkind. Seek support, whether from a partner, friend, family member, or professional. We don't always have the answers to our own problems. Establish new habits to replace old, unhelpful ones, and with time, you'll detach from the ties that bind you to past trauma. They'll become battle scars rather than open wounds with bandages.

Words are potent. They can inflict great harm, or they can foster immense healing. Use them to retrain your brain, speaking them aloud, reinforcing them through affirmations. They help you recognize the positives in your life, nurturing gratitude. Remember, if you aim to start a family or already have one, your self-talk will influence them. Unresolved trauma, unexamined, becomes a trigger in parenting, unwittingly passed on to your children.

I'd like to share some tips on how to dismiss that devil on your shoulder, banishing it for good.

Tip #1: Mindfulness will play a pivotal role in your healing journey. Tune into your body, understanding your triggers, the physical manifestations of emotions, and how you speak to yourself under stress. Engage in practices like yoga, deep diaphragmatic breathing, nature walks, or various forms of meditation. These activities will serve as anchors, providing you with a buffer when needed.

Tip #2: Reconnect with your inner child. This is crucial for those battling negative self-talk, as it often stems from a frightened inner child, seeking survival. Engage in activities that make you lose track of time, ones that bring genuine laughter. Comfort your inner child, reassuring them that you're there to protect both of you.

Tip #3: Validate your feelings. Emotions are not a sign of weakness; they're a fundamental aspect of your being. Don't stifle them; let them flow. Take a step back, observe where you feel it in your body, and ask yourself why this emotion has surfaced.

Tip #4: Practice gratitude. In the hustle and bustle of life, it's easy to lose sight of the good. Make gratitude a daily ritual, perhaps starting with a gratitude journal. Reflect on the things you're thankful for, until it becomes second nature.

Tip #5: Eliminate toxicity from your life. This might entail temporarily or permanently distancing yourself from family or friends who consistently belittle you. Remember, you attract what you are. Surround yourself with genuine, supportive individuals who value you, becoming your pillars of strength.

I firmly believe that it's never too late to heal and create a better tomorrow for yourself. You just need to want it for yourself. Most importantly, you are never alone in this journey. Resources and people are available to support you.

As we conclude, I invite you to repeat after me:

  1. I am worthy, and I love and accept myself.
  2. My yesterday does not define my tomorrow, and I hold the power for the future.
  3. I am who I am, and those who do not value or serve me do not hold space in my life.