Self-Talk: What Is It and Why Is It Important?
Self-talk is the running dialogue inside our heads. It’s how we talk to ourselves. Psychologists describe self-talk as a blend of the conscious and the subconscious. You may notice your self-talk when you are trying to remember something, completing a task, making a plan or decision, navigating a social interaction, reflecting on an outcome, or in many other situations. The reality is, self-talk is happening quite often, even if we don’t actively notice it.
Self-talk can be overwhelmingly negative. Negative self-talk is when we say things like “I’m not good enough,” or “This always happens to me.” According to Positive Psychology, negative self-talk typically falls into four categories:
Personalizing – Meaning you blame yourself when things go wrong.
Polarizing – Meaning you see things only as good or bad, no gray areas or room for middle ground.
Magnifying – Meaning you only focus on the bad or negative in every scenario and dismiss anything good or positive.
Catastrophizing – Meaning you always expect the worst.
It’s no surprise that when we engage in negative self-talk, we feel worse than if we talked to ourselves in a more compassionate way. In fact, research shows that negative self-talk is tied to greater feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, negative self-talk and the resulting emotions are actually linked to weaker muscles, hormonal changes, and other physical symptoms like gastrointestinal problems.
Conversely, positive self-talk actually builds resiliency and decreases negative emotions and physical outcomes. Positive self-talk has also been linked to improved performance. Positive self-talk is motivational and involves showing yourself compassion and being open to solutions.
Rather than telling yourself you’ve messed up, positive self-talk can enable you to tell yourself “I can learn from my mistakes.” Being mindful of self-talk, and then actively trying to positively re-frame your inner dialogue can help you overcome adversity, lower stress, and has physical benefits. Why not start to make this shift now?