Self-Talk and Self-Esteem
Think back to the words you said to yourself in the mirror while getting ready this morning.
Were they kind words? Did you like your outfit or how your hairstyle turned out? Were they belittling, judgmental words? Did you bemoan your skin, your weight, or accessories? Were they impatient words? Were you running a little late and chastised yourself…again? Were you struggling to get your kids out the door…again?
At the heart of my question, were they words that you would say to your mom or dad or best friend? I’m guessing not.
According to Psych Central’s article on challenging negative self-talk, most of our inner dialogue can lean toward the negative. Why is it that we reserve some of our harshest words for ourselves? The mean things we sometimes whisper to ourselves we would most likely never say to someone else’s face. Yet we say them to the face in the mirror every day.
Speaking kind words and grace to ourselves is an important component to maintaining strong self-esteem in the face of life’s ever-changing circumstances. There’s a difference between saying, “I’ll never amount to anything,” versus saying, “I just have more to learn.”
One phrase is negative and overly dramatic; the other phrase is more positive with a hopeful outlook on the future. While there’s a place for fixing mistakes and changing habits in our lives, we don’t need to put ourselves down in the process. We can still make adjustments without being cruel – to ourselves.
Negative Self-Talk Affects More Than You
You might think that your inner dialogue affects only that person in the mirror, but it has the potential to affect other people in your life. Let’s say you’re running late to work and berate yourself for a lack of organization.
Someone proceeds to cut you off in traffic and you react out of your frustration. Or let’s say you tend to be hard on yourself for not getting enough done on a project at work. Your acidic attitude can quickly seep into our coworkers’ cubicles before we know it.
It’s hard to have grace for others when we reserve so little for ourselves.
If you have children, they also pick up on your self-esteem and self-talk cues. What kind of message are you sending when you cut yourself down in front of your children?
If you don’t respect yourself or your body, how will they know how to do that in their own lives? How will they know how important it really is? Little eyes are always watching, and sometimes the words we say when we don’t think anyone else is watching can have the biggest impact.
It takes hard word to change a pattern of thought, but it’s worth it if we can accept ourselves a little more every day.
“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” ― Mark Twain
Maybe you can start by posting positive reminders and inspirational quotes/affirmations in places where you’ll see them regularly. Remember, we do have the power to change the course of our thoughts. If we’re not careful, negative self-talk and low self-esteem can hijack our lives, and we fall back into the victim’s position.
Reward yourself in some small way after a week (or whatever time frame you choose) of positive affirmations toward yourself.
It also may be helpful to write down 3-5 of the negative phrases you tend to say the most to yourself, and restate them in the positive so you have a comeback when your inner bully tries to beat you up. And most importantly, remember to still give yourself grace if you mess up.
It’s so much easier to be negative, to spew out harsh words rather than make the changes necessary. It is more work to speak kindness and grace. It may not feel natural, and that’s OK.
So today, let’s choose positive self-talk that builds our self-esteem.