The Easy Place

The Quest for Self Awareness One Moment at a Time

Friend or Enemy: The Power of Self Talk

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When I was studying to become a coach my classmates and I went through a year of basic classes followed by a six-month certification course.  Throughout our basic courses, we heard a lot about Certification. By the end of our basic coursework the information had taken on an ominous tone – there will be lots of homework, we’ll have to record our coaching sessions and be critiqued by master coaches, we’ll have to pass an oral exam. 

 By the time I registered for Certification all the hype had whipped me into a mass of self-doubt. I told myself that it would be hard, I might not pass, I wasn’t a good enough coach. When my friends and I discussed the course we used hushed tones, saying simply, “I’m scared.”

Ouch, talk about the hard place. What we knew about Certification was minimal.  What we made up was massive.  And what we were telling ourselves about our abilities to deal with it was disempowering.

It’s human nature to default to the negative when we lack information. Add in our tendency to blame ourselves for any and all shortcomings, real or not, ours or someone else’s, can lead to some seriously negative self talk. 

We all do it.  Who hasn’t berated themselves for their fat thighs, low grades, lack of anything (fill in the blank – beauty, intelligence, self-control, talent…)? Many of us have acquired the habit of viewing our actions though a negative lens. 

The key to dealing with negative self-talk is simple, we need to change our perspective. Conventional wisdom says that we should convert negative self-talk to positive self-talk but that only works if the positive is true.  If it is, great, use it!  If it’s not, what we need to do is switch to neutral self-talk.

We can do this by converting negative self-talk into simple facts, stripping away judgment and emotion.  For example “What a pig I was last night” becomes “I ate more than I wanted last night.”  “I’ll never find a job” becomes “The job market it tough right now, maybe I should try a different tactic.” 

Notice the different impact of the statements.  The first ones are constricting, they generate shame or fear.  They shut us down and rob us of the spirit and confidence needed to identify and implement solutions. The second, neutral, statements have an ease to them.  They feel more manageable, they contain information and problems that can be solved. 

I’d like to say that Certification turned out to be a breeze, but it didn’t, it was pretty hard.  However, while we were challenged and stretched, it was in no way beyond my friends’ and my capabilities. 

How great would it have been to have entered the experience with confidence and curiosity, rather than the fear and trepidation we’d talked ourselves into.


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2 responses to “Friend or Enemy: The Power of Self Talk

  1. Pingback: Feeling OK « Living With Manic Depression

  2. Anonymous February 11, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Excellent post!

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