Self-talk is that inner voice that chats to you constantly. This inner chatter can be cheerful and positive or negative and critical. Positive self-talk is, of course, what keeps us feeling good and happy. It can help boost our confidence and reduce our fears.
In real life, though it is very easy to slip into a pattern of negative self-talk, especially in times of stress. Negative self-talk is often called the inner critic, because it is how we constantly criticize ourselves for something we haven’t done well and we come up with sweeping statements like “I can’t do anything well” “I am useless” ‘I am a complete failure’ . Have you ever had these thoughts? You certainly aren’t alone.
Where does your negative self-talk come from?
Our beliefs about ourselves play a big part in our negative self-talk and are in fact where most of our negative self-talk stems from. If your inner critic is telling you “I am a complete failure” you are likely to have an underlying belief such as” I am not good/smart enough”
Where do our beliefs come from?
Beliefs are assumptions that we hold about ourselves, other people and life in general. Most often, such beliefs are incorrect and completely unhelpful. We usually learn these beliefs when we are young from our parents, peers, teachers, and the larger society that we grew up in. Most people tend to take these beliefs for granted and don't even realise that they're beliefs at all. We just assume that they are true!
Although our beliefs are unconscious and we are often unaware of them, they may be having a big impact on our lives. It is our beliefs that cause the negative self-talk (a thought) which causes a feeling and then affects your behaviour.
Beliefs --> Thoughts---> Feelings ---> Behaviour
Let’s have a look at this example. Sam is looking for a job but finding it difficult to even get an interview. She has the belief “ I am not good enough” , her negative self-talk is telling her “I am a complete failure” , she is feeling rejected and helpless and so she decides to stop trying to find a job. This reinforces her belief that she is not good enough – she has just got the evidence and so the cycle is repeated.
This is a quote by Lao Tzu a famous Chinese Philosopher
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
As a result of developments in Neuroscience over recent years we now know we can change these habitual patterns of thinking by creating new, different neural pathways. We can become aware of our thoughts and replace our negative thoughts with positive affirmations. As you catch yourself saying “I can’t do this”, or something equally disempowering, you change that thought to something positive. This will in turn, change your feeling and behaviour.
Noticing our thoughts and looking for recurring patterns will help us to work out what the underlying limiting belief could be. Identifying the belief that is causing the thought is a much more effective way of changing the thought. When you eliminate your belief, your thought will change.
The first step in eliminating limiting beliefs is to become aware of them. Changing the beliefs is relatively easy once you have identified the belief and recognised that the belief no longer serves you.
Sometimes though, the belief is so ingrained that we just can’t work it out by ourselves. This is when another person, such as a coach, would be able to help you move forward, by helping you to identify and challenge the beliefs. When working one to one with clients, I use techniques from NLP and EFT ( a form of energy psychology, also known as ‘tapping’) to help release those deep-seated beliefs.