Positive Self-talk

Welcome back to our second week of growing in confidence.

Last week I listed Twelve Rules for Building Self- Confidence from Alan Loy McGinnis’ book, Confidence: How to Succeed at Being Yourself. (See previous post.) Today we’ll focus on one of his points:

Replace self-criticism with regular, positive self-talk. 

Do you remember a few years ago all the media buzz about the “inner child?” They had to find their inner child, heal their inner child, or free their inner child.

At the risk of reawakening the 70s, let’s revisit that idea. Nearly everyone was spiritually or emotionally wounded at some point as a child. We might look back at our classmates, our siblings, or sadly, even our parents, whose criticisms still echo in our minds. We heard their hurtful words and believed them. They became part of our self-image. We accepted ourselves as flawed.

Imagine a parent criticizing:

  • You’re as bad as your father.
  • You’ll probably do something stupid.
  • If you eat that you’re going to get even fatter.
  • You don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain.
  • I can’t imagine what you have to say that they’ll be interested in.

Or maybe, more subtly, a parent asking a child:

  • Are you going to wear THAT?
  • Why can’t you be more like your sister?
  • Do you really know what you are talking about?
  • What makes you think those people will like you?
  • Are you sure you’re not going to make a fool of yourself?

Can’t you almost feel the cringing of the child who has been beaten down with those statements? Don’t you imagine that child’s chance of success diminished with every comment from the parent?

And yet, we do that to ourselves.

Although our insecurity might have begun in our childhood, we are the ones perpetuating it. Though the parents, siblings, or peers are long gone, or less a part of our lives, we’ve internalized the wounds of our past and inflict them on ourselves now

Little thoughts like:

  • That was stupid.
  • I’m too scared.
  • What do I have to offer?
  • What if they don’t like me?
  • I’m no good in large groups.
  • I’d probably just be a bother.
  • That’s too hard for me. Might as well not even try.
  • I’m not clever (pretty, popular, fit) enough to go over and talk to that group.
  • I wish I had her confidence (intelligence, dress size, hair, good looks, high-achieving kids, life.)

Instead, let’s imagine another child who is about to try something new. This lucky youngster has a different parent who says,

  • They’re going to love you!
  • I know you’ll be great at it.
  • You are so kind and warm and bright.
  • I’m proud of you for taking this new opportunity.
  • Someone will be there to help you when you want help.
  • You always are open to learning new things and you work hard to succeed.

Which child would you rather be? Which pep talk would you rather give yourself?

We carry on a running conversation in our minds and what we say strongly affects our self-confidence. Let’s become aware of our thoughts when we feel insecure. What are we telling ourselves?

Do we enter a room full of people wondering what they’ll think of us? Worrying that we’ll be judged inadequate? Do we tell ourselves we are imposters? Do we worry we’ll make fools of ourselves?

What do we need instead? We need a nurturing, loving, encouraging parent to give us a pep talk. And just as we have an inner child, we can develop an inner nurturer. We can take responsibility for our own growth and begin to give ourselves the affirmations we need:

  • I’m basically a good person.
  • Everybody has strengths, including me!
  • I have gifts God has given me that the world needs.
  • I have developed skills that I use to benefit others.
  • I’m naturally funny (or talented or kind or helpful or intelligent.)
  • That didn’t go as well as I hoped but I see how I’ll make it better next time.

Those with sports experience who have listened to a coach before a big game know the effects of words. No winning coach berates the team before sending them out to play. Instead the coach will drum up courage and excitement with positive words about the likelihood of success.

My daughter Theresa heard a great illustration of the power of our self-talk. Imagine a commander in a submarine who is looking out of his periscope. He sees something ahead that necessitates evasive maneuvers. He issues the command to change direction. Sailors respond to his command and make the changes, even though they can’t see ahead. They believe their commander and obey.

Our conscious minds are like that commander; they observe the world, reason, and make decisions. Our subconscious believes what our conscious mind says. It has no choice. If our self-talk—the words that ramble in our minds—says we are capable and likely to succeed, our subconscious accepts that. But if instead we feed our subconscious with mental images or words of impending doom, our body responds with heightened anxiety. Adrenaline poses the fight/flight/freeze options. As a result, we will not think as clearly, and so we may cause the very failure we feared.

We all need to quiet and reassure the wounded child inside. This week and from now on, let’s pat ourselves on the back. Reassure ourselves when we’re worried. Congratulate ourselves when we’ve done well. Dare to step outside our comfort zone and then celebrate the step we took.

Blessings on your week!

Betty Arrigotti

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7: (NLT)

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