One of the first questions I ask my coaching clients is: “What is the language you use to talk to yourself?”
At first, this question can be a bit baffling. Perhaps, because we seldom pause to think about how we refer to ourselves, particularly in times of struggle or strife. When things are going well, it’s easy to convey feelings of security, pride and confidence. However, when life’s challenges surfaces, sometimes we use degrading language. We ruminate upon our actions and say things like — we aren’t good enough, not quite pretty enough, we’re not as happy as our friends are, we’re not as successful as we imagined, not as thin as acceptable in our western world, and overall not good enough. Almost all of my coaching clients identify negative language that they direct toward themselves. Often times, their self-perception is clouded by bullshit. When I say bullshit, I mean — bullshit. Bullshit thoughts that aren’t real — yet just the machinery of the mind feeding us misconceptions about who we really are.
So what’s the solution? First, is to recognize that our language creates reality. The words we use in our head to refer to ourselves create the landscape of our everyday life and dictate how the world will treat us. The antidote to this challenge is not to say how much we love ourselves and how perfect we are. In fact, in some ways, this is counter intuitive. Because if we feed our sub-conscious mind non-truths about who we are, it’s likely that it won’t stick and we will detect deception.
Instead, let us find language that feels right for us. For instance I use “ I am enough” or “ I accept myself in this moment of suffering.” My mantras work for me, and I encourage my clients, and my readers to identify language that feels right for them. Many spiritual leaders and philosophers contend that the words we put after “ I am” create our reality.
Change is only possible during acceptance and awareness. We cannot change something we are unaware of, and we certainly can’t change something that we refuse to accept. Humanist Psychologist Carl Rogers offers that individuals can embrace a state of change when coupled with unconditional positive regard. What he means by this is — individuals have bountiful abilities to understand themselves, their attitudes and behavior — tapping into healthy development by accepting who they are and assuming responsibility for this.
Rogers and several others in the field of Psychology believed that change is precipitated by acceptance. I encourage my clients to adopt the same views. For instance, if a client wants to change their self-talk, they must first acknowledge that the way they refer to themselves is disparaging. Subsequently, we look at the reasons why this is. Perhaps they were spoken to negatively in their childhood, used it as a coping strategy in school, or felt that punishing themselves was semblant of instilling discipline. Whatever the reason it, we must acknowledge the roots before we can modify behavior.
Throughout the course of the week — take note of how you speak to yourself. Particularly, when you make a mistake. Are you compassionate to yourself when you make a mistake — professionally or personally, or do you beat yourself up, relentlessly? Mistakes are okay, and when we release the perfectionist within, we can embrace our mistakes and use them as fuel for bettering ourselves.
Pause. Reflect. And repeat. And share in the comments what language you use to talk to yourself. Would you speak to your seven year old self that way? Would you speak to a friend the way you speak to yourself? When you find the answers, be patient, be compassionate, and refrain from judgement. The process of observing ourselves can be extremely rewarding. It is a journey of self-awareness that will bring us closer to our higher self. When we operate from our higher self, we use positive language and self-talk.
Let us lovingly accept the language we use to ourselves. Then, let us be open to changing our inner dialogue. Since this can seem daunting, start with five common messages you give to yourself. At work, at home, with your family, friends, etc. What is the tone of this language? Is it kind? And, most importantly, how does it make you feel? Once you’ve identified this inner dialogue, you’ve achieved awareness. Congratulations! That’s the first step to modifying the language within. Stay tuned for tips and tools to help us overcome negative self-talk in subsequent posts.
– Your Lingua Guru