Why the Words We Say to Ourselves Matter

We may not always be “listening”, but the voice inside our head is ever-present, and perhaps the most powerful influence on our perception of ourselves. The messages we tell ourselves not only affect our thoughts, but can lead to changes in how we feel, behave, and ultimately, act. With that kind of grip on our lives, it’s important to reflect upon and evaluate the words we say to ourselves. 

Understanding Self-Talk

The words we say to ourselves, or our internal monologue, are often referred to as self-talk. Our brains are constantly at work, processing our senses—taking in what we are seeing, hearing, feeling, etc.—but we don’t always take notice of our thoughts as they occur, particularly the ones about ourselves. Self-talk transpires automatically and sometimes subconsciously. Because of this, it’s common to lack awareness of how much influence our self-talk has. In actuality, it plays a major role in how we respond to events in our lives.

The words we say to ourselves are mostly shaped by our experiences as well as what others have said to or about us. Comments said to us as children can surprisingly stick with us long enough that they become ingrained into our mindset as adults. Our thoughts are products of other things we absorb from our environment too—what we read, see on our phones, watch on TV, etc. Whatever the source, what we hear most will have the greatest impact. It makes sense, then, that if we surround ourselves with positivity, we will naturally tend to have more positive thoughts about ourselves.

It’s important to note, however, that external circumstances and the judgment of others (good or bad) don’t have complete control over our own self-talk. Overcoming persistent negative self-talk is not an insurmountable task. It’s certainly possible for positive thoughts to rise above negative situations or poor self-esteem.

Positive vs. Negative Self-Talk

The content of your self-talk matters. Positive self-talk can be constructive, motivating healthy decisions and behaviors. Conversely, negative thoughts about ourselves can be quite toxic, discouraging us from reaching our full potential. Either way, what we say to ourselves has meaningful consequences. 

Negative self-talk can:

  • Damage self-confidence, which in turn, may limit achievement. If you’re constantly telling yourself you are incapable of something, you’ll end up believing it and may not put forth the effort to try. Don’t let negative thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • Produce unnecessary fear. Saying something negative to yourself can cause anxiety, even though it may be based on an unlikely assumption.
  • Cause rumination - Rumination is the replaying of thoughts so much that they become intrusive and debilitating. 

Positive self-talk can:

  • Empower you to achieve your goals and enable you to overcome challenges when they do arise. Phrases like, “This is hard, but I can do hard things” or “I’ve got this” can make all the difference in taking the next step.
  • Encourage you to learn new things. You’re a lot more likely to step outside of your comfort zone if you have built up your confidence.
  • Improve your well-being—Positive self-talk is an important strategy to reduce stress, which is known to cause mental and physical health problems. Research has shown that speaking positively about yourself provides a whole host of health benefits.
  • Build healthier relationships—When you have confidence in yourself, the optimism will naturally manifest into your interactions with others, and build more positive connections.

How to Reframe: Shifting from Negative to Positive Self-Talk

While our thoughts may default to instinctive patterns, we do have the power to change them. But, shifting self-talk from negative to positive takes intention and practice. First, acknowledge your inner voice. If tuning into it is difficult, journaling can help. Next, challenge your thoughts by filtering them. Screen them for truth and whether or not they are helpful. Try to identify phrases that are distorted, inaccurate, or overgeneralized, and then flip them. For example, if you find yourself saying something like, “I’ll never do this again,” take the phrase, “I’ll never” out, and simply replace it with “I can try to.” Then add on a positive “what if” statement, such as, “Maybe I’ll learn something next time.” 

Another exercise that can help shift your perspective is to try to imagine saying to others what you say to yourself. Reverse the golden rule - “Do unto yourself as you would do unto others”. It’s often said that we are our own worst critics, yet we would never speak as harshly to our loved ones as we do ourselves. Give yourself grace, find words that affirm your worth, and say them until you believe them.

We created notes to self® socks to be used as a tool to help train our minds to think more positive thoughts. We hope that the words on our socks provide encouragement to those who wear them and that they allow the gift-giver to ‘say’ meaningful words again and again to the recipient…breathing belief or appreciation into them each time they see the words. Our tagline ‘words make all the difference’® explains our intent.

For a daily reminder of why your words matter, visit our Notes to Self Products Page and pick up a dose of daily affirmation!

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