Three Simple Tricks to Transform Your Self-Talk
We hear it over and over again: “talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend.” Easy to make into a pretty Instagram post, but really hard to do sometimes! It is even harder if some of that internal criticism includes echoes from past abusive situations or developed after a traumatic experience. If you’re getting overwhelmed trying to figure out where to start to change your self-talk, here are three quick and simple (not necessarily easy) options that can be used both inside and outside our heads:
Trick One: Trade Shoulds for Wishes
Just my opinion, but I have almost never found the word “should” to be useful. It generally makes us feel bad about ourselves or bad about someone else. The word “should” brings on guilt, blame, shame….all kinds of exhausting emotions. Instead, try out using “wish” in its place and see how that works for you. For example, instead of “I should have prepared more for that presentation,” try telling yourself, “I wish I had prepared more for that presentation.” Instead of “They should have known that I don’t like raspberries,” try “I wish they had known that I don’t like raspberries.” It’s a little shift, but it’s a shift.
Trick Two: Eliminate Extremes
If you observe it carefully (and if your mind is anything like mine), you’ll probably notice that your self-talk contains a lot of extreme language. Extreme language includes words like “always” and “never.” Words like this often signal a false statement—it’s almost impossible to always do something or never do something. When you notice an extreme word, experiment with replacing it with something more moderate, like “sometimes,” “often,” or “tend to.” Another tiny movement that might make a difference over time.
Trick Three: Replace Apologies With Gratitude
This trick can be used internally with our own self-talk as well as with others around us. It’s so easy to fall into apologizing for everything, even things that aren’t our fault. Instead of making others feel better, it actually waters down the power of an apology when it’s really called for. Not to mention making us feel smaller and more guilty, and thus more stuck. So, instead of apologizing to the next wall you run into or for needing to use the restroom, try thanking people instead. What would this look like? Say you’re running late to a meeting. Instead of the usual “I’m so so so sorry I’m late,” try “Thank you so much for your patience” or “I really appreciate your patience.”
Alrighty, there you have it! Three tricks to shift your language to shift how to talk to yourself and others in order to shift how you feel about yourself. Try them out this week, either one at a time or all at once, and see how it goes. These kinds of tricks take some time to show their full effect, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see a result right away. You’re worth the investment of time and effort!
Who am I? I’m a licensed clinical psychologist in Austin, TX, who loves helping weird people who’ve been through bad stuff build a life that feels more meaningful and alive. Check out my other posts for more about PTSD, trauma, and how to cope with them at work and beyond.
Image courtesy of Raphael Schaller