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Kickstart Your Confidence with the Power of Positive Self-talk

Thanks to your prefrontal cortex, talking to yourself is simply human nature. (So, no, you’re not nuts — we all do it.) The mind leads and the body follows. More often than not, though, it doesn’t lead you to the best place.

As humans, we’re constantly mentally preparing for perceived threats, anticipating a variety of needs, and evaluating what we do or do not have. Juggling a career, playing nice with coworkers, dating, relating with peers, and dealing with your S.O.’s irritating habits are all real anxiety triggers. But it’s actually your own self-talk that stunts your confidence and tamps communication skills. Here’s why.

Hearing Voices

Every thought you have triggers biochemical reactions in your body which shape your emotions and behavior. Based on their tone, those thoughts can run you off the rails or cruise you into the promised land.

The good news is that positive self-talk can elevate your mood, kickstart your confidence, and even trigger a winning streak. What follows is a ripple effect that improves your relationships at work and at home in surprising ways. So, let’s finesse your inner dialogue to keep it in shipshape.

Be Your Own Best Friend

The first step is to observe your thoughts. Witness yourself without judgment. Notice what you say, how often you repeat it, the associations triggered by it, and so on. Go ahead and take notes, if you like.

When you do this simple exercise, you stir intelligent awareness and create the capacity to neutralize negative self-talk.

The goal is to stop knee-jerk reactions to any given situation; instead, you’ll create a framework for reflective listening skills that shape a thoughtful (and more effective) response.

Reduce shame

Are you talking with yourself or at yourself? Are you motivational, or are you beating yourself up? Step aside, and watch the self-talk dynamic with a kind heart.

“True and lasting transformation requires kind attention. Shame doesn’t work. It never works,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Shauna Shapiro.

“When you feel shame, the centers of the brain that fuel growth and learning shut down. What happens is the amygdala in your brain triggers a cascade of norepinephrine and cortisol to flood your system, shutting down the learning centers and shuttling your resources to survival pathways.”

Should you catch yourself spiraling in pessimistic self-talk and sense fight-or-flight mode is closing in, try the following tactics:

  • Breathe and feel the air expand your lungs and soften your belly.
  • If in conversation with someone, open your body language. Unfold your arms, relax your shoulders, your jaw, your hips, your knees, your toes. 
  • Shift your inner speech to a tone that inspires enthusiasm. Adjust ‘What if they…’ to ‘I would love to hear’ and ‘If only I’d…’ to ‘I felt good when…’ and so on.
  • Focus on what you’re grateful for in that very moment.

To strengthen your brain’s positive pathways, stay committed to using one of these tactics for a full 15 to 30 seconds.

If you quickly veer back towards anxious self-talk, simply notice what’s happening in your body rather than attaching to any emotion and punishing yourself. 

Pay it forward

What are the rewards of positive self-talk, aside from feeling a whole lot better? For starters, joy stimulates creativity in your relationships. If that weren’t enough, you’ll also sharpen your listening skills which can only help you to become a stronger leader. Not only will you better motivate yourself, but you’ll likely inspire others to achieve their personal best.

There’s power in addressing critical inner speech patterns. As you refocus your attention on what you appreciate, you’re actually righting neurological imbalances. You are the author of your experience — and the stories you tell yourself matter.

By Natalie Geld