When you're feeling anxious about a presentation, your first day at a new job, or maybe even going on a first date; how do you talk to yourself?
You most likely feel anxious, worried, scared, timid, uncomfortable, and the list can go on. Maybe you are having thoughts like "what is I mess up?" "what if I suck at my job?" or "what if my date doesn't like me and I end up alone?" All of these thoughts have the ability to hook us in and drag us around, creating a bigger emotional response. So whats something we can do to acknowledge and open up for the anxiety or discomfort while doing the thing that is causing the uncomfortable feelings?
Self-talk is used to help us work through or go through something that would typically cause us anxiety or stress, such as presenting in front of the class, meeting someone new, or even in transition periods. When we engage in self-talk, we are being our own best friend.
If you had a friend who had to do something they were scared or nervous to do, would you tell them they probably will suck at it and shouldn't even attempt because they will fail - most likely not. We would hype them up, tell them how awesome they are, how quick it'll be over or maybe how confident you are in them! Self-talk is the same thing, it's our ability to talk ourselves through the scary moment, down from a big moment or to celebrate an amazing moment.
How to practice or notice your self-talk?
Over the next few days, begin to tune into yourself more. When you are doing a task or activity, tune in and notice are you saying anything to yourself. It could be subtle like "this is so pointless" "cleaning is annoying" "I don't want to do today" or bigger and more present such as "No one is going to like me, they never do" "I won't have any friends at my new school" "This is way to hard, I won't be able to do it." By noticing our self-talk and what we are saying to ourselves in any moment can be an help us connect how by what we are saying or thinking to ourselves, impacts our emotional perception or response which also impacts our actions.
For example, I never did well with presentations. I would always go last and would even try to get out of them if I could (never worked). Prior too presenting, I would be saying things like "everyone else is way better" "mine sucks" "the teacher isn't going to like it" and this would impact my emotions by feeling insecure, embarrassed, shy, upset, etc. which would influence my actions by going last, not speaking up, looking down the whole time - which would then confirm the original statements I was saying to myself.
Whereas, what I have learned to do is acknowledge the discomfort and the self-talk and reframed it into, "I really dislike presentations but I have important things to say and after 15 minutes I'm done" which has actually encouraged me over the years to go first in presenting. Do I still sweat and turn red? Yes! But, I also feel a sense of success and accomplishment! By noticing the negative self-talk, I am able to decide what I want to do with it. Listen or challenge.
Over the next few days, by using a journal or the notes app in your phone take some time to write and reflect on how you talk to yourself in positive, exciting moments & difficult ones. Explore how this impacts your emotions and actions or how it maintains the problem. Once you have better awareness, begin to practice intentionally talking to yourself in a positive way, and more specifically, in a way that acknowledges the discomfort (we don't want to avoid). "I'm feeling really anxious about this presentation but I know I'll be okay and it'll be over shortly."