When it comes to our friends and families, we’re often the first ones to talk them up, treat them with kindness or give them a good ol’ motivational pep talk. We shout ‘you can do this!’ from the sidelines when a best friend is running the marathon and assure that ‘it’s no big deal, everyone makes mistakes’ when a co-worker missed some typos. Which made me wonder: do you use the same sweet, encouraging words when you’re talking to yourself?
If I had to guess… I’d say it’s a ‘no’. Am I right?
I hope with all my heart that your answer was yes, but if I look around me and at myself, I’d say we are more skilled at talking ourselves down and beating ourselves up than in being our own best friend. You know what though? There’s only one person in this crowded world of eight BILLION people that you’re going to spend the rest of your life with. Every hour and every second of every single day. All the pain, all the cheerful moments; you’re going to share it with none other than the one and only *drumroll please* YOU! So if you’re only going to bully yourself, imagine what a waste that would be.
This realization came to me a couple years ago, and it certainly showed me that some things needed to change. Drastically. Because oh wow, I was not accepting of my forgetfulness, my dreamy personality, lack of skills and the fact that I’m always being a bit too late. To just name a few (of the many many examples).
The frustration I felt at these moments outed itself in mean words about my capability. Which is one of the things that resulted in a low self-esteem when it comes to the career part of my life.
My current situation is a lot better. Not perfect, still a lot to improve, but better. I truly see myself as my best friend more often than ever before. It’s one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had, let me tell you that. If your self-talk could use some improvement too, read along. These are some things you could do to give yourself the pep talk of the decade:
Realize your thoughts… are just thoughts
If you’re new to the Wondrous World of Positive Self-talk, the first and most important step you can take is to start paying attention to the things you tell yourself. If you’ve never thought about the way you talk to yourself, this can already be a game-changer. A life changer even. Many thoughts enter unconsciously, so it only makes sense that you don’t always realize how often and quick you use disheartening words.
Pay attention to what you’re telling yourself when you:
- Forgot an appointment with a friend.
- Stumble over words during a presentation.
- Feel like you were not productive the past hours.
These ‘small’ examples matter big time. Pay attention, maybe even write them down, and realize that these thought of yours, are simply that. The thought ‘you suck at …!’ might feel true, but it’s not. It’s just a voice in your head trying to bring you down. You don’t deserve that.
Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to friends
I’m not sure if I’d have any friends left if I’d talk to them the way I used to (and sometimes still) talk to myself. Pretty sure I’d be on my own. And that would only be because I’m trapped inside my own body and thus cannot possibly leave myself.
When I say ‘talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend’, I mean this quite literally. When something happens that triggers a mean reaction towards yourself, act like it’s a friend of yours who’s in this situation and think about what you’d tell that friend. Are those the same words as you were planning on using for yourself? If not, change your words to the ones your friends would receive. And therefore: the ones you’re worthy of.
I’d like to share an example with you of a situation where I treated myself as my best friend, to show you just how much of a difference it makes if you change your language. This situation arose quite recently. For some weeks, I was stressing like crazy. Even more than normal. To the point where it all felt like too much. Every question, every decision I had to make, every little ‘can you quickly check this?’; I couldn’t handle it. Which is why I decided to take a step back and start doing almost only things that I really want to do.
My first, automatic response to this decision, even though it felt good and necessary, was ‘Oh Lobke here we go again. Why can’t you just finish things? Continue a bit longer? Try a bit harder? Why are you stressed, it’s not like you have the craziest to do list! You realize you’re in a luxury position to even make this decision? And look at all the people who dislike their jobs and continue for years and years. You can’t even do it for a month?’.
This is just a selection of the thoughts that passed my mind. What I would have said to a friend in the same situation? Something along the lines of ‘It’s not normal to feel this stressed. Please take care of yourself and don’t continue doing things that make you feel this way. It makes you unhappy right? Then why would you continue? And there’s no need to compare with anyone else. It’s completely unimportant if others can do more, ‘handle’ more. It’s too much for you. Your mind works different, everyone’s mind works different, so of course you’re going to respond different. I’m so proud you’re choosing yourself and your happiness right now.’
Quite the difference, huh? Imagine if you practice talking to yourself like that on a daily basis. It could improve your self-love and mental health immensely. And I know it’s not always possible and not always easy, but whenever you can, give it a try <3
Don’t overdo it
Sometimes when I was trying to hype myself up, I didn’t really ‘feel’ my words. I didn’t believe them. And that to me is a sign that I’m overdoing it. If I feel insecure about doing something, it doesn’t help to tell myself it will be easy peasy, or that I can reach anything that I put my mind to. Those words stand so far from what I believe about myself, that it feels better to take smaller steps. To still talk nicely to myself, just a bit less… intense? In this case what would be more helpful is to say something along the line of ‘I know you feel like you can’t do this Lobke, but you’ll be fine. You might feel like you can’t do it right now and you might have to wait a bit longer for you to grow confidence in this area, but look at how much you’ve grown in the past year. Keep in mind that there’s so many more years to come. You have it in you. You will get there.’
Pep talks 2.0
To give yourself the most amazing pep talk ever, I think following the three steps mentioned above can be tremendously helpful. I know it’s not always easy. I know unkind thoughts often enter before you realize it. But I think it’s worth working on it. You’re amazing. Truly.