Positive Self Talk (or–Is it okay to stop beating yourself up now?)

shouting at selfSelf talk is a simple concept (though it does take practice.) It’s what you say to yourself, how you interpret your own actions. A cognitive concept. As in, a slightly uppity word for how you think. And it’s one of those things you don’t need to pay a therapist to figure out.
Most of us, the non-narcissists, are overly self-judgmental. As opposed to acknowledging a simple mistake, we indulge in berating ourselves, accepting blame for far more than our own part in any mishap. It’s tempting to believe that each of us has enough individual power to singlehandedly upend the lives of those around us. Think about it, though: If you have a good heart and unstoppable powers, would you really use those powers for harm? Or are many negative events outside of your own control?
Here’s a concept: When you find yourself in the midst of self-blame, give some thought to what you would say to a good friend in a similar situation. Would you criticize that friend, or would you offer words of encouragement? Can you be as good a friend to yourself as you are to others?
Suppose you are ambling along, not paying enough attention, and you take an embarrassing tumble. An automatic response might be “I’m so clumsy; I’m always falling. I must look like an idiot.” A friend would likely get a more compassionate response, something like “Are you okay?” possibly followed by a plan to wear better shoes or look more carefully in the future.
Maybe you tell a joke that goes over badly. “Oops, I won’t use that one again” sounds far more constructive than “Stupid, stupid, stupid; what was I thinking?”
Mistakes happen. People screw up. We all do. It’s okay to acknowledge everyday screw-ups for what they are, with positive self-talk instead of negative self-blame. This doesn’t abolish the ability to learn from mistakes; it does allow us to accept them.
And if you start to verbally attack yourself when you know better? That happens too. It’s a great opportunity to just start over. Like other habits, this one becomes more entrenched with practice.
It’s not only okay to be your own friend; it also benefits those around you. Positive self talk is one of my favorite ways to accomplish this.

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