What do first dates, bowling, job interviews, and test taking have in common?
They are all impacted by self-talk.
If self-talk doesn’t sound familiar, you might know it as the little voice in your head. It judges how you look, tells you how to feel, and gives you lectures.
Whether you call this self-programming, internal remodeling, or positive reinforcement, the best way to improve your life is to improve how you think.
What Self-Talk Looks Like
When kids go bowling for the first time, it is difficult to give them advice on form or technique.
If a kid wants to get more strikes, the best advice you can give them is to imagine it first.
Ask them to picture everything in their heads.
Walking up to the lane.
Swinging the ball, releasing it, and seeing it smash into the pins.
Having a person do this, regardless of their age, is a method of self-programming. They are telling their brain what is about to happen and the brain, which only wants to please, makes it happen.
Real or Imagined? The Brain Doesn’t Know!
According to Doctor David Hamilton’s article Does your Brain Distinguish Real from Imaginary, the human brain processes real and fake experiences the same way.
In the article, Doctor Hamilton describes a study done in 1995.
A group of people were asked to play the same set of piano notes for five days straight. Another group of people were asked to just imagine playing the piano notes.
Brain scans were taken of both groups.
What was discovered at the end of the study?
There was almost NO difference between those who had actually practiced piano and those who had just pictured it in their heads!
Do You Think About Your Thinking?
A study was done by Southwestern Consulting. One topic it covered was self-talk.
Out of the 3,542 participants, only 19% said that they “consistently monitor their internal thoughts every day.”
What’s the scariest part about these numbers?
Most people have no idea that they’re using self-talk and self-programming already.
They just aren’t using this amazing superpower for good.
Guess What? You are Already Using Self-Talk!
Have you ever taken a test and the little voice inside you whispers “What if I fail? What if I mess up?”
All of these lines are taken in by your brain as orders.
The brain hears them and then, just like with bowling, tries to make it happen.
Negative self-talk happens to people every day.
Your self-talk and self-programming are mostly negative and entirely unconscious.
This is one of the biggest enemies of the body positive movement.
How Does Self-Talk Hurt Our Body Positivity?
People look at themselves in the mirror, in the reflection of a window, and at photos of themselves every day.
Each time those people respond to those experiences, they program themselves.
Maybe the image of them has split ends.
Maybe they had an acne breakout that day.
Maybe they hate their hips, their teeth, their hairstyle, the size of their arms or the shape of their stomachs.
When humans look at images of them, they often only see what they don’t like.
The brain hears how much a person hates a particular part of their bodies and assumes this is a new habit.
Each time a person sees their reflection, the brain floods with negativity, dislike, even hate. Why?
Because that’s what the person’s self-talk told the brain they wanted.
Loving the Person in the Mirror
A post on a blog called How Life Really Works, talked about spending one month telling your reflection “I love you.”
Unsurprisingly, this proved harder to do than it sounded.
The trick to it was self-talk.
Instead of spending a month just saying “I love you” to the mirror, try this.
Before you step in front of the mirror, imagine something, someone, or someplace that makes you very happy. Once you are full of those warm, fuzzy feelings, open your eyes.
Now say “I love you.”
After a month, your brain will associate the sight of your body with something positive instead of negative. Why?
Because the brain will merge the warm, fuzzy feelings with the sight of your body, even though they had nothing to do with each other in the beginning.
There’s No “I” in BoPo
If self-talk feels awkward or as if you’re lying to yourself, you might need some distance between you and the self-talk.
In 2014, NPR did a post called Why Saying is Believing — The Science of Self-Talk.
The view of the post was that, when talking to or about yourself, you should use your name instead of “I.”
Ethan Kross, a psychologist, told a group of volunteers they were going to give a speech and only had five minutes to prepare. He told half of them to use “I” when they gave their speech and the other half to use their names.
The people who referred to themselves in the first person were overwhelmed by only having five minutes to prepare.
Those who referred to themselves using the third person were calmer, giving themselves pep talks, even reminding themselves of past moments of confidence and success.
The use of “I” when you talk about yourself makes things personal. By using your name, you put distance between yourself and the self-talk.
What’s the point? Self-talk will feel a lot more comfortable if half of you feels like you’re talking about someone else.
Becoming a Better You
Do you want to bring more body positivity into your life? Start with these five self-talk tips.
Notice how often you say something negative about yourself. Notice it and rephrase it.
When you make a mistake, use your name when you respond to it.
Imagine a situation being a success before you go through it.
Smile at all reflections of you. It doesn’t matter if it feels fake. Do it.
Give yourself pep talks using your name.
Remember, one of the quickest ways to self-help is self-talk.