You know the little voice inside your head — the one you’ve carried around inside you since before you could remember?
Call it what you will: your conscience, your subconscious, the inner you. This voice is a part of us, a part of who we are, and we self identify with that voice on an inherent level.
For each of us, our relationship with our inner voice is different.
Some people have learned to tune theirs out. Others take great stock in the self talk that emanates from within.
But no matter how you feel about that voice inside you, there’s something important you should know: that voice is responsible for the self talk you engage in. And that internal conversation can have huge impacts on the body and mind.
Take myself for example. I have a body type that falls under the Ectomorph category. This means that I am naturally a skinnier build, have long, lean limbs and find it hard to gain muscle. So in my head for years I have said to myself “I can’t get to the shape or weight id like because I am an Ectomorph.” And it is only until the last 3-4 months that I’ve really made a conscious effort to eliminate that belief. Even after typing this I realised I stated above that “I am naturally a skinnier build.”Be very wary of using “I am.” It is extremely powerful to the mind.
Whenever we recruit the use of words like “I am,” we’re affirming something fundamental about ourselves. An “I am” statement is a statement of identity.
To say, “I am tired,” or “I am depressed,” or “ I am overweight,” doesn’t indicate a passing, temporary state. At least not to our minds. Our minds interpret such statements as a validation of self, an integral component of our identity.
And this is problematic. When we express a passing mood, thought, or emotion as an “I am” statement, whether aloud or in self talk, our minds interpret this as a proclamation of self.
This thought, mood, or emotion isn’t just inhabiting the body and mind. It is the body and mind.
In small doses, like most things, it’s OK to have these thoughts. “Periodic negative self-talk is normal and not harmful,” Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist states – “However, when we have a negative filter up, when we take all information or most information and turn it into something negative it has emotional and physical consequences … Basically our internal dialog creates a physiological response, which can do physical harm.” And while the mind-body connection is only now being adequately researched, there’s definitely signs that these mental habits can be very physically draining.
Some surprising effects negative self-talk can have on your health include:
- You ‘feel it in your gut’ (literally) – your diet has stayed the same, your lifestyle hasn’t changed, but your stomach is in knots and pains, churning, being noisy, and basically making your days a small-scale nightmare. Heartburn, bathroom issues, and more — these are all problems which may be traced back to negative self-talk.
- You have zero energy – Your negative self-talk can slow your metabolism, making you feel tired and slow. So if regular activities, at home or at work, are making you surprisingly tired, it might be from all those times you told yourself you weren’t good enough.
- You seem to be getting sick more easily – Stress and negative thought patterns can be really harmful to your immune system. It’s a sign your negative self-talk is affecting you if you catch colds or other infectious illnesses more frequently.
- You have aches and pains that don’t make sense – Like the other symptoms, pain as a result of the stress of negative thoughts can show up in your life in ways that feel totally inexplicable. It’s a sign if you have headaches, backaches, neck pain, or otherwise tight muscles with no particular physical reason. The more we have an internal negative dialog the more stress we create in our systems.
The good news is we can implement some strategies to assist us with changing our self-talk.
Pay attention to your “I am” statements
This one comes from Robert Richman, who suggests that taking stock of your “I am” statements can help you guide your self talk into more positive channels.
We use “I am” statements often. The next time you say the words, “I am,” listen carefully to what follows. If it’s a positive statement, such as, I am energised, or I am optimistic, then — great! Keep it up!
But if what usually follows your “I am” statements is a negative declaration or attribute, here’s a subtle change you can make: try shifting from “I am” to “I feel.”
Set a higher standard for how you talk with yourself
This is a really important strategy. Why do we talk to ourselves in ways we wouldn’t accept from a friend, client or family member? It’s oftentimes out of habit or conditioning. If a friend talked with you in the same way you talk with yourself you’d be gone. Have the same standard for your own negative self talk!
Choose your words carefully
Whenever we’re tired and worn out we become sloppy with our language. We say things like “I’m so stupid” or “I’m completely blowing this.” Instead, stop and use words like “I’m tired and can’t concentrate” or “this is not my best performance. I will do so much better when I’m rested.”
The conversations we have with ourselves play a very important role in how we feel, act, and perform. Believe it or not, the words you tell yourself can directly affect your confidence, energy, satisfaction, and success. Take the time to become aware of your ‘inner voice’ and how you think to yourself. Are you hindering your progress or helping it flourish?
“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”
– Willie Nelson