Positive Self-Talk? Seriously?

>> Monday, February 14, 2011

Yes. Seriously.

We all talk to ourselves.  (Writers probably more than most...maybe because we have little people running around in our heads.)  Whether we talk out loud or simply think concretely or even just let background chatter drift through our minds, we are all talking to ourselves all day long.

That talk can be good or bad.  It can support our goals and drive us to achieve or it can gut our drive to even try.  We often aren't aware of what we're actually saying to ourselves.  By neglecting to notice our negative self-talk we may be permitting a continual flow of worry and self-criticism.  But by recognizing the power of positive self-talk, we have the potential to bring about positive change in our lives.

I've struggled with the whole glass half full-glass half empty concept for decades.  I'd venture to say a lot of us have or still do.  The truth is, our outlook -- pessimistic vs. optimistic (I also believe there is a state in between I call realistic) developed long before we had a choice. 

From the day we're born, every word, every thought, every action became imprints placed on our subconscious by others.  Later on, in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood our own words, thoughts and images of how we view ourselves create a lasting impression in our subconscious--those concepts largely a product of how we were raised.

If your young years were filled with positivity, support, unconditional love and accolades at every turn -- you've got a head start.  If you experienced more punishment than praise, more cynicism than support or more criticism than kudos -- you have a little harder road to walk. 

Either way, as adults we have to create our own lives, and with the stresses and responsibilities of everyday life...the truth is...its rough.  If you're a writer (by definition a tad more sensitive than the general population), the roller coaster ride toward publication, or even just attempting to express yourself competently, can take a toll on even the rosiest outlook.

The good news: no matter how positive or negative our early years, what successes or failures we've experienced, how many trophies or trials we've collected, we can all end up in the same place in our individual lives--one of achievement, comfort, contentment and positivity to the level of our own personal best.

The power is in cultivating our subconscious mind.  (No voo-doo involved.  Promise.)

I believe my success with positive self-talk is a result of a combination of techniques.  In the working form, positive self-talk is really a combination of self-talk, affirmations and the law of attraction.
  • Self-talk: thoughts regarding ourselves that pass through our mind.
  • Affirmations: a carefully formatted, positive statement that is repeated to one's self.
  • Law of Attraction: A theory that states "like attracts like" and your dominant thoughts will find a way to manifest, good or bad. 
That said, we all know simply repeating, "I am happy." "I am happy." "I am happy." will most likely lead to a hair-pulling event during which the affirmation slips into something more like, "I'm happy, dammit!"  "Look how frigging happy I am!"  "I'm as happy as a cricket in a freaking frogs belly for God's sake!"  

So, here are a few tips that took my self-talk from mindless repetition to meaningful statements and turned my brain and my perspective around:

Visualize
We all know how to daydream.  That's all visualization is--a daydream.  So, when you decide on the powerful self-talk statements, visualize that statement. 
  • Let's say your statement is:  I am patient and flexible.  What would it look like to be patient?  Imagine yourself in a line at the store, relaxed, observing the surroundings, maybe chatting with the person ahead or behind you, with no one waiting on you, no where you have to be.  Imagine you have all the time in the world and waiting another minute or two won't affect your life one way or the other.
  • Let's say your statement is:  My daughter and I have a close relationship.  We are open and honest with each other.  What would it look like to be more in touch with your daughter?  Visualize yourself picking her up from school, relaxed, looking forward to seeing her.  Imagine listening, open and accepting, as she talks about her day.  See yourself being the empathetic positive influence you want to be. 
Imagine being your statement.  Being exactly what you want in your life.

Feel it
If you were to feel the patience in the first example above, what emotions would you feel?  What physical sensations would your body experience?
  • While you visualize yourself waiting in line, maybe the tension drifts out of your shoulders.  The muscles of your jaw relax.  Your stance eases. 
  • Because you're not focused on how slow the line is moving, how that cashier should really think about retirement, how you have so much to do somewhere else, you notice that the woman in front of you is wearing the most beautiful scarf you've ever seen.  
  • Maybe you comment on it and make a new acquaintance.  Maybe you just enjoy the pattern and color.  Maybe it even gives you a new idea for a character you're writing or a project you're working on.  Maybe it simply makes you happy. 
That's the great thing about day dreams -- they're all yours!  

Live it
Be the person in your visualization, and apply it to your every day life.  If you are the person with the open, warm relationship with your daughter (which you are--your self-talk confirms it), how would you go through your day?
  • Your openness would extend to others.  That acceptance and warmth would transform the relationships you have.  You would be more confident.  You would have closer connections throughout your life.  You would be a good listener, empathetic, warm.  You would be happier. 
Living what you tell yourself you are, creates the very life you want.

Infuse Gratitude
Gratitude in itself is a life-changing force.  The subject deserves a month of posts unto itself.  But I found this concept both a powerful catalyst for moving my self-talk and visualizations forward and a motivating force to continue the self-talk even on a bad day.

When you say to yourself: I am patient and flexible, you follow that self-talk with the sensation of gratitude.  Infusing gratitude into your self-talk often empowers me.  Often it even makes me smile...or laugh.
  • Traffic--there is test of patience.  How about: I am so glad I'm patient and flexible, because that means I'm not an asshole like the guy who just cut me off.  Or: I'm grateful my patience keeps me from stressing like that guy who just cut me off.  Man, it would suck to be him.
And what about your relationship with your daughter? 
  • Try something like: I'm so lucky to have this awesome relationship with my daughter.  Or: I'm so fortunate to have this gift in my life.
I'll be back next Tuesday with lots of examples of positive self-talk for every area of your life and how to create your own.

In the mean time, if you're interested in learning more about this topic, an excellent book is The Self-Talk Solution by Shad Helmstetter.

Can you share your experiences with self-talk, affirmations or the law of attraction?

8 comments:

Kim Bowman Author 11:55 AM  

I totally believe in affirmations and law of attraction. I made a vision board and on one corner I put I would get offered a contract for my book Wayward Soul by Dec 31, 2010. GUESS WHAT? I did! It was released today!! YIPPIE

Joan Swan 2:15 PM  

Awesome, Kim!! Congrats! I love to see the real thing happen!

C.C. Wiley 4:56 PM  

Brilliant post, Joan. I'm excited to find your blog.

It's amazing how often the message of positve self talk has been coming up in my life! We are empowered by believing in the power of love.

I used to have an issue with affirmations. As soon as I'd say "I'm a success," the little voice would pipe up, "Right, liar." Recently, I was listening to Law of Attraction by Michael J. Losier. He explains a way around this by stating, "I am in the process of living a successful life." By adding "in the process" it allows our heads to accept the positive affirmation.

Does that make sense?

Joan Swan 6:04 PM  

Yes, Tina, totally makes sense (This is Tina, right?) And I read something about that recently -- how that little voice comes up to tell you you're a liar. But, darn it, I can't remember from where or what they said to combat it. Seems like you've got a good thing going there though.

I too struggled with the inner voice telling me I was a crock when I first set out with these positive statements. Visualizing and feeling the emotion attached gave me the "picture", and when I "saw" myself living it, I didn't feel like a liar b/c I knew it was possible.

If I find the comment, I'll post it next week with the next post on self-talk and affirmations.

Thanks for coming by!!

Gloria 7:45 PM  

So glad Sherry and I chatted about you behind your back tonight, Joan. All good things, of course. She mentioned she's signed up for your newsletter, so I popped over here to register, too.

What an enlightening and encouraging post!

I suffer whiplash waffling between "I will succeed" and "I'm not good enough." Then, I learn something new about my craft, connect with other writers, receive positive affirmations and I'm back on track.

What I've been missing is visualizing and internalizing my name on the dust cover of a book. The book signing. The acceptance of an award. The big picture.

Can't wait to read your next post on this topic.

I'm currently visualizing myself as a non-smoker. Only 5 more sleeps until that's a reality. I'm excited about it. I'll let you know how the positive image impacts this effort versus previous failed attempts. Keep those posts coming!

Gloria

Sherry Isaac 4:54 AM  

Hey Joan!

Love Kim's idea of a vision board. I have a scaled down version - a sign on my desk that reads 'Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History'. My daughters think I'm kooky, but I know that they have that thought in the back of their minds, to dare to try, to dip the big toe in the pool, to dream.

And, I am thankful, very thankful, voice my gratitude in prayer daily, and voice my gratitude to others.

In an interview years ago I was asked, 'Do you consider yourself a lucky person?' An interesting question. My answer was 'No. I'm not lucky. I am blessed.' I feel that is true, in spite of trying circumstances, the evidence is everywhere in my life.

You can't see the sun when your eyes are on the ground.

Sherry

Joan Swan 9:21 AM  

Thanks for posting Gloria. I too toggle between "not good enough" and "I will succeed". I don't know that it ever ends, although I have seen in my own life (mostly outside writing) how it definitely improves as you gain control over what you say to yourself.

Joan Swan 9:25 AM  

I love that: You can't see the sun when your eyes are on the ground. Tweeting now!!

And I'm with you on the gratitude. It's essential in fostering positive self-talk. Absolutely essential.

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