Conversations with yourself

Many years ago two salesmen were sent by a British shoe manufacturer to Africa to investigate and report back on market potential. The first salesman reported back, “There is no potential here – nobody wears shoes.”
The second salesman reported back, “There is massive potential here – nobody wears shoes.”

Someone said – It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.

What kind of thoughts do you think? Do you struggle with your own thoughts, sometimes of worry, insecurity, frustration, and even anger? We all do. It’s true that we all “talk” to ourselves.

According to a popular psychological theory called CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), your thoughts determine your feelings and your feelings determine your actions. If you have to change your life, you need to be aware of your thoughts, and change it for good.

You’re constantly talking to yourself all the time. You’re talking to yourself right now even as you read this article! Research indicates that most people speak at the rate of 150-200 words per minute, but the mind can listen to about 500-600 words per minute. That’s why you can listen to your friend talking and plan dinner at the same time. In fact, our internal dialogue – the conversation we have with ourselves – is at the rate of 1300 words per minute. Because our mind sees in pictures, we can see a thought in a nanosecond.

Your thoughts create your experiences

We all experience various situations and events in our daily lives – they could be positive, neutral or negative events. We then interpret the events with a series of thoughts that continually flow through our mind. This is the “internal dialogue”. It is important to understand that our feelings are created by our thoughts and not the actual events. All experiences are processed through our brain and given a conscious meaning before we experience any emotional response. We think about 50,000-60,000 thoughts per day.

The problem is, in all that self-talk, we may tend to have critical and self-defeating thoughts. If you’re typically prone to self-defeating thoughts, then you end up being your own worst critic. You’re most often putting yourself down. You could walk into a room smiling, but inside you’re saying, “I’m fat. I’m dumb. I’m ugly. And I’m always late.” Many times, these thoughts are unconscious.

In recent years scientists have learned that “self-talk”— those little inner conversations we have with ourselves— play a huge role in our happiness, health, productivity and mood.

Our thought influences our behaviours, shapes our attitudes and even affects our immune system, says author, educator, and psychologist Archibald Hart. “Your thinking determines whether you will be happy or sad most of the time. It even determines if you’ll get married” he says.

Thoughts create emotions that can have a lasting physical effect on our physical bodies. Our emotional pain can even trigger physical pain or damage. Researchers have linked toxic thoughts to heart and vascular problems, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, skin conditions, intestinal tract disorders, chronic pain, lung and breathing disorders.

Research shows that around 87% of illnesses can be attributed to our thought life, and approximately 13% to diet, genetics and environment. Studies conclusively link more chronic diseases (also known as lifestyle diseases) to an epidemic of toxic emotions in our culture. These toxic emotions can cause migraines, hypertension, strokes, cancer, skin problems, diabetes, infections and allergies, just to name a few.

Learn to listen to your internal dialogue

The more you work on improving your self-talk the better you will get. It’s like practicing an instrument or going to sports training, it won’t be easy to start with but will get better with time. 

Listening to your self-talk will give you a baseline of your existing thought patterns. Check your thoughts daily, to evaluate where you are. What do you hear? Is your inner chatter helpful and encouraging…or discouraging?

I can’t do that!      

It’s too hard.      

There’s no way that will work.

I’m no good at this.  

I don’t have the resources. 

It’ll never change.

I am a failure.

I am not good enough.

I am not the spouse I want to be.

I am not a good parent.

I should have done a better job.

I’ll always be this way.

Nobody really cares.

Bring your thoughts into conscious awareness

When you express your thoughts and associated feelings verbally you gain clarity. You also may feel relieved and lighter if you had bottled your emotions. This emotional release helps you think objectively and become more aware of your thinking patterns.

Slowly, you can start questioning unhealthy thoughts by asking questions like:

  • Is there actual evidence for what I’m thinking?
  • Is there a more positive way of looking at this?
  • Am I keeping everything in perspective?
  • Am I objective in my thinking or am I being biased by my feelings?
  • Is this a self-defeating thought or a helpful and realistic thought?

Change unhealthy thinking patterns

The good news is that we CAN change these negative thoughts into helpful, positive ones. The most common practice is to use positive affirmations.

The power of positive affirmations can be life changing. Affirming means believing, in faith, that these are true and trusting in life. Affirmations help us change automatic unhealthy thoughts into more balanced, positive, realistic thoughts. Memorizing and dwelling upon these affirmations can help bring order to your thought life and, as a result, improve your relationships, health, and happiness.

Imagine the power of repeating the encouraging affirmations. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy too. So yes, you really can:

  • Think yourself healthy
  • Think yourself successful
  • Think yourself out of worry and anxiety
  • Think yourself out of bitterness and resentment
  • Think yourself into forgiving
  • Think yourself in control of your emotions
  • Think yourself out of stress
  • Think yourself happy

The possibilities are limitless!

Examples of unhealthy v/s realistic self-talk:

Unhealthy Thoughts Realistic Thoughts
I can’t do that! I can’t do that without help
It’s too hard It’s too hard if I do it alone
There’s no way that will work There’s no way that will work unless I keep trying
I’m no good at this I’m no good at this yet
It’ll never change It’ll never change without some help and my effort
I don’t have the resources I don’t have the resources so I’ll have to find them

Some powerful affirmations:

  • It is my birthright to live fully and freely. I am worth loving. I now choose to live life fully
  • I love and approve of myself and I trust in the process of life. I am safe
  • When I believe in myself, so do others
  • I am my own unique self – special, creative and wonderful
  • I forgive myself for all the mistakes I have made
  • Loving myself heals my life. I nourish my mind, body and soul
  • The more grateful I am, the more reasons I find to be grateful
  • I am at peace
  • I trust the process of life. All I need is taken care of
  • I choose love, joy and freedom, open my heart and allow wonderful things to flow into my life
  • I now go beyond other peoples fears and limitations. I create my own life.
  • My marriage is becoming stronger, deeper, and more stable each day
  • I acknowledge my own self-worth; my confidence is soaring
  • Though these times are difficult, they are only a short phase of life
  • I attempt all – not some – possible ways to get unstuck
  • The past has no power over me anymore
  • Everyone is always helpful
  • I am strong and powerful and I have the knowledge and ability to handle everything in my life
  • All my problems have a solution
  • I only attract loving people in my world for they are a mirror of what I am
  • I am open and receptive to all the good and abundance in the Universe
  • I lovingly do everything I can to assist my body in maintaining perfect health

So talk to yourself. Tell yourself some good things today and tomorrow.

If you need professional help in exploring your thoughts and beliefs, and to challenge your distorted thoughts, do contact us at TalkItOver.

Talk It Over

About Ennis Jose

Ennis is a certified counsellor and a life coach. He is also the co-founder of TalkItOver Counselling Services. He has done the BSIC counselling program from Parivarthan, affiliated to BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) and coaching training (ACC level) from ICF (International Coach Federation). He largely works in the areas of relationships, self esteem, workplace issues, stress, decision making and helping people reach their full potential. Prior to starting TalkItOver, Ennis was in the IT industry for around 10 years playing multiple roles – in the project management and business analysis space. He has a Masters degree in Computer Applications and a Bachelors degree in Chemistry from Madras Christian College, Chennai. Ennis spends his free time reading, cycling, driving long distances, ideating, and providing technical consultation to NGO’s.