The next time you make a mistake, stop and take a moment to hear your inner voice. What is it telling you? Is it saying that your mistake was expected, was one of far too many or was because you’re a horrible person? Or was your inner voice reminding you that no one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and your mistake is an excellent opportunity to learn something and make improvements?
Your inner voice, or self-talk, is a running narration of your daily experiences. It is a combination of conscious thoughts and unconscious beliefs, developed throughout your life in reaction to things people have said to you, ways in which people have related to you and how you felt about yourself in various scenarios.
Shanette Smith, LMFT, a senior specialist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, says that how you talk to yourself is easily the most important conversation you will ever have. Self-talk shapes how you treat yourself and how you approach and engage the world around you.
It is important to engage self-talk that creates a balanced narrative, acknowledging our missteps as well as successes.
Smith says what takes place in our mind can most certainly manifest in our reality. If the story you are telling yourself is negative — you’ll never succeed, no one loves you, you’re not smart enough — you have to work at changing that story.
She offers three tips to positively influence your self-talk, and thus increase your self-love:
- Examine the external. You are bombarded with images and messages on a daily basis via the media and social media you consume, and the people with whom you spend time. It is important to recognize that what you are seeing and hearing directly contributes to how you think and feel about yourself. Pause and ask yourself: “How do I feel when I consume these images and messages or when I’m around these types of people?” You get to decide who you spend time with and what messages you want to receive, so choose messages that positively influence your thinking and feeling. That way, you’re more likely to make decisions that are healthy for you in all situations. Ultimately, seek out the messages that best serve you and your well-being.
- Revisit your values. When you are making a change within yourself, there is a ripple effect to those around you. Recognize that you have the opportunity to break negative cycles by identifying and aligning your behaviors with the values you find most important. Discuss with your children and loved ones what is important to them and what it might look like if they chose to live their values in all situations. Set a good example by guarding your mind from destructive messages and spreading your own message of kindness, authenticity and self-love.
- Practice prioritizing yourself. It’s important to cultivate a practice where you prioritize yourself. Do you say “no” to things that don’t fit into your positive narrative? Do you stand up for things that truly matter the most to you? Do you seek out those who “feed” you rather than drain you? The things you focus on — good or bad — will lead to the emotions you experience. Instead of focusing on what you are lacking, focus on the good you have in your life and set goals to pursue the other things you want. You create the momentum toward self-love — don’t let anyone or anything try to slow you down.
“Imagine what your life looks like when you talk kindly to yourself, treat yourself well and love yourself,” Smith says. “Then, put those thoughts into practice to manifest that life.”