Our self-talk is probably one of the most important factors in our happiness and success – but it can also undermine the even the most talented and likeable people if they are unaware of their self-talk or fail to understand its significance. The reason why it is so important is because of the cycle it sets up; it impacts on our self-belief and then in turn our performance (at work, in sport, in relationships etc). Poor performance feeds negativity back to our self-talk and so the cycle continues.
One of the first steps I help clients take is to ask them to write down some positive thoughts about themselves; most tell me that they find this difficult and of course anything can be difficult if you’ve never done it before. Over time this new skill can be practised and established as a means of countering the old negative self-talk and by beginning to change the cycle to a positive one. Positive self-talk can also provide a psychological barrier against loss of confidence when we face challenges in life – just because we find a situation difficult doesn’t mean we have to feel bad about ourselves.
Positive self-talk bolsters our confidence no matter what is happening in the outside world and allows us to navigate our way through to the very best of our ability; it helps us to reframe a mistake or lapse in focus and to get back on track. Many a sports person has been down a point, dropped the ball or scored an own goal but has used their positive self-talk to pull themselves up and back into the lead. In everyday life we too sometimes take our eye off the ball and it’s the positivity of our self-talk that can help us stay calm and regain our composure and focus; wherever we go, whatever we do, whoever we are with, we take our self-talk with us. If you need help to improve your self-talk and confidence then call 07899625156.
2019 Happy New Year !
So here we are again at the start of another new year wondering if we will reach our goals. In our enthusiasm to make positive changes it can be easy to overlook the fact that any change involves a process; change is rarely an event.
All success, whether it be in our personal lives or in our career, involves a series of steps and as we look ahead at our goal it is easy to think that we will simply progress from one step to the next in a neat linear manner; however real life is not like that.
In spite of all our best efforts we may find ourselves stuck on the same step, for what can seem an uncomfortably long time and as a result our motivation and self-belief can take a nose-dive leaving the door wide open for negative self-talk,’ ‘what’s the point?’, ‘I knew I couldn’t do this’, ‘everyone else is making more progress than me’, ‘I’ll never be able to succeed’ etc.
The reasons for staying on one step or at one stage of change are many; sometimes we are unconsciously not ready to progress, sometimes life throws a curve-ball at us, sometimes our goal was too big, sometimes despite all our commitment and best intentions we just don’t make progress at the speed we want.
Accepting life as it is, with it’s setbacks and disappointments can sometimes be the only thing we can do and whilst to some that can feel like a form of giving up or surrender, it does allow us to stay in a more positive frame of mind instead of simply giving up.
When we look beyond any present disappointment and remind ourselves that it is only temporary we can stay on course – when a train is late leaving the station, as frustrating as that is, we don’t get off and abandon our trip because to do so would mean we would get nowhere.
Sometimes life is like a game of snakes and ladders for everyone, so hang on in there until you reach the ladder again!
Over the years I have seen many clients with social anxiety and have witnessed how miserable it has made them. Social anxiety is an intense fear of being negatively judged or even rejected by others. Suffers often cope by avoiding certain situations, sometimes for years and yet whilst any avoidance strategy may bring relief, it is only temporary and is never a real lasting solution.
Social connection is what allows us to feel a sense of what Deci & Ryan (2000) referred to as ‘relatedness’ and provides psychological safety as opposed to the isolation that many sufferers of social anxiety experience.
Sports teams and business organisations all perform better when their members and staff feel as if they are part of the team or business; social cohesion fulfills one of our basic emotional needs, the need to belong.
Social anxiety often results with sufferers avoiding the very situations where the sense of group cohesion and belonging could be given a chance to develop; avoidance minimises risk, the risk of feeling vulnerable and yet to feel vulnerable is part of life, part of the human condition.
With practice, sometimes practice with very small steps, confidence can grow and social situations can be experienced differently, as an opportunity to create a network, to create a sense of belonging and to create an ante-dote to loneliness and isolation. Small steps are always the beginning and they create new pathways which can allow us to discover new experiences and new people; imagine my delight when a very shy, social anxious client of mine went on to organise a new staff sports team at work and then imagine my double delight when a year later I saw him taking part in a quiz show on tv !
Change is always possible and there’s a world full of possibilities waiting to be discovered !
Black Friday is here again with the temptation of huge discounts on a whole range of items. Online shopping makes it so easy to spend and to overspend from the comfort of our warm and dry homes. The thrill of a bargain is tempting for us all and we can all easily overlook our reasons for buying.
- Is it the thrill and satisfaction of the discounted price that we really want or the item itself?
- Will we have discarded the item in the near future?
- Can we really afford it? Are we confusing the idea of deserving it with being able to afford it?
- If the item wasn’t discounted would we still want to buy it?
The thrill can blind us to our real motivations for buying with all kinds of perceived yet unconscious benefits that we think the item will bring us; will we look more beautiful, will we look more successful, will it cheer us up, will it mend our broken heart, will it impress our friends?
Placing our emotional wellbeing and self-confidence in a new bag or new pair of shoes, even when on discount, is hoping for a quick fix and the rational part in all of us knows that quick fixes are at best, short-term.
So take a moment before you hit ‘buy’ or find yourself in the queue to pay, be honest with yourself about your real motivations for buying . . . so that Black Friday is only about the retailers ‘losing’ money and not your bank account!
January 2019 is just around the corner and yet with the distraction of Christmas it’s easy to forget about making a change until January 1st has come . . . and gone!
Change is a process, not an event and like all processes needs a degree of planning. Di Clemente & Prochaska (1998) identified 5 stages in the process to change:
One of the most important stages is Preparation – without preparation (finding a gym that you like, finding a enjoyable route to run, teaming up with a friend to exercise etc) the best intentions fall by the wayside.
So as we approach Christmas why not take some time to reflect and prepare for the changes you want to make in January (or at any time!) and maximise your chances of success.
The age of technology with smart phones etc has speeded up much of our day to day lives; we can now communicate with immediacy thanks to messaging and emails, we can shop without cash and can pay for our shopping with contactless cards. Life has never been faster and yet this increased pace of life can result in us having unrealistic expectations both of others and ourselves and an inability or unwillingness to play the long game.
When we set ourselves a goal we often assume we should be able to achieve it quickly and when we don’t we can feel disappointed and demotivated and give up. Some goals can be achieved quickly, but many require persistence before results are seen. Persistence is easier when we chunk up our goals. The goals can be personal, work or fitness-related but all can, on some level, be chunked up into a series of steps or phases. The advantage of chunking is that each step or stage of action becomes more manageable and achievable and as such boosts and maintains motivation because each step is forward-moving in direction and takes us closer to the end goal.
Chunking requires a revised expectation in terms of time and also in terms of our self-discipline; it can be easy to push forward with speed on days when we feel good but we do so at the risk of burnout. The tortoise understood this whilst sadly the hare didn’t!
We all talk to ourselves.
Often the talk is silent and internal. Often our self talk is made from the same thoughts that we had yesterday and that we will have tomorrow. Often we don’t even notice our self talk but we ignore it at our peril because the thoughts in our self-talk create feelings and those feelings create physical actions and reactions; self-talk influences both anxiety and confidence or simply put, a negative thought creates a negative feeling which creates a negative action or reaction and as we have about 60,000 thoughts a day it’s important to minimise the negative ones.
We tend to look for external causes of our negative actions and yet the cause goes back to our thoughts, our self-talk. We are all more critical of ourselves than we are to those we love; we undermine our own confidence, we doubt our abilities and focus on our ‘failures’ – things we would never do to those we love.
Learning to flip self-talk over to positive, like all new learning, requires a relaxed and focused mind, awareness and practice. A good starting point, when you recognise your negative self-talk is to calm your mind and ask yourself some new questions because new questions will provide you with new answers. Creating a positive affirmation to repeat to yourself is a great way of changing the focus of your mindset from negative to positive and is a technique often used in sport psychology.
Affirmations are powerful and positive statements which through repetition, strengthen an intention deeply and are able to bypass your rational conscious mind in order to be assimilated into your emotional unconscious mind. The wonderful thing about the unconscious mind is that it doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination so it will accept whatever thought it is repeatedly exposed to.
So if there’s a action or reaction that you want to change in yourself, learn to relax your mind, listen in to your self-talk and ask yourself if you would talk in the same way to someone you loved. Ask yourself some new questions to challenge your negative self-talk and create a powerful and motivating affirmation to begin repeating because . . .
your thoughts create your feelings which create your actions and reactions
The days are beginning to shorten and soon we’ll be turning the clocks back. In primitive times we would retreat to our caves to escape the harsh winter storms and shortened days which meant we had less time to hunt. In many respects we do the same even in the modern world with the cosy warmth and light of our homes offering shelter and comfort from the cold, dark world outside.
SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder/Depression is often experienced in the winter months by those who, during the rest of the year, feel no depression or low mood. Light boxes can be of benefit during the winter months in addition to exercise, relaxing the mind and positive interaction with others.
It is tempting when we leave work, often in the dark, to rush home and feel no motivation to go out again. Staying home in the warmth may feel comfortable but at the expense of us engaging in activities which have a positive impact on our mental health.
Our mental health is as important to look after as our physical health and yet sadly there is still a stigma attached to the words ‘mental health’. We all need to take active steps to manage how we feel and we need to take these steps consistently.
Exercise boosts the neurotransmitters which regulate our mood and of course exercise is good for both the mind and the body; primitive man felt good after hunting! Exercise also provides an opportunity for positive interaction with other people; we are social animals and when we lived in tribes we would go out hunting together, sit around the camp fire listening to elders tell us stories or talk to our fellow tribesmen/women about how our day had been.
Relaxing the mind is vital as we struggle to feel good when our internal stress buckets are full. Just 25 minutes of daily guided meditation begins the process of emptying the bucket, which in turn leads to better sleep and better mood.
Spending some of our free-time outside is also vital as during the working week we often go to work and return from work in the dark – vitamin D is made from sunlight via our skin and whilst the winter months offer less bright sunlight it is still beneficial to spend time outside. In winter some doctors may recommend a Vitamin D supplement as low levels have been linked to low mood and depression.
The clocks aren’t turned back until the end of October so why not set up a routine of positive interaction, exercise and relaxation for the mind today! Don’t let the winter get you down!
The need for growth allows us to learn new skills and to fulfill our potential. Without fulfilling this need some of us can feel as if our lives have stagnated or have reached a place where we feel bored with everything. We don’t need to make huge changes in life to feel as if we are growing; we can learn a new skill or take up a new interest, we can take courses that will allow for career development. For others this need can be satisfied by taking a working holiday or by travelling to new places of historic or cultural significance – in short, stepping out of our comfort zone which also boosts confidence.
The need to make a contribution allows us to feel we are helping others, passing on our skills, leaving a legacy and it can also satisfy the need to connect with others, often those in less privileged positions. Working for charities or on a professional voluntary basis where we pass on our knowledge and experience and coach or mentor those both older or younger than us. Helping others can also be an excellent way of increasing our own face-to-face interaction in the community and a great ante-dote to loneliness, anxiety and depression as well as boosting confidence.
What’s interesting about these two needs is that not everybody will be aware of them and yet they can provide a sense of fulfillment that cannot be measured in financial terms.
- When did you last feel as if you were growing and developing as an individual?
- When did you last feel as if you were making a difference to other people?
It’s easy to overlook all of our needs and yet when we take time to reflect on them we can then seek to meet them with actions that are both positive and beneficial to ourselves as well as others.
Our need to connect and to feel loved is extremely powerful. In primitive times being accepted as part of your tribe meant safety in a world that was unpredictable and potentially hostile. Today humans continue to need to feel accepted by their tribe however, unlike primitive times, today we belong to more than one tribe.
Our family is just one tribe we belong to, so are work colleagues, school friends, friends we socialise with etc and yet despite being a member of several different tribes, the fear of being ostracised and abandoned is still very real for some people. Positive human relationships are vital for us to feel connected. When we feel rejected by our ‘main’ tribe we will seek out a replacement tribe which may or may not be beneficial.
The world of social media often fulfills this need but the relationships can be one dimensional and often built on dishonesty leaving participants or tribe members extremely vulnerable. Disillusioned young people are often drawn to become gang members out of a need to feel they belong and yet often become embroiled in gun violence as one tribe seeks to dominate another or seeks to protect it’s ‘territory’ or business ‘activity’ with gang members often paying the highest price.
Never before has the need for connection been so unfulfilled by human relationships and yet never before has the need for human relationships been so important. What can we do? We can reach out to family members, to colleagues, to old friends as a means of maintaining and strengthening a sense of connection but also by being prepared to pursue activities which offer the possibility for new positive connections with those from other tribes because the most important tribe we all belong to is the human tribe and our basic human needs are the same.