The Power of 'Authentic' Positive Self Talk

What is Self-Talk?

Self-talk is how you talk to yourself; the inner voice that influences what you do and how you feel. That inner voice may be helpful, resourceful, and positive, telling you, "It is possible", "I can do it", and "It will work". Or, that inner voice may work against you, depriving you of opportunities or experiencing new situations, with self-talk such as, "It's impossible", "I can't", or "I am not good enough for it to work".

Some people may say that a critical inner voice motivates them. However, for many people, if they think that they can never win, or that achieving 100% is impossible, they can stop trying. The fact is, a critical inner voice can be highly demotivating.

Positive Self-Talk

Positive self-talk can help you feel good about yourself and what is happening in your life. It's that optimistic voice in your head that looks on the bright side. Conversations may resemble, "I can do this/my best is enough" or "I made a mistake, but I'm learning from it". In these ways, self-talk can be motivational and enabling and have huge benefits for your mental and physical wellbeing, such as helping you manage stress and improving your self-esteem. It is also a key influencing factor in the extent to which you are resilient in the face of challenges. Fundamentally, it is a cheerful and supporting aspect of yourself, challenging fears, promoting action and boosting your confidence.

Negative Self-Talk

In contrast, negative self-talk can lead to emotional and physical symptoms and a poor sense of self. Phrases including, "I'm a total failure" and "I can't..." all lead you towards inaction and avoidance. Negative self-talk can arise from a faulty appraisal of a situation, such as, "I failed my last driving test, so clearly I am no good at driving". It can be 'global', for example, "I will never get it right", or it can be future-projected, such as, "I fluffed my presentation today, I'll never progress in my career".

There can be many cognitive distortions that might influence your self-talk, it's similar to black and white thinking. It can be extreme and without any favourable narrative. Others include 'mind-reading' which can lead to unhelpful or factually incorrect, jumping to conclusions.

'Should' statements are also unhelpful and demands can lead to disturbance when these are not met all the time (which they usually cannot be!). For example, "My colleagues should always listen to me". Logically, there will be times and reasons when they don't listen.

What You Say - and How You Say It

It can be good to pay conscious and deliberate attention to your own self-talk. Be aware of what you say to yourself and how you are saying it. If you said to someone, "You're so stupid" (or some other such blunt put-down) would you find this acceptable from yourself? If your self-talk is negative or unhelpful, challenge it. Ask yourself whether what you are saying is true. Question what the facts are. Seek to assess whether there is any evidence for that negative statement. This can help you gain perspective on your thoughts.

A useful way of changing your perspective is to ask yourself if the majority of one hundred people would say the same thing. Furthermore, you can query, "Is it relevant?", "Is this actually important?", even, "Does it matter?". When you have done this, you can then consider what would be a more helpful way of thinking.

Your Thoughts vs Your Reality

Do remember that your thoughts and your feelings are not always your reality. Just for a moment, think to yourself, "I am a six-foot, blue bunny rabbit, with giant floppy ears, eating candy floss". Another useful strategy is to give your inner critical voice a name. When you notice a negative thought, you can think of it as, "Negative Norman (or Nellie) is at it again!". This helps give you distance.

A further strategy is to insert the phrase, "I am having the thought that....", such as, "I am having the thought that I cannot do it". You can even say it out loud to hear it differently. Try to immediately replace your negative thoughts. Whenever you notice yourself engaged in a negative comment, immediately challenge it and change it to something better, more encouraging, resourceful and powerful.

Being Authentic

Being authentic is more than simply 'being yourself'. Definitions of 'authentic' commonly include, not being false, being genuine, real and true to yourself. It can also be about representing your true nature and beliefs to others.

We often think of being authentic with others, yet it can be even more important to be authentic with yourself. Be aware of how your thoughts influence your actions. Remember that events don't 'make' us feel happy or sad, it is our thoughts and beliefs about those events that result in our emotional response.

Being authentic includes having a realistic perception of reality and recognising your true self may include an honest appraisal of your qualities, skills and abilities. Treat yourself with kindness and respect and boost your happiness. It can also be helpful to allow yourself to be open-minded to possibilities, new ideas, opinions, events and people. 'Command and control' or rigid self-management may not leave room for creativity and self-inspiration.

Putting it All Together: 'Authentic' Positive Self-talk

Authentic positive self-talk allows for psychological maturity, emotional intelligence and non-defensive functioning, where you are able to express your emotions and motivations clearly and freely, not just to others, but also to yourself! It also means that you accept that you may make mistakes. Learn from them and grow from challenges. By being totally true yet encouraging and supportive with yourself, you develop the habit of thinking positively about yourself and your life.

As Oscar Wilde said, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken".


Dr Kate Beaven-Marks, international hypnotherapist and communications expert at
Her book 'How to Communicate More Effectively' is available on Amazon