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Self-talk can have a great impact on your confidence. The effect can be good or bad, depending on whether your self-talk is positive or negative. There are a few ways you can develop better self-talk, starting with just listening to what you routinely say to yourself. It’s worth the effort to practise talking positively to yourself, because the pay-off will be that you’ll feel better and your self-esteem will improve.

This can help if:

  • you’re suffering from low self-esteem
  • you want to feel better about yourself
  • your self-talk is mainly negative.
Girl smiling

What is self-talk?

Even though you might not know it, you’re already practising self-talk.

Self-talk is basically your inner voice, the voice in your mind that says the things you don’t necessarily say out loud. We often don’t even realise that this running commentary is going on in the background, but our self-talk can have a big influence on how we feel about who we are.

The difference between positive and negative self-talk

Positive self-talk makes you feel good about yourself and the things that are going on in your life. It’s like having an optimistic voice in your head that always looks on the bright side.

Examples: ‘These clothes look pretty awesome on me’, ‘I can totally make it through this exam’, ‘I don’t feel great right now, but things could be worse!’

Negative self-talk makes you feel pretty crappy about yourself and the things that are going on. It can put a downer on anything, even something good.

Examples: ‘I look stupid in these clothes’, ‘Everyone thinks I’m an idiot’, ‘Everything’s crap’, ‘Nothing’s ever going to get better.’

Negative self-talk tends to make people pretty miserable and can even impact on their recovery from mental health difficulties. But it’s not possible, or helpful, to be positive all the time, either. So, how can you make your self-talk work for you?

How to develop positive self-talk

There are three things you can do to help change the direction of your self-talk:

1. Listen to what you’re saying to yourself. We don’t always consciously take note of what we’re saying in our minds. The first step in improving your self-talk is to notice what your inner voice is saying. Is your self-talk mostly positive or mostly negative? Take some time each day to listen to, and even write down, what you’re thinking.

2. Challenge your self-talk. Ask yourself things like:

  • Is there actual evidence for what I’m thinking?
  • What would I say if a friend were in a similar situation?
  • Is there a more positive way of looking at this?
  • Am I keeping everything in perspective?
  • Can I do anything to change what I’m feeling bad about?

3. Change your self-talk. This can be easier said than done, but it’s definitely worth working on. Try countering your negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you find yourself thinking, ‘I’ll never be able to do this’, ask yourself: ‘Is there anything I can do that will help me be able to do this?’ Avoid speaking in finite terms, and try to look for things that might put a more positive spin on a tough situation.

Why should I practise?

The more you work on improving your self-talk, the easier you’ll find it. It’s kind of like practising an instrument or going to sports training: it won’t be easy to start with, but you’ll get better with time.

It might not seem like much, but self-talk is a huge part of our self-esteem and confidence. By working on replacing negative self-talk with more positive self-talk, you’re more likely to feel in control of stuff that’s going on in your life and to achieve your goals.

What can I do now?

  • Start monitoring your self-talk and challenge any negative thoughts.
  • Head to the ReachOut Forums for some info, advice and help from your peers.
  • Find out more about how your body image affects your self-talk.