Following on from our Stress Awareness Month series last month, we are now turning to a Coaching themed month in recognition of it being International Coaching Week next week.
Our first article comes from Catherine Dennison of The Dennison Training Academy on the topic of self-talk and the power of the stories we tell ourselves.
Have you ever stopped to think about the stories you tell yourself about who you are?
In the privacy of your own mind, the internal voice that narrates everything you do, say and feel. The voice that comments, speculates, judges, compares, complains, likes, dislikes, and so on. This inner dialogue is called self-talk, and it’s basically the never-ending stream of thoughts that relate to who we are, what we are, what we can and can’t do, what we should or shouldn’t do, how we look, how we are perceived by others, our judgments of all that we are; our narrative of who we are.
Did you know that the average person has between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day? Of those, 80% are negative, and 95% are repetitive. That means that most people’s self-talk is mostly negative and repetitive, which can be harmful to their mental health.
The average person has between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day? Of those, 80% are negative, and 95% are repetitive
A powerful question to ask yourself or think about is: Imagine what your life would look like if you spoke to others the way you speak to yourself? What would your relationships look like? What do you imagine your family and friends might say about you, if spoke to them the way you speak to yourself?
The voice you hear is a direct result of your unique history. Every experience we’ve ever had influences how we perceive any given moment or situation.
Unfortunately, this inner voice can be a destructive force in our lives. It can hold us back, be highly judgemental, and can create negative emotional states. Negative self-talk about our future leads to anxiety, while negative internal narratives about our past can lead to depression. To combat these emotional states, we need to find ways to be present.
For some people, this internal voice is their greatest enemy. It can sabotage their successes, keep them stuck in unhappiness, and cause constant conflict and stress in their lives. However, most people aren’t even aware of their self-talk and consequently have no idea that it can be challenged and reassessed to be more reflective and constructive.
It’s important to be the observer of this voice, to try and not engage and not react to everything it says. By detaching from it, we can become less reactive and more aware of the thoughts that are driving our experience of life on earth. Our thoughts are real, but they’re not always true.
When we become aware of this internal voice and start to observe it, it creates a shift. We can observe our old, conditioned thought patterns from a different perspective and start to identify destructive thoughts that no longer serve us.
As Eckhart Tolle said: “The body believes what the mind is thinking. Although the body is intelligent, it cannot tell the difference between an actual situation and a thought. The storytelling keeps the emotion alive. The mind relives the event over and over, which keeps the emotions alive. The body believes it’s still happening. Whatever thoughts you’re having, your body believes, and the corresponding emotions are created.”
Let me share a story, one of many, that exemplifies the power of the mind and the stories we tell ourselves. During World War II, an anaesthetist posted on the front lines had run out of opiate-based painkillers to operate on wounded soldiers. He decided to try an experiment and told the soldiers he was giving them morphine when he was actually only putting up salt-water drips with no painkillers at all. The patients reacted just as if they had been given morphine.
This story illustrates the power of the mind to create our reality. The soldiers believed they were receiving pain relief, and their minds created the experience of pain relief, even without any actual painkillers. Similarly, our inner voice dictates our perception of the world and ourselves. If we constantly tell ourselves negative stories, we will see the world through a negative lens, and our negative beliefs will become our reality. On the other hand, if we learn to cultivate a positive inner voice, we can shift our perception and create a more positive reality for ourselves.
So, if you’re looking to improve your self-talk, there are a few things you can do.
One of the most effective ways is to practice mindfulness and self-compassion. Mindfulness helps you become aware of your thoughts and emotions without judging them, which allows you to observe your inner voice from a place of detachment. Self-compassion, on the other hand, involves treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a close friend.
To sum up what we’ve learned, we all have an inner voice that shapes our beliefs, thoughts, and emotions, affecting our perception of the world around us. And the stories we tell ourselves can be limiting or empowering, destructive or constructive. But the good news is that we can become aware of our inner voice and identify destructive thoughts that no longer serve us. By doing so, we can shift our perspective and create a more fulfilling and positive life experience.
Change your story, change your life.
Catherine Dennison (main picture) is a Director and Partner of the Dennison Training Academy. She is an Advanced Mental Health Instructor; FAR Instructor; BA Mathematics & Statistics; Dip. Training and Development IITD; Dip. Applied Psychology.
Click here to go to our Wellbeing section…
… and click here to subscribe to our daily newsletter – meaning you will never miss a thing.