Many people are conscious of an inner voice that provides a running monologue on their lives throughout the day. This inner voice, or self-talk, combining conscious thoughts and unconscious beliefs and biases, provides a way for the brain to interpret and process daily experiences.
Our self-talk can be cheerful and supportive or negative and self-defeating. Self-talk can be beneficial when it’s positive, calming fears and bolstering confidence. Human nature, unfortunately, is prone to negative self-talk, including sweeping assertions like “I can’t do anything right” or “I’m a complete failure.”
Why Self-Talk Matters
Some people believe they can credit their success to having a strong inner voice. In some cases, even a critical inner voice can push individuals to achieve by raising awareness of internal and external obstacles to achievement. Over time, though, that type of self-talk can take a toll on one’s confidence, fostering shame and limiting personal growth.
The Danger of Negative Self-Talk
The problem with negative self-talk is that it typically does not reflect reality, and so it can convince people, wrongly, that they are not only not good enough, but that they can never get better, paralysing them into self-absorption and inaction. People with depression and anxiety frequently experience destructive and dysfunctional self-talk; the internal chatter they hear may be incessant and overly critical. Overwhelmed by the negativity, they can wallow in painful rumination, attacking themselves ceaselessly. In severe cases, this type of inner dialogue can be curtailed with professional treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
Why do we allow ourselves to be self-critical?
People who believe negative self-talk is valid often imagine that it is honest; that it limits their ego; that it prepares them for disappointment; or that they simply deserve it. Considering whether they think it would be useful or fair to speak to a good friend the same way can help them understand why they should stop justifying their self-criticism, and instead work to silence it.
How can self-talk affect your sexual confidence?
Negative self-talk can infiltrate every aspect of a person’s life, including sex. When people are critical of their looks, fitness, or sexual skill, it can lead to performance anxiety and encounters that are unsatisfying for both themselves and their partners. Cutting off self-criticism when it starts to interfere with a sexual experience, and replacing it with mindful or self-compassionate thoughts, can help restore sexual self-confidence.
How to Change Your Self-Talk
Even harsh self-talk can be effectively challenged and sidelined. Becoming consciously aware of its role is the first step. Then, some simple and straightforward self-help techniques can be useful, such as rehearsing a more constructive inner voice with more positive tones, and learning to address oneself in the third person. Using one’s name instead of “I” during moments of inner dialogue, research has found, can create useful psychological distance from the emotional intensity of the self, enabling one to avoid rumination and move forward with greater perspective, calm, and confidence.
Self-talk can veer toward the negative when we think back to past situations in which things did not go well and when we ponder a future full of things that could go wrong. Research finds that when self-talk focuses on the present momentinstead, and on seeing that moment and its opportunities as valuable, it more effectively helps us reach our goals.
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