At Action Recovery Group I talk a lot about how the brain is neuroplastic—everyday we mold and shape our own brain based on the thoughts and actions we choose. We are literally our own “neuro-architects.” And there is nothing that consistently changes the brain more powerfully than our own internal self-talk.
How’s Your Self-Talk? Try this Exercise—
Let me take you though a mental exercise—Imagine that your best friend is constantly talking bad about you—putting you down; beating you up verbally; completely unforgiving and merciless for every mistake you make; calling you dumb, stupid, worthless. How long would you take the constant abuse and keep that friend around?
Set that thought aside and I’ll revisit it in a moment.
Let me ask you another question—Of all the voices in the world, which one does your mind consider to be the most believable?
Over your lifetime the voice you hear the most is your own. This is the voice that is most familiar to you. It is also the voice that you consider to be the most credible—you believe your own voice more than anyone else’s. This is why what you say to yourself is so critical! Studies show that your self-talk dramatically increases mental force and the activation of specific mental models or circuitry in your brain. Every day people reinforce and perpetuate negative mental models and habits through their negative self-talk.
Does Your Self-Talk Make You Happy or Miserable?
Martin Seligman, a world premier psychologist and one of the leading researchers on happiness, has found that depressed people have an equal number (1:1) of positive to negative self-talk. He has also found that unless this ratio changes, their depression will not change. It doesn’t matter what kind, or how much, of an antidepressant a person takes, or what kind of therapy a person has; if that ratio doesn’t change neither will their depression. However, he found that when a person has twice as much positive self-talk as negative (2:1) they won’t be depressed. What if a person has five times as much positive self-talk as negative—they might actually be happy!
Are You Your Own Best Friend?
OK, let’s get back to the mental exercise I took you through a few moments ago. I asked you to image your best friend constantly beating you up verbally, criticizing, putting you down and refusing to forgive you for your mistakes. How long would you keep that friend around?
Have you ever stopped to consider that you are your own best friend? And as such, how do you treat yourself? Like a best friend should—with consideration, acceptance, tolerance, patience and forgiveness. Celebrate the good in yourself and forgive the bad. Perhaps you need to see yourself in a new light—that you are simply a human being. You don’t have to be better than others and you don’t have to be better than you are in this moment. You are who you are. Of course you desire to progress and become better. But, who and where you are in this moment is completely adequate for this moment—be at peace with it and just keep moving forward, one small step at a time.
There are things you want to change in yourself and improve—we all do!! But, we can and must love and be fiercely loyal to ourselves in whatever state we find ourselves in this moment. We must avoid the trap of, “When I have changed _______,” or “When I achieve ________,” then I can start accepting and loving myself.”
Start Being “Self-Loyal”!
This is NOT the way you would treat a dear friend—you would love them unconditionally for who they are and then encourage and support them in making progress toward their goals and dreams. You must do the same for yourself! You must be your own “best friend”! Love yourself unconditionally. Accept yourself for who you are. Stop judging and criticizing yourself. Be kind, gentle, understanding, patient and fiercely loyal to yourself!
Never underestimate the power of self-talk—positive or negative. Realize that how you see and dialogue with yourself is not based on pure reality, but rather on a lifetime of consistent self-talk. Change the way you talk to yourself, and you will change. So get out there and start talking to your best friend—YOU!