I talk to myself a lot. Let’s be real, I talk a lot in general, but I ESPECIALLY talk to myself. Whether or not I realize it, I have a constant, steady stream of thoughts going on in my head.
I think it’s safe to say this goes for everyone. No matter how introverted or extroverted you may be, when it comes to conversations with yourself, you never shut up. Obviously, this can be both a good or a bad thing, depending on your train of thought and if you tend to look on the positive or negative side of things.
Regardless, it’s not like I can tell myself to stop this whole process of “self-talk.” I can certainly choose to be more aware of it, but I will ALWAYS feed myself a constant stream of thought - it’s human nature.
You may have read that little intro and thought, “Ok, cool. We talk to ourselves. I know that already, so why are you writing about it?”
Excellent question. Well for starters, I heard someone talk on the subject of “self-talk” a few weeks ago and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since. It’s not like they said anything shocking or ground-breaking - everyone knows we talk to ourselves a lot. When it got time for the person to explain the RESULTS of our self-talk: that’s when I realized how much importance this topic holds.
Do you ever have one of those moments when you’re really angry with someone, only to realize the whole reason you’re mad at them is because of something you dreamed the night before? You may have even let them know you were mad at them, giving them all sorts of sass and expecting them to fix their mistakes…except then you remember that they didn’t actually do anything - it was all just a silly dream.
I think we can all agree that in those instances, we admit the ridiculousness of it all. Clearly there was an overreaction - we got upset over something that wasn’t founded on anything real.
You ever realize how tempting it is to do the very same thing, except you’re awake the whole time? As stupid as that sounds, we do it all the time. When we talk and listen to ourselves, we start to project scenarios and emotions onto other people. For us especially imaginative folks, we can create entire plot lines based on next-to nothing. Maybe I meet someone I find attractive and hold a 10 second conversation with him. Next thing I know, I’ve daydreamed up a Hollywood production; by the end of the week, that man has fallen completely in love with me.
That’s all well and good - no big deal, it’s all in my head anyway. What’s crazy is that if I let myself dwell on that made-up scenario for an extended period of time, eventually I may actually start to believe it’s true. Then the next time I run into that person, I’m disappointed (if not shocked and slightly offended) that he didn’t grovel at my feet as soon as he saw me. (Last time I checked, he should have been busy engagement-ring shopping for my dream proposal on the beach at sunset.)
Obviously, the scenario I just described is absolutely exaggerated and 100% hypothetical. (For anyone who is reading my blog for the first time, I promise I’m not crazy.) The idea behind the scenario, though, is incredibly important. I have potential to allow my own self-talk to dictate not only my thoughts, but my reactions to the world around me, regardless of whether or not my perceptions of people are true. I just described a scenario where I create a fake romance in my head. Let’s be real, that’s hilarious. But also, sometimes believing the world we create in our heads is anything but hilarious.
What if I’m constantly telling myself that I will never amount to anything - that I’m ugly and I hate my body and no one will ever love me. If I recite that mantra to myself day in and day out, do you think I’m going to carry myself with enough confidence to meet new people and try new things when I’m going about my day?
This idea goes beyond just thinking about myself, too. It’s easy to look at who surrounds us and make assumptions about people - we do it all the time. To give a specific example: maybe I assume the girl who works at the local coffee shop doesn’t like me - she never smiles at me and always seems to be in a bad mood. I keep those thoughts in my head and eventually imagine a whole persona for her. Before long, I may start to believe she’s just not a nice person. Next thing you know I’m externally reacting to those inner thoughts, and so I act cold towards her.
But maybe that girl doesn’t have any problem with me. Maybe she had a few off-days, or maybe she suffers from a severe case of RBF. Even worse to think about, maybe she’s just hurting and needs someone to show her love, but instead I’m rude and snippy - all because I can’t get outside of my own head. I’m reacting negatively to a real human with feelings because I made up scenarios in my head and chose to believe they were real.
So, where does that leave me? If I know I won’t be able to simply stop my constant stream of self-talk, what do I do with the realization that sometimes my own thoughts are giving me a skewed perspective on the world around me?
When I heard the speaker talk on this subject a few weeks ago, he suggested to speak your thoughts out loud. While that may seem kind of weird, sometimes just giving our innermost thoughts an actual, audible sound can wake us up and make us realize how ridiculous they are. I think it’s also important to surround ourselves with mature, trustworthy people. When I can talk with someone about what I am struggling with, I allow them to speak unbiased reason into my life. Sometimes it gets exhausting to constantly live in my own world - hearing what someone else has to say can be a relief and bring a new, sometimes much-needed perspective into a situation. (Note here that I mention “mature and trustworthy” when I say share your thoughts with other people - I’m not encouraging a gossip session here, people.)
For me personally, I also believe in submitting my thoughts to God in prayer. I understand that not everyone has the same religious beliefs as I do, but I promised myself I would be honest when I write these blogs. So, honestly, my faith means a lot to me, and turning to Jesus when my own thoughts are overwhelming is an incredibly vital part of my daily life.
To sum up, self-talk is really hard. It’s important to remember that it’s not always a negative thing. More often than not, though, we can use it as a reason to react negatively to situations and people around us. That can make us miss out on some pretty great opportunities and relationships. So the next time you start to convince yourself of “harsh facts” about someone or something, maybe stop and think about where the root of your thought is coming from. If you realize you are projecting feelings onto someone else based on your own biased self-talk, consider another perspective. And when in doubt, always choose to lean on the positive side. Don’t assume people are always out to get you. Whether or not they are doesn’t really matter - what matters is how you choose to respond to them. And from my experience, I’ve found that a loving response is always the better option.