The words that are floating around in your head are thoughts, and thoughts are powerful. Self-talk, whether supportive or critical has the power to change and create beliefs, which then alters perceptions and outcomes. In other words, self-talk matters, perhaps more than you think.
Negative self-talk generates more negativity, which is usually not a person’s deliberate goal. For most people the goal is to reduce negativity. To reduce it, we have to stop or re-direct negative self-talk. The challenge is that it’s not always as straight forward as it seems to do that.
One of the factors that can prevent the positive self-talk from taking root in our minds is that the conscious mind and the subconscious mind can work together simultaneously or entirely independently from each other. They (the conscious and subconscious) can hear the same exact words either from an outside source or through our self-talk and potentially have opposite reactions! For example, the conscious mind hears all words and prefers the grammar that feels comfortable to you. Conversely, grammar is relatively irrelevant to the subconscious mind and the subconscious mind only hears select words and completely ignores other words. As it turns out, this is actually a big deal, because even when we are trying to be more positive or change habits through self-talk, the approach could be rendered completely ineffective according to how the subconscious mind interpreted the thought.
The subconscious mind doesn’t register negative modifiers in language, depending on where they are placed in a sentence. In other words, it doesn’t hear words such as “no”, “don’t”, or “not.” This means that we can accidentally reinforce the very thought we didn’t want!
Examples: We say….
“No more fast food.”
Our subconscious hears: “More fast food”.
“Don’t be nervous.”
Our subconscious hears: “Be nervous.”
“I’m not going to eat the cookies.”
Our subconscious hears: “Eat the cookies.”
Keep in mind that the subconscious mind is a powerhouse, controlling up to 90% of the outcome, including habits, perceptions, and behaviors. So if we are using the “don’t”, “not”, and “no” words we could actually be making this harder for ourselves! An easy way to avoid adding difficulty is by focusing on what we want, rather than what we don’t want. When we do that, we get more of our intended outcome because the subconscious mind actually receives the intended message. Does it work instantly and perfectly? Not always. But with repetition, the new self-talk changes into a new pattern of thinking. Here are examples of focusing on what we want, by using the same previous examples:
Instead of “No more fast food”, try “I’m avoiding fast food.”
Our subconscious hears: “I’m avoiding fast food.”
Instead of “Don’t be nervous”, try “I am calm.”
Our subconscious hears: “I am calm.”
Instead of “I’m not going to eat the cookies”, try “Cookies make me feel sluggish” or “I am eating foods that create health” or “I am ignoring the cookies.”
Our subconscious hears: “Cookies make me feel sluggish” or “I am eating foods that create health” or “I am ignoring the cookies.”
Now the subconscious is hearing the intended message, and can start creating new belief patterns that you actually want.
But what if you don’t believe the new words? Let’s take this thought: “Don’t be nervous”. You can re-direct your self-talk to want you do want by saying “I am calm”, and it can work IF it’s believable to you. If you are a nervous wreck the subconscious mind won’t believe “I am calm” and won’t change the course. In that case, sometimes we have to take baby steps, and gradually work our thoughts towards our desired outcome. So if “I am calm” doesn’t feel believable, maybe something like “I have the ability to be calm” feels more realistic and I therefore more effective. Once you can mentally get yourself from “Nervous” to “I have the ability to be calm”, it then becomes easier to continue the transition to feeling calmer. Perhaps the next mental step would be “I am becoming calmer.” Other words might help this as well…supportive words that reinforce the outcome, such as “I am confident” or “I am safe” or “I am okay.”
Fair warning… this takes a little practice, especially if you were in the habit of negative self-talk, but the practice of re-directing self-talk is a very useful tool and can ultimately change outcomes and eliminate unwanted thoughts and habits.
The lesson here is: Listen to your self-talk. If it’s supportive and phrased towards the desired outcome then give yourself a mental high-five! If it’s negative or focused on what you don’t want, take the time to re-direct the thought. You have the power to create new pathways, new outcomes, and new opportunities. Your thoughts are powerful. Direct them.