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How To Improve Your Self-Esteem Through Self-Talk
Let’s talk about how to improve your self esteem. How you talk to yourself matters and probably doesn’t get much attention. There are a few ways that you can improve your self esteem through noticing your self-talk and changing it for the better. As a Utah therapist, I’ve noticed some patterns that I’d like to share with you regarding self-esteem.
When I mention ‘self-talk’ that includes your inner dialogue, what you tell yourself about yourself or others, how you sound in your own head. It’s the way you talk to yourself and what you say or think. For example, after getting a promotion at work you might say in your mind, or even out loud, ‘Yeah! Awesome. I did it!’ Or you might think to yourself, ‘I’m not sure I can do this new job. I wonder if they even know me at all’. One is positive and one is negative self-talk.
Let’s break down different types of self-talk.
Self-Esteem Killer – Negative Self-Talk
There isn’t much that damages your self-esteem like negative self-talk. This is where you say things or think things to yourself that are judgemental, demeaning, critical, contemptful, or mean. You put yourself down or are discouraging and hopeless. The example above where you say, ‘I’m not sure I can do this new job. I wonder if they even know me at all’, is negative self-talk. It’s demeaning and critical of yourself. It’s judgmental as well. It evokes shame (Related Article: Individual Therapy Tips: Guilt Versus Shame).
This type of self-talk can be subtle or explicit. Subtly saying to yourself, ‘Why did I do that?!’ falls into this category because it conveys the message that you are broken. That you did something wrong and are bad or weak because of it. The ‘Why?!’ part conveys this strongly.
Here are other examples of negative self-talk: I’m such an idiot. I’ll never be able to do this, there is no way. Here I go again – I can’t get this right. And so on
Self-Esteem Booster – Positive Self-Talk
Positive self-talk, however, builds you up and gives you hope. Most people get this one wrong, however. They mistakenly think that positive self-talk is just saying good, positive things to yourself and ignoring the situation. They might say, after getting fired from a job that is their family’s only source of income, ‘Everything is fine.’ That isn’t positive self-talk. That’s ignorant self-talk. It’s incomplete.
This type of self-talk is both compassionate and realistic. In the above situation, positive self-talk would say about losing your job, ‘This is scary. This could really hurt my family. I’m going to do my best to find a new job. I’ve got this!’.
It’s realistic to say that losing your job is scary, right? It’s also realistic to acknowledge that this could hurt your family, right? And, it’s compassionate to say that you will do your best and that you’ve got this. You aren’t making a judgment call about yourself because you lost your job, you are recognizing the scary potentially harmful consequences and are being encouraging to yourself.
Without the realistic part, it’s not positive self-talk.
What To Do About Your Self-Talk
Most people don’t recognize that they use negative self-talk. So, the first step is to see that you are using it. Call it for what it is. It isn’t the truth, it’s actually harmful. There are other ways to see the situation and yourself. Seeing that you are using negative self-talk sets you up to do something about it.
Second, replace it with positive self-talk. Use it to challenge negative self-talk. At first you will think it isn’t working and won’t believe it. Over time, however, you will start to believe it and start to welcome a more compassionate (and realistic) view of yourself.
Working on your self-talk is one way to improve your self-esteem.