The brain is a very complex organ, yet; it’s easy to fool it with our actions and self-talk. The Dummies Series states, “The brain is the master organ of the body. The brain takes in all information relating to the body’s internal and external environments, and it produces the appropriate responses.” Could we possibly create responses that don’t support our own goals? Could we be standing in the way of our success?
Through my course work, I learned about the neurology of self-talk. Traditional theories about the brain state that the brain is structurally fixed throughout life. But scientists have found that our brains are malleable and can be changed through neuroplasticity. We can create new neural pathways and habits while “deleting” old, unsupportive habits.
What does that mean? It means whether our self-talk is harsh and bully-like or helpful and compassionate, we can change the brain’s physical structure. In other words, words can and will hurt you, especially if you continue to use unkind words. When we speak kindly to ourselves, our brains begin forming new pathways, and with time and practice, we begin to believe it. As we start to think about what we say to ourselves, it becomes the truth (Even if it was always true, the pathways of our kind words need to be created and practiced.)
How can you begin this new habit of speaking kindly to yourself?
- Change what you say to yourself:
Choose a statement you say to yourself that feels hurtful. For example, “I’m overweight and unhealthy.” When you change the message to: “I am a healthy person at the perfect weight for me.” You start to behave like the person you hope to be. You may start doing some form of exercise, like walking. You may choose the grilled chicken instead of the double cheeseburger with bacon when you go out to eat because that’s how healthy people behave. This takes time and practice! Nothing happens overnight. Even pro-athletes need to practice a skill they get paid to do. We must be patient with ourselves!
- Have compassion:
Be kind to yourself! I know you’ve heard the saying, “Would you speak to a friend that way?” I’m sure the answer is, “No!” Think about working for someone who criticizes you and is cruel. Now think about the boss who helps you, gives you constructive criticism, and encourages you. Which person would you prefer to work for? Turn this around and think about how you speak to yourself. Do you and say things to yourself that are supportive or even cruel? How’s that working so far?
- Administer a survey:
Do you have people in your life that you completely trust? Ask them what they like about you and write it down. Create a mantra from the things they say. Say your mantra daily while looking in the mirror. I know it sounds weird and may feel uncomfortable at first, but trust me, it works! Seeing yourself through others’ eyes can be eye-opening. (need another way to say that)
Mona Raglow, the creator and owner of the monaplanner© wrote a beautiful article, Watch Your Language where she gives three activities to stop the negative self-talk. I highly recommend checking out her tips!