No, because I’m not crazy!”

Of course, I didn’t mean it in the being crazy way! But the social animals we are, we talk to people around us every day, every hour, and some of us every minute. Based on what work we do, we could be talking incessantly all day too even if we didn’t want to. While a large chunk of our conversations are transactional, i.e., they are a method of communicating our needs and wants to the world, and seeking ways to get them fulfilled; a lot of our talks shape our reality and influence our view of the world. And ourselves.

We think that we feel good or bad or upset or sad because of the things people say to us. That compliments make us happy and derogatory remarks bring tears to our eyes. What really happens is this we talk to ourselves after people speak to us. And we feel what we do because of this self-talk.

Talking to yourself really means reflecting on your life, people within it and events that transpire inside of it. Self-talk is like a reappraisal that is so personal and unique to each one of us. Nobody can talk to us the way we can. And occasionally do.

Think about it. Do you ever feel as if:

  • You’re different from others?
  • Nobody understands you?
  • You aren’t accepted for who you are?
  • You can’t express what you feel?
  • You’re punished for how you think?

You’ll be surprised to know how many teenagers think like you. And ponder over why nobody gets them. And why they just don’t fit.

We’re each unique. 

And that’s what make us all the same!

It’s the sense of belongingness that connects us to the rest of the world. We feel comfortable when we belong. And when we’re certain that we’re cared for, loved, accepted and wanted. But who today can love unconditionally like that? Be it friends, classmates, teachers or even family, they all have opinions. We worry so much about what they think and whether they accept us enough, that in the bargain we lose focus of what we’re doing to gain that love and trust from them in the first place.

And then our self-esteem? If we call it self-esteem how can we base it on how much regard outsiders gives us?

Self-talk is the answer. 

But it helps only when you ask yourself the right questions. And then, of course, give yourself appropriate answers.

But it helps only when you ask yourself the right questions.

And then, of course, give yourself appropriate answers.



Self-statements

We don’t realize it enough, but we’re always in the middle of self-chatter. Even when we aren’t consciously aware of it, our mind is telling us what to do, how to behave, where to speak up, when to be quiet, and why to respond in a given manner. Take for example, when a teacher calls on you and says to see her after class. The immediate reaction is one of self-doubt: “What did I do wrong? Is she going to drill me?” This talk goes on in your head until you figure out why she called you out. Or when you see the revised exam syllabus; the self chatter says: “This is too difficult and unfair. I’m going to fail this course.”

But there’s also a voice that sometimes says to you before the soccer game: “Today’s going to be a fun game. I think I’m going to score and be the champion of the day”. Or when you go on a hike with a new group you think: “I’m going to have fun and make a whole new bunch of friends”.

We’re always talking to ourselves. We think that we feel good or bad or upset or sad because of the things people say to us. That compliments make us happy and derogatory remarks bring tears to our eyes. What really happens is this — we talk to ourselves after people speak to us. And we feel what we do because of this self-talk. And this either makes us fit or prevents us from belonging.

Nobody can make us feel good or bad without our own consent.

When you believe in yourself, you work harder to mend the deficits and overcome them. You prove that voice wrong. And then the voice changes. The positive thoughts, feelings and actions consume you.

Negative self-statements

When we say things like…

  • I don’t think I’m good at this
  • People won’t accept my idea
  • I don’t believe I’ll be selected
  • My friends won’t listen to me
  • My day’s going to be a chore
  • I’ll be so bored at that picnic
  • I’m weak against my opponent
  • I’ll forget my stuff during exams

… we convince our brain that we’re really not good enough. Once our brain has heard that, it shapes our emotions to imagine a negative outcome. And our motivation for action gets half-hearted, to assure an untoward result.

Our inner voice might not appear loud but it’s really powerful.

When we feed our negative self-statements, we ascertain our defeat. And that’s not even half the damage done. We convince ourselves that what we believed was true, and we carve it out in stone to make it a reality. Now we don’t even need to speak out negative. We become automated to think negatively and crush our self-esteem forever.

Watch who you feed

The one who gets fed well becomes bigger and heavier. And the one that’s starved certainly whither and dies. When you believe in yourself, you work harder to mend the deficits and overcome them. You prove that voice wrong. And then the voice changes. The positive thoughts, feelings and actions consume you. This doesn’t mean that we become pompous, entitled, arrogant or over-confident. It implies that we keep working on ourselves with a more positive mindset so that we don’t lose the motivation to better ourselves.

Nobody’s perfect. We just have to keep working on getting better. And telling ourselves that we can do it. It’s what will energize us, to get anywhere.

Author Bio: Dr Shefali Batra, a Psychiatrist and Cognitive Therapist, is the Founder of Mindframes and Co-founder of InnerHour. She is available at connect@mindframes.co.in.