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The Power of Self-Talk

Self-talk is this internal, ongoing dialogue that sometimes feels like it has a life of its own. It is the silent conversation we hold with ourselves, which holds immense power in influencing our perceptions, emotions, and ultimately, our ability to thrive.  

Negative self-talk, characterized by self-criticism, doubt, and fear, can erode our confidence, resilience, and sense of self-worth. Left unchecked, it becomes a barrier to personal growth and fulfillment, both in our lives and in the workplace.  

Here's how negative self-talk and the inner critic may show up at work.   

Impostor Syndrome: "I don't belong here. Everyone else seems so much more competent and confident than me. They'll realize I'm a fraud soon enough." 

Fear of Failure: "I'll never be able to pull this off. What if I make a mistake and everything falls apart?" 

Comparison with Others: "Why can't I be as successful as my coworker? They seem to have it all figured out, while I'm struggling to keep up. I'll never be as good as them." 

Overgeneralization: "I messed up that presentation. I'm such a failure. This proves I'll never be able to succeed in this job." 

Self-Doubt in Decision Making: "I can't trust my judgment. What if I make the wrong decision and it costs the company money or damages our reputation? I should just play it safe and avoid making any decisions." 

Over the past few years, I have spent a lot of time evaluating my own self-talk given the profound impact it can have in how I approach a situation and lead others. Admittedly, my self-talk was not always as supportive as how I would talk to others or allow myself to be spoken to by others. As a parent, I focus on the self-talk that I see in my children—helping to mold it in these developing years. After all, we spend the most time with ourselves. 

I have included below some ways that I found helpful in addressing and molding this internal dialog. 

It starts by first noticing—being aware of how we are feeling and reacting to a situation.  

Second, evaluate whether we are approaching it from a more negative or positive orientation. What are the feelings trying to tell us about the situation? What are the facts vs. the perceptions/assumptions and feelings about the situation? 

When I have explored this, I work on reframing by trying to see the positive and opportunity in the situation. As part of this exercise, perspective plays a strong role. 

Take a look at the power of changing one thought as we simply reframe the earlier examples to replace the negative self-talk with affirming self-talk, which makes an empowering difference.  

Impostor Syndrome: "My unique skills, experiences, and perspective contribute value to this team. I have earned my place through hard work and dedication." 

Fear of Failure: "Mistakes are opportunities for growth, and I have the skills and resilience to overcome any challenges that may arise." 

Comparison with Others: "I celebrate the success of my coworkers, knowing that we each have our own strengths and areas of expertise. I am on my own journey, and I am proud of my progress and accomplishments." 

Overgeneralization: "Making a mistake does not define my abilities or potential. It's a chance to learn and improve. I have succeeded in the past, and I will continue to succeed in the future." 

Self-Doubt in Decision Making: "I trust my instincts and judgment. I am capable of making sound decisions based on my knowledge and expertise. Taking calculated risks is part of growth and innovation." 

No, your negative self-talk may not change overnight. Mine didn’t. It takes practice to move out of negative self-talk into more affirming inner language. It is something worth practicing since our personal voice sets the stage to thrive both personally and professionally.