Habits

The power of self-talk

I had never really thought about how I spoke to myself until I was stood on the first tee of my local golf course a few years ago. I had arranged this round of golf a few weeks earlier and my friends and I had all talked about how we were going to attack the course and how we were going to play our best ever round.

I was first up to play. I pressed the tee into the ground and placed my ball on top. I settled into my posture and rested the club behind the ball. I relaxed and exhaled and started into my backswing. I geared up to uncoil and hit the ball when at the top of my backswing a little voice from somewhere said “Nope”.

I snatched downwards, shanked the ball and it shot about 30 yards along the ground to my left and into the bushes. “That’s lost,” said the same little voice. “You’re rubbish.”

I looked around to see who had so rudely interrupted me mid-swing. All I saw were my friends grimacing at how I would react to the lost ball scenario. And I realised who the voice belonged to.

It was my own voice.

Why was I talking to myself like this? The answer was simple. Because that is the way I have always talked to myself. I have never known any different.

I believe that we have a set of different voices we use. They are all our own, except the words and tones they choose are different. There is the voice we use for people we don’t know, it often doesn’t carry too much emotion or give a lot away. There is our work voice, it is for colleagues and children in our class and remains professional and measured. There is our friendship voice, a candid tone we take with our oldest and best friends that can only be gained over time. There is our loved ones voice, the caring and unconditional love always pervades through this voice. There is our intimate voice, exclusively for our spouse or partner.

Then there is our internal voice. A solitary sound that only we hear. This is the only voice which speaks the absolute truth. This is the voice that influences how we think, act and feel.

I could have brazenly said to my friends on the golf tee, “Watch out lads, this shot is going to get me into the next Ryder Cup team!” – all whilst my internal voice says “Hope you brought your scuba gear because this is going in the lake”. Which voice is going to have the bigger influence on me?

How we speak to ourselves can have a massive impact on what we get out of life and how we experience life. All I wonder is, what would happen if I had a friend who spoke to me in the same way that I speak to myself? I know the answer. I wouldn’t be friends with that person.

I don’t need someone following me around to tell me I am useless, that I should give up or I shouldn’t even bother. I am quite literally stuck with my internal voice for the whole of my life. So whilst that voice is in my head I may as well try to make sure it is a voice I want to listen to.

Your inner voice can empower you. It influences your outer voice and how you speak and act around others. Amazingly, your external voice can motivate and inspire others to use their internal voice differently, especially children. How you role model behaviour can influence how the children in your class perceive themselves and how they can speak to themselves.

You are, at the same time, your biggest obstacle and your very best motivator.

Ask yourself this: what would change in your life if you spoke to yourself more positively?

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