What Is Self-Talk?

Many people are conscious of an inner voice that provides a running monologue throughout the day and even into the night. Cheerful and supportive or negative and self-defeating, this internal chatter is referred to as self-talk. This inner voice combines conscious thoughts with unconscious beliefs and biases. It’s an effective way for the brain to interpret and process daily experiences. This voice is useful when it is positive, talking down fears and bolstering confidence. Human nature is prone to negative self-talk, however, and sweeping assertions like “I can’t do anything right” or “I’m a complete failure” are common diatribes. This negativity can be unrealistic and even harmful, paralyzing people into inaction and self-absorption to the point of being unaware of the world around them. The good news: That negative inner critic can and should be challenged; becoming more aware of it is just a first step.

Managing the Inner Critic

People with depression and anxiety frequently experience destructive and dysfunctional self-talk, and the chatter is often incessant and overly critical. They wallow in painful rumination, attacking themselves in the extreme. In severe cases, this inner dialogue can be curtailed with professional treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. In less acute cases, however, simple self-help techniques can be useful. These include practicing a more constructive inner voice with creative and positive tones, and addressing oneself in the third person, using one’s name instead of “I” during a moment of inner dialogue. This creates a helpful distance from the self.  

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