Why I talk to myself (Any why you should, too)
I'm a weird person. I remember cracking jokes at the dinner table when I was kid and having my parents stare at me like I was an alien child transported to Earth to torture them.
Now it's my wife who thinks of me in much the same way.
The thing is, I can't help it. It's just the way I am.
And I've gotten to be that way mainly because of one odd tendency I have. I talk to myself.
First, let me clarify. I don't have conversations with myself out loud. I mainly do the talking inside of my head.
What started as a child's way to keep himself amused has since evolved to become one of my handiest skills.
But before I begin, let's talk a little bit about this thing called "self-talk."
Self-talk can be either positive or negative. It can be productive and good or destructive and bad. I've fallen victim to both.
For as long as I can remember, I've had a tendency to criticize myself and doubt myself. My brain skews towards negativity and doom and gloom.
We're all wired differently, and this just so happens to be how I'm wired.
Anxiety moves through my bloodstream, and it runs down my family lines.
That doesn't mean I'm a negative person; it just means that I've gotten to know myself and where I come from--and I understand which way my thoughts tend to go.
What I'm saying is that my automatic tendency is to speak badly about myself.
In my head, before I discovered the incredible power of meditation, my brain would latch onto negative thoughts and repeat them over and over. This served no purpose other than to make me doubt myself and increase my anxiety.
These days, I choose more positive thoughts.
With each passing year, I learn more and more about my mind and how it impacts how my body and my actions. If I'm thinking negative, anxious thoughts, it's likely I'm not living up to my full potential. It's likely that my thoughts are hindering my personal growth.
For personal growth, I need positive self-talk.
This kind of self-talk doesn't come naturally to me, but I've seen the power it has to shape my world. When I fill my head with positive thoughts, whether my own or someone else's, a more positive world materializes in front of me.
I've noticed over the years that my thoughts are tools that craft my reality. The more positivity I can generate, the more opportunities appear before me. It's as simple as that.
And there's another reason why I talk to myself. I talk to myself to bring humor into my life.
Before I became the alien child cracking jokes at the dinner table, I talked to myself A LOT. I learned from the time when I was just a wee one that my self-talk could be a powerful weapon.
It could keep me amused when I was bored to tears. It could help me play games in my head to pass the time.
And I can see now that it helped me develop an ability to think quickly--to make lots and lots of associations at once, a critical skill for creating situational humor.
In fact, I developed this skill out of necessity when I was a kid.
Like most kids, I got teased when I was in elementary school. The first time I remember getting bullied was when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade.
I have a birthmark that has endowed me with a blond tuft of hair on the top of my head. Kids (and adults) love to point out differences, and soon I had most of my class pointing at my head and making fun of me.
For a while, it really bothered me. Cue the negative self-talk. But after a while, I realized that I could use humor to deflect the jokes.
One day I told the bullies that I got hit by lightning. They thought that was hilarious.
Then I told them that I got hit by lightning more than once. That didn't have the same effect. So the next day I told them--and I'm embarrassed to share this--that my sister had caused the blond spot on my head by farting on me.
Second-graders (and adults) love a good fart joke, and that was my entry to the comedy scene.
To this day, most of my jokes appear in my head when I'm talking to myself to stay amused when the inevitable drudgery of daily life rears its ugly head.
Finally, I talk to myself because the words I say to myself shape my actions, which shape my future.
I'll leave you with this. There are times when we catch ourselves in the act and realize that we are talking to ourselves and not giving much consideration to what we are saying.
This isn't productive.
But if we can learn to notice when we are speaking badly about ourselves, then we have an opportunity to change what we say and, in turn, how we feel. And the more we can learn to inject positive words into our minds, the better off we'll be.
This daily practice of positive self-talk has paid off in a big way in my life.
In the last two years, I have made serious progress in pushing back against my self-doubt and pestering criticisms. I am seeing just how important self-talk is to self-help and personal growth. I'm learning about what's important to me and putting it into action.
And the pace of personal growth gets faster when I get the thoughts out of my head and onto a blank page or the computer screen. In fact, I find the dumping of thoughts out of my head onto some kind of receptacle as absolutely crucial. It prevents pressure from building up in my head due to too many thoughts jumbled inside.
I want you to know something. This is not just some weird habit of a strange dude. This is possible for you as well--if you want it.
Go and try these three things, and you'll be on your way to changing how you talk to yourself in no time.
1. Start meditating for a few minutes every day. This has been a game-changer for me. Before I could change my self-talk, I had to notice it in the first place. Meditation has given me the self-awareness necessary to be in control of how I talk to myself.
2. Write down your thoughts first thing in the morning. I got this idea from Julia Cameron and her brilliant Morning Pages activity. Within the first 15 minutes of getting out of bed, sit down somewhere and release whatever thoughts that are bubbling around in your head by writing them down on an old-fashioned piece of paper. Try to write without stopping for five minutes. Just completing this activity in the morning will change your entire day. It has helped me decrease my anxiety and get better clarity about who I am and what I'm thinking about.
3. The next time you find yourself having to wait somewhere--whether it's in line at the grocery store or at a bus stop--instead of immediately rushing to check your phone, rush to check your head. Use your brain to amuse yourself. Tap into your surroundings and start telling yourself funny stories about the people around you. You'd be amazed by what you can come up with.
And that's it. Those are three tricks I use, and I trust that you will find some value in at least one of them.
To sum it all up, I talk to myself because doing so is one of the best ways I've found to create the world I want for myself.
“The outer conditions of a person's life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state...Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are.”
― James Allen from As a Man Thinketh
Talking to myself with compassion and encouragement has helped me become a better friend to myself, and it's helped me hold onto the humor in my life, something that I know I need to stay healthy and happy. And talking to myself with good intention over long periods of time has literally changed my life for the better.
I don't know where I'd be now if I didn't talk to myself. I do know that I wouldn't be me, and that's just no way to live a life.