How to Build a Habit of Positive Self Talk

Let’s conduct an experiment:

For one week, keep track how many times you think or speak negatively of yourself, even if you’re “joking.” Include how many times you apologize for yourself, and how often you use the word “try.”

Without keeping a written record, I bet you’ll be surprised at how often you catch yourself. Many of us do it so much that we don’t notice. It’s become a habit. I know from experience.

(Cue flashback harp music)

Six years ago, I felt like my life was going nowhere. I’d transitioned to a full-time position at my college internship, lived at home, and barely earned enough to cover my student loans. While I was lucky to even have a job during the Recession, I was focused on what I was “missing.” Pop culture had given me a different idea of adult life (thanks, Friends…seriously, no one told me life was gonna be this way). On especially ‘bad’ days, I’d spiral into mini fits of desperation. One day, I got sick of it and decided to stop moping and change something.

I got serious about finding another job, and it became the only thing I did outside of work. I must have sent out a hundred resumes! Finally, I landed an interview that started changing the way I saw myself and my life. That first career jump boosted my income (by $17,000) and my confidence exponentially. Throw in the timely end of a stagnant relationship and it felt like a rebirth.

Suddenly, I could contribute more to my family, and have a little fun, too. That job connected me to people I’m still friends with (even after I moved on) and introduced me to the most influential mentor in my life.

When I began looking for my next job, I approached it with a completely different mindset than I had three years prior. This time, I went in thinking I could do anything. I applied to any position that interested me, met with recruiters, tailored my resume, and guess what? Instead of just one, I had a lot of great interviews. (Though this is part of it, we can save the full story of how I landed my current job for another day. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

When we constantly talk down to our inner selves, we aren’t conscious of the damage we’re doing. The law of attraction is stronger when we project negativity.

  • If you believe you can’t memorize anything, you won’t retain what you’re studying.
  • If you consider yourself too novice to get a promotion, you won’t.
  • When you give energy to feeling inferior to those around you, you’re sabotaging yourself.

We are built and trained on comparison to the point that it feels natural. We forget that it’s possible to learn new behaviors, yet many of us repeat the same resolutions each year. To me, it feels like we unconsciously know and want to change, but many of us don’t take the conscious action needed to get there.

So where do we start? From the inside, of course!

The first step is our little experiment: Identify where you’re selling yourself short.

Like I said above, your energy is best spent on competing with the person you were yesterday – no one else.

Bitter v. Better.png

Ask yourself: what am I putting out into the world?

When I did, I started by paying closer attention to what I was projecting:

  • How is my posture?
  • Do I make eye contact?
  • What am I talking about, and how is it contributing to the conversation?

Fake it ’til you make it” has some truth. Changing the way I presented myself required a change in my internal monologue. I grew to accept responsibility for the energy I brought to my environment.

Coming from a reformed pessimist, I know this is one of the hardest mindsets to reverse. I look back now at the things I reacted to as “disastrous” and I can laugh. If I’m being honest with myself, they were silly, human inconvenience.

Next, take the internal positivity to the surface.

We’ve all heard of dressing for the job you want, so I use that same logic to dress for the positive vibes you want to project and receive. I updated my wardrobe by donating, selling, or giving away clothing that didn’t represent me anymore and it’s a continuous work in progress. There isn’t a particular style for this – your wardrobe best serves you when you’re comfortable. How often have you been irritated and running late because you don’t like anything in your closet? Match your wardrobe to your mindset. (Yes, it’s all related.)

With my outward appearance aligning to my inner monologue, all I needed was regular reinforcement. Changing the way you think is work, but it’s not impossible.

Reinforce the Positive Self-Talk.

To maintain my positive strides, I added a short morning mantra to my commute. When I step outside my building and the crisp air hits my face, I run down a short list of the things I am grateful for: my family, a home, my fiancรฉ, and my purpose. Starting a day on a happy note (even if I’m running for my life to make the train) keeps me focused on what really matters and makes it easier for me to let things roll.

Be flexible with yourself.

The last thing to keep in mind as you start building positive self-talk is flexibility! You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and feel like a walking ray of sunshine. (If you do, tell me your secret!) Being positive does not mean behaving blindly. Allow yourself to feel the negatives, but pay attention to how you react. I struggle with assuming the worst and internalizing the responsibility to correct the “wrong.” This isn’t fair to me or the people around me, so I’ve learned to step back from my immediate reaction. I mean this literally; if I’m at work, I step away from my desk and take a tea break.

Being a Boss Babe requires a willingness to learn and a balanced approach to the bumps in the road. If you need to cry, scream, kick – go somewhere and let it out. Then, remind yourself that you’re awesome (because you are). Reprogramming the way you speak to and about yourself can be a process, but it’s worth it – again, because you’re worth it!

Now tell me:

  • Do you consider yourself a “positive” person?
  • How many times did you catch yourself apologizing?

Also published on Medium.