Positive self-talk: choosing freedom from our past and doubts

“You can’t run from your past” is a popular old adage I used to hear a lot from people who said they felt regret. Another adage comes to mind as well, “You are your own worst enemy.” While it is true that we cannot run from our past, we should probably also not let our past dictate how we live the rest of our lives in the present. Yes, it is also true that we can be our own worst enemy, but I believe this has much to do with our own self-doubt, feelings of insecurity, or guilt. Such negative feelings and negative self-talk is detrimental and unproductive to our personal growth, and most certainly to our spiritual development.

Whether you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or even Agnostic, we can all agree that our existence is on purpose and for a purpose. We are not mistakes. Those who follow my posts know that I am both an author, and an educator with a passion for social justice. One of the lessons I share with multitudes of students and young adults is the impact that our self-talk has on our self-esteem and our confidence. This comes from my past training as a counselor in my younger years. I continue to convey the importance of having positive self-talk and staying solution-focused. If we already know what the problem or issue was, then why focus on it? Why not focus on a solution or making a change? This is what I mean.

Several studies, scholarly articles, and even dissertation research (including the one by Fae Diana Ford at the University of Bolton found at http://hdl.handle.net/2173/583488) have found positive self-talk to improve one’s self-esteem, while the opposite (i.e., negative self-talk) play a role in maintaining anxiety. This was especially true among secondary school youth and feelings of loneliness. This has to say something about the way we talk to ourselves. For some it may seem obvious – you can’t expect life to improve if you don’t like yourself. For others, it may not be as simple. For example, those who experience clinical depression actually do have a biological and chemical imbalance that creates their feelings and at some point, when left untreated, is a vicious cycle of negativity that spirals out of one’s control.

I mention all these for a reason. Barring actual physical (biological and chemical) imbalance, negative self-talk seems to stem from holding on to the past. This tight hold we may have on our past may be reasons we continue to doubt ourselves when it comes to moving forward or making decisions for our own benefit. We start to question ourselves because we are stuck in that defining moment in the past that broke us or stripped us of our dignity. If we wish to change, however, we must move beyond our past, accept and acknowledge that we are human by nature and will make mistakes, and learn from the lesson. We need to let go. We need to choose to be free, rather than imprisoned by our past and the resulting self-doubts. It begins with how we talk to ourselves.

In my book series, The Last Prophet, the main character often emphasizes the need for us to focus on the solution rather than the problem. She also emphasizes that we need to learn from the lesson of our mistake, but not stay there. Whether it be from 20 years ago, or 2 minutes ago, learn the lesson and move on. Don’t get stuck beating yourself up over something that cannot be changed.

One of my favorite activities with students is to create a Self-Affirmation Wall. Starting with the phrase “I Am…,” I ask the students to write a one word self-affirmation on a square sticky note that they then place on a white board. They keep writing these onto several sticky notes until the timer goes off. I then ask them to pick three that they themselves did not write, and I have them walk around the room and place one on a peer. Imagine the power of all those positive attributes being placed on themselves.

Some never realize that the biggest judge of their character is their very selves. Not only is self-affirmation powerful and uplifting, but so is affirmation from the very ones we fear are judging us. In this one exercise with youth and young adults, we learn that we need to be kinder to ourselves, and to others. We also learn that we need to share positive self-talk with others. It is so easy to tear someone down, but how much more powerful is it to build someone up by reminding them of all that is GOOD in them? It is a practice that sorely lacks in our world today, but all that can change by our example of how we treat ourselves. We do NOT have to be our own worst enemy. We do NOT have to run from a past if we no longer choose to let it control our present.

How do you talk to yourself? Based on your answer, what do you need to change, if anything? Comment in the space provided.

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