Self-talk to boost your confidence

What you say to yourself hugely impacts your confidence. Find out five easy tips to start building your awareness around your self-talk, immediately.

"The voice that is closer to your ears than any other is your own, so what you say to yourself really does matter." So said my first personal development mentor, about 20 years ago.

He wasn't just referring to what I say out loud to myself, but also to the inner monologue that chatters away incessantly in my head, every day.

In the following years, I developed an awareness of how insidious and judgmental the negative voice in my head could (and still can) be. And that this is 'normal'.

Negativity bias is a human response to the stimuli in our environments - both the regular and the irregular. 

It's intended to have us anticipate and avoid any potential threats or risks, and play small and safe.

The huge drawback is that it's the polar opposite to living with optimism, gratitude, curiosity, courage, creativity and positivity, which isn't much fun and doesn't support us to be happy, nor fulfilled. 

It negatively affects not only our confidence and leadership impact, but our wellbeing and mental health, as well.

Building the awareness to overcome this takes time, but there is one particularly focus that can get you transformational results, fast.

Watch. Your. Language.

What's tricky is that we can become acclimatised to the degree to which our own self-talk is negative and pessimistic, so to make a change you have to decide to become more consciously aware of it.

My top five red flags words to look out for:

1) Should. It carries a lot of obligation, but little agency. That can feed our negative self-talk if we don't meet the expectation of the 'should'... which we often don't, because otherwise we'd say we 'will' do it. (My personal challenge that still comes up is 'I should go to bed earlier'.)

Instead: Stop. Reflect. Decide. And then either choose to do it or choose not to do it. Either way, let the 'should' go and free yourself of the mental burden that gives additional load to the task.

2) But. This small word undermines your trust and clarity in the points you make and often leaves a negative connotation. Consider this example: "I need to do that, but this is happening", or "I like them, but they are loud."

When you use 'but' in a sentence, it wipes away the impact of the first half of the sentence and create confusion for both you and others. Ultimately, it undermines your confidence, and the confidence others are able to have in you.

Instead, keep your sentences short, without the tail. Or replace the 'but' with 'and'. Try both of these now with the examples above and notice the difference it makes.

3) Openly judgmental and negative self-talk e.g.

"I'm so stupid",
"I'm not good enough",
"I'm too old/young/unattractive/introverted",
"I'm winging it every day: I don't know what I'm doing and it's only a matter of time before I mess up" etc

This kind of self-talk is so common in most people, that we don't even notice it most of the time. But it's still there; a shadow hanging over us and eroding our self-confidence.

Challenge these thoughts as you notice them. Know that they are designed to keep you small and safe. Remind yourself of the evidence that they are not true.

4) Why. Another small and mighty word! When we are young, we hear why a lot - 'why did you do that?', 'why is this mess here?', 'why are you crying?'. 

It's a word that asks us for a response that we just don't know. We come to learn that the responses to 'why' questions can also get us into trouble and, over time, those experiences make most people defensive when faced with a 'why' question.

Instead, if you hear yourself use 'why' questions with yourself or others, get curious about how you could reframe it to be an open 'how' or 'what' question.

Initially, it seems tricky, but once you take the blame element out of the question, it will elicit much richer responses. For example, instead of 'Why did you do that?', you can ask 'What happened?', 'What did you learn?', 'How did you come to the decision to do that?'

5) Finally, 'can't'. We are incredible beings, who can adapt, grow and develop our whole lives. If you're telling yourself you 'can't' do something, then you have three ways to move past it:

  • Add 'yet' onto the end of the sentence.
  • Look for the evidence that supports that you can do it.
  • Be clear that rather than 'can't', you choose not to do it.

Your brain is a genie and when you open it up to possibility you can create outcomes that seemed impossible just a short time ago.

I'd love to hear if these resonate with you!