When You Just Aren’t Sure
The Pros and Cons of Self Talk
A client recently asked me about how to deal with their negative self-talk; we all have them. You know, those dreadful conversations you have with yourself late at night about how you’ll never be that pro linebacker, how everyone is laughing at you behind your back, or how your parents told you that you had been bought from the gypsies.
We all struggle occasionally with this sort of negative self-talk. Even if you earn an A+ on your college or business training tests, you still probably engage in that “beat yourself up mindset” from time to time.
I’ve said and written more times than I care to count that one of the things I’ve found most redemptive in my own life is the understanding that I continue to learn every day. That is why it is called a coaching practice. This is true both in the philosophical and psychological sense, and yet I don’t think most people grasp how important this humbling understanding really is.
One of the things I’ve
redemptive in my own life is
that I learn every day.
When I chase my tail thinking that I might have peaked as a coach and that nothing I do will ever be able to assist people with what they need, I remind myself that I have no idea what I’m talking about, and that it is all about what my client talks about. The future is long and as I keep working every day and improving my craft, my clients see it as well as my friends. Who knows, maybe a year from now I’ll get weary of writing and want to do something else altogether. I don’t know, no one knows.
Sometimes I fear that I was foolish for getting married again and that my marriage might fall apart 5-10 years. (It did once, why not again?) Then I remember that I really don’t have the foggiest idea who I will be years from now, what my needs will be, what my wife will be like, so it’s impossible for me to know, so why try? It also helps that coaches and therapist I know have told me that this feeling is normal and never goes away.
Basically, remembering how naïve to the possibilities I am frees me from these anxieties about things that are “sure” to appear in my future. But there’s a warning here, and this admonition is what I think makes it so hard for some people to freely admit their own cluelessness.
That caution is if your negative self-talk is erroneous, then it follows most assuredly that your positive self-talk is mistaken as well.
It’s often much easier to doubt
self-talk than it is to
doubt the positive self-talk.
So you feel like a terror on the tennis court? You’re probably not. Think you’re the most clever in the office and destined to make president one day? You really don’t know, do you. If you are completely honest with yourself, you don’t know whether or not that’s even a good thing. Imagine yourself screwed over in life and that if it weren’t for all of the turkeys around you, you’d be some kind of Steve Jobs? You see where I’m going.
It’s often much easier to doubt our negative self-talk than it is to doubt the positive self-talk. You’ll find in time as I have, that doubting the positive is just as important, if not more important that being skeptical of the negative. For one, it prevents things such as overconfidence and egotism. You develop the kind of humility that allows empathy to exist between any of us. But most importantly of all, it cuts the never ending pressure we all live with.
If I decide that I am going to be the next Joseph Zinker or Dan Dougherty, I just added a ton of pressure to my life. And for what? That pressure is likely to handicap me and turn me into an anxious jerk-off. That pressure is likely to close me off to any and all important lessons along the way,(like writing is fun). I’d second-guess every word and phrase, including this one.
The issue isn’t really negative self-talk; it’s simply plain old self-talk. Or, you could even extend it further and say the problem is just talk in general. What important is what you do, and your results in the present moment. And the more you’re able to change your mind to thinking that way, the better off you will be in your life.
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Frank Hopkins is a life coach in Baton Rouge who is certified as a Professional Coach (CPC) by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Frank has helped numerous people to go through emotional change in a way that is positively transformative.