In my mind I talk to myself constantly. I expect, from everything I’ve heard, most people do this. It usually gets a bad rap. We’re told we should meditate, exercise, do yoga, etcetera, to “quiet the voices in your head.” We hear also about “self-talk” and how much it matters what exactly you say to yourself – essentially that the voice in one’s head is far more powerful than any outside it. True enough, although it bears mentioning that those words are often a replication of someone else’s be it a parent (even a long dead one), a boss, or a spouse.
I’m not sure I understand or could make a real distinction between plain ol’ thinking and self-talk. I guess self-talk would be more declarative in nature, less ruminative, and perhaps most importantly, repetitive by design, like:
“I’m an idiot.”
“I’m a good girl.”
“I’m a bad boy.”
“I am brilliant.”
“Nobody likes me.”
“My whole life is a failure.”
“I am beautiful.”
“I’ll never get ahead.”
“My talents are underappreciated.”
“My children are gifted.”
“I contribute so much to society.”
“My family wouldn’t last a day without me.”
“Nobody else could do my job as well as I do.”
“All women want me.”
“All men want me.”
“Why do I say such stupid things?”
“If I was dead, no one would care.”
“I’m smarter than everybody else.”
“I deserve the best in life.”
“I’m a fat pig.”
I think about the things I say to myself. Yes, I think about my thinking! (Again, it’s very busy in here.) I have observed that the things I tell myself change over time. I’m certain I’m not doing the same self-talk I did ten years ago, and even that would be different from the “talk” ten years before it.
If I stop and consider, I’m not sure there’s been any constant… except, I feel I’ve always talked to myself about honesty and truthfulness: “Tell the truth.” “Be honest.” “Tell him.” “Tell her.” “Speak up.” “What is the truth?”
I try to remember things I used to say to myself but no longer do. Mostly, I cannot. I shed them along with whatever motivated their use in their day.
I can tell you one I’ve been saying to myself on a regular basis for awhile now:
“Don’t be an idiot.”
Now this one requires a bit-o-explanation. I need to point out that I’m not calling myself an idiot – I don’t – however, it’s more of a preemptive strike, to ensure I don’t ever need to reach the “I’m an idiot” stage. It’s a warning, a friendly I’m-looking-out-for-your-interests warning. Believe you me, I NEED to hear this at times. I contemplate doing and saying a wide variety of things, as I imagine, so do you. A lot of them, ok, some of them, are just not all that wise. They are not the best ideas. The tone I say this to myself in, is not snarky or mean, but matter-of-fact.
“Let’s go, Colette.”
“Let’s get going.”
“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.“
The above get A LOT of play in my mind as they are multipurpose motivators, handy for oh, so many occasions! Any time I need to get a move on, need to get something done, especially something I don’t really want to do, I say one or more of these to myself. It’s a push, a way to shift gears, a challenge to stop doing whatever I’m doing and move on to the next thing.
Recently I find myself saying this one:
“You’ve had your fun.”
I say this to myself to acknowledge I’ve enjoyed my time, wherever it was, whenever it was, and now it’s time for the less-fun things or merely something else. It can be a way of talking to the little kid in me, who is metaphorically (and sometimes not-so-metaphorically) whining, “But I don’t want to go to bed yet” or “I want more cake” or “Why does this day have to ever end?” or “I want to watch one more episode.” “You’ve had your fun” comes the answer. It’s not a mean voice, but one who knows what’s what.
I’d be remiss not to add:
“Lighten up on yourself.”
I’ve been saying this one to myself quite a bit, encouraging myself to put down the proverbial stick. At first blush, it might seem that this phrase is counter to some of my others, which are encouraging me to DO something. Is this one telling me to slack off? Oh no, rather it’s to get me to relax on things I don’t need to get quite so wound up about, to drop inconsequential things from the mental to-do list, to not always be knocking myself out (whether for someone else or only on my behalf). Sometimes “good enough” suffices, or “good enough for now” suffices. It is a forgiving notion, this lightening-up.