Cultivate Confidence: Reassessing Self-Talk


The first post in this series focused on understanding your emotions as a way of cultivating confidence. You can read it HERE, if you missed it.

When you struggle with low self-esteem you´re far more likely to give into negative thoughts. If you want to stop that nasty downward spiral, you need to reassess your self-talk.

The easiest way to do this is by:

  1. Learning to tune into your positive self-talk
  1. Learning to release your negative self-talk 


Positive Self-Talk

While retraining your thoughts through positive self- talk won´t change your life overnight, it´s a great way to start influencing the way you see yourself, the way you feel and, as a result, the way you act.

Focus your positive self-talk on:


Helping you imagine a positive outcome

Start by having a very clear picture of the successful outcome you would like to see happen – don´t worry about how you will get there. At least, not yet.

Research has shown that our subconscious mind is very powerful and once we plant the seed of a successful result, that seed will take root and guide us in various ways to turn that desire into reality.

For example, let´s say you have to give a presentation and you are terribly shy. While you are preparing for the big day, spend some time imagining yourself standing confidently in front of the room speaking, answering questions and receiving compliments on a job well done.


Using affirmations

Affirmations are merely positive self-talk statements, which usually start with ‘I am’, are brief but clear and always state a thought in the present.

Here are a few popular examples:

  • I am healthy and strong
  • I am making a difference
  • I am a good friend
  • I have unique talents and abilities
  • I am a good person, even when I make a mistake
  • I want to grow and I am willing to take risks to do it.


Staying positive

To retrain your thoughts, focus on replacing the negative one. Do this by putting a positive spin on them:  Instead of saying things like:  ‘I am not afraid…’  Say: ‘I am confident while making my presentation’.

Similarly, use a statement focusing on today, as opposed to tomorrow and now, rather than later! This will help your subconscious mind realize that the result you want is for the present and not some distant time in the future.

Use active verbs rather than more tentative words like could, should, can or will. For example, “I speak confidently and with poise. I capture my audience´s attention with ease. ”


Keeping it simple

Retrain your thoughts by using brief sentences helps your subconscious remember them more readily. Long rambling sentences are too easily forgotten and may even confuse your mind. Use simple sentences to start the reprogramming of your thought process.


Keeping it believable

Your self-talk and affirmations need to be based on believable and reachable goals; goals that you truly believe you can achieve.

It´s up to you how easy or challenging your goals will be, so decide what you want for yourself and go for it! Even if a goal seems a bit of stretch, if you believe you can achieve it, that´s all that matters. There´s no need to listen to the naysayers or that inner critic whispering in your ear.


Triggering happy emotions

Another way to retrain your thoughts is to talk about your positive traits and characteristics, a lot. This helps trigger happy and joyous emotions within you, which will give you more energy to achieve those things you want most.

Repeat to yourself:  I am a supportive and understanding partner. I am a loving and nurturing parent. I am great at solving problems and finding positive solutions!


Getting clear on what you want

Write down what´s most important for you to enjoy in your life, so you can see those things and not just think about them. Get some index cards at an office supply store. Buy a set of colored pens and jot down an affirmative thought for each of your goals on a separate index card.

Every day, make the time to pull them out and read each affirmation aloud. This is particularly important on those days when you are not feeling very positive about yourself or the world, in general.


Affirming and empowering

Now comes the interesting part. Ready to put some power into retraining your thoughts?!


Time To Take action:

For the next 30 consecutive days, read these affirmations once every morning immediately upon waking and once every night, just before you turning out the light.

It has been proven that our brains are most receptive to ideas in the early morning and just before we go to sleep. This doesn´t need to take long – about 30 to 45 seconds per affirmation should be enough and, while you´re reading, visualize yourself in that positive frame of mind.

As you read each affirmation, see the picture it conjures up in your mind´s eye and feel the positive, joyous emotions it releases inside of you. Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment; then move on to the next affirmation.

Be absolutely open to all possibilities and believe that – whatever stage of life you may be in – change is possible.   

If you need help with your affirmations, one thing that can help is to is imagine them coming from a kind, supportive voice. Think of any person who has been good to you or inspired you – maybe one of your parents, a friend, a coach, or a teacher.

Now imagine that person encouraging and supporting you. What would they say? Perhaps, something like:

‘Go on, give it a try. You have all the qualifications necessary – you certainly deserve this job.’ ‘Good job, well done’.

Imagine how hearing someone say this to you would make you feel. How motivated their compassion coupled with their belief in you would make you feel going forward.

If you´re serious about wanting to retrain your thoughts, consistently using this combination of affirmations and positive self-talk is guaranteed to improve both your self-image and your sense of self-worth over time.


Negative Self-Talk

You´ve probably already figured this out for yourself but negative self-talk has the complete opposite effect of positive self-talk.

Negative self-talk breeds confusion and indecisiveness. It takes control of your thoughts, your emotions, your actions and your results.

Negative thoughts generally make you want to pull back into yourself. They make you want to withdraw from those around you – even your closest friends and family – as you try to avoid any situations that may be unexpected or new to you.

Sarcasm and trying to put the blame on others are common reactions to the fear and increased isolation

Imagine someone saying to you, “You idiot! How can you be so stupid?!”

What would you think, how would you feel and what would you do about it?

In essence, negative self-talk is more or less your own voice speaking in a similar manner to you.

This inner voice is something you can hear and feel. It is there, criticizing you every time you mess up or dragging you down when you have your heart set on reaching a goal.

Let me give you an example:

Perhaps you´ve just finished a job interview and you´re not feeling like it went very well. That´s when your inner critic kicks in with things like:  “I am such a fool. There is no way I´ll ever get that job now. Not after missing out on so many questions; questions I´m supposed to know the answer to. Talk about an idiot. I am so hopeless!”

Does that sound at all familiar?

More often than not, your inner critic will revert to harping on past failures as well, ignoring any of the many successes or positive outcomes you´ve experienced in your lifetime. It will set standards of perfection that are impossible for you to achieve and lead you to believe that everyone sees you as a loser as well.

In the end, you´ll spend all your time worrying and over-thinking things instead of going and ahead and doing what needs to be done.


What Negative Self-Talk Can Teach You

Of course, while it is well worth learning to tune out those negative thoughts when you can, they may also help you understand a bit of what´s going on inside your mind…

  • Negative thinking may help you recognize certain situations or issues that make you feel angry, sad or hurt. You need to understand these emotions and find a way of releasing them.
  • When people with low self-esteem start to think negative thoughts, they are more likely than not, to get caught up in a downward spinning spiral of ever increasing levels of anger, anxiety and sadness.
  • Overly negative thinking holds us back and slows us down. In fact it can prevent us from ever attempting anything new to begin with. And, when we´re particularly anxious about an outcome, that negative voice paralyzes us by going over and over all the ways we can fail.

This kind of negative thinking can be fatal because it is self-fulfilling. The more anxious you get about trying something new for fear of failure, the louder and more persistent your inner critic is at telling you, you are bound to fail so why even attempt it.

How can you possibly move forward or grow if you are continually afraid of failure?

If you insist on listening to that critical voice inside your head, this attitude may become so much a part of your life that the only image you have of yourself is a negative one.

  • It is entirely possible that as a child you weren´t given the kind of encouragement or positive reinforcement every child deserves. But that shouldn´t be any reason for you to lead a life overshadowed by negativity.

You have the power and the ability to make good, positive changes at any point in your life. All you need is to know how to do it and the determination to make it happen.

Along with strengthening your positive self-talk and letting go of your negative thoughts, there is one more thing you need to do…

Be willing to make mistakes.

As you continue to grow and learn in life, you will make mistakes – some that are small and inconsequential, and others that are large and life-changing.

What´s important is that you treat each and every mistake as an opportunity to learn and become a better person.

Don´t give in to the pull of perfectionism. Trying to be perfect is quite common in people with low self-esteem and can be totally exhausting. Not only that but it is often nothing more than an excuse for procrastination.

And, of course, when you are daring something new or risky, there will be those who do not share in your enthusiasm – everyone from well-meaning friends and family members who want to protect you from getting your hopes up to those who criticize every move you make.

Even healthy relationships are not immune to these kinds of fears and negativity.

At times like these, it´s more important than ever for you to reaffirm to yourself that you are capable and worthwhile and that, whatever the result, you will not let it negatively affect your sense of self-worth.

The more secure you feel in who you are, the easier it will be for you to handle any mistakes that you make in a positive manner.

This is true even when your mistakes have an impact on someone or something else.

While hindsight often makes it easier to  see why things went wrong and how they could have been avoided, the truth is we all make decisions based on the information we have available to us at the time and beating ourselves up over those mistakes is never the best use of our valuable time and energy.

That doesn´t mean that when the mistake is yours, you can wipe your hands of all responsibility. Acknowledge what happened, apologize for the consequences and accept that you will have to do whatever is necessary to ensure it doesn´t happen again.

Taking responsibility for your actions not only boosts your self-esteem and self-respect, it will gain you the respect of others as well.

This is so much better than making excuses, putting the blame elsewhere or trying to deny you had anything to do with the problem.

If you feel the need to respond to intense, continuous criticism, take a deep breath to help you remain calm, collect your thoughts and express your opinions clearly and politely. Doing this will help you present an aura of control while preserving your sense of self-respect, at the same time.


And, finally…

just as you expect to be treated in a positive manner when you make a mistake, treat others in the same way.  Offer compassion, understanding and guidance where needed. And be willing to forgive, for forgiveness is the quickest way to freeing your mind and restoring positive energy in any relationship.

In this next post, we look at the role of balance in cultivating confidence. Be sure to check it out.


Jan Marie

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Cultivate Confidence - Re-Assessing Your Self-Talk
Cultivate Confidence - Re-Assessing Your Self-Talk


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