Have you ever actually listened to your self-talk?

I’ve spent a lot of time on the tennis court lately, enjoying the opportunity to slam the ball around for an hour or so.  There is just something so rewarding about being able to “check out” of daily life and completely focus on the thrill of the game.

Although being a constant observer of human nature, sometimes it’s can be hard to shut down my reflections on life.  Today was such a day… I was playing a match against another woman at the same rating level and we were very close on the score.  But then she starting making more errors and I hit some really great shots, so I found myself ahead by a couple of games. It was at this point that I noticed a vast difference in how we spoke to ourselves.

How was I able to do this? Isn’t self-talk something that you “say” in your head? It was because as this woman made more errors, her self-talk was no longer internal. Not only was it no longer internal, she got louder and louder, eventually yelling at herself, “Why did you do that? Stupid!” and “What the hell? You suck!” It was at this point that I decided to check in on my self-talk to do a bit of a comparison. The nice, internal voice I heard was saying things like, “You’re doing good – stay focused, this point is yours,” and “Okay, screwed that one up! Got a little excited. That’s okay, you can do this – focus, focus, focus!”

I ended up winning the match, and by a lot.  No surprise since I was encouraging myself while she was berating herself and working herself into a full blown tantrum. This was just another example of the potentially damaging effects of negative self-talk.

Here’s the call to action – do a check-in on your self-talk.  What are you saying to yourself? Is it someone’s voice from your childhood, beating you up for your mistakes? Or is it your own voice compassionately nurturing and encouraging you to be a better person?