In the past two weeks, I have had many discussions with yoga instructors and with therapy clients around the power of self-talk.
When we hear something over and over and over, we begin to believe it. It takes repetition, but that repetition convinces our minds that it must be true and then we begin to shape our thoughts and behaviors to support the now-accepted belief. This works in our subconscious and we may not even realize that our belief system is being shaped.
For example, let’s say you are in middle school and a new student joins your class. This student bullies you and tells you every day that you are loser and that you aren’t good enough. At first, when you hear this, your brain says, “That’s not true!” or “I know you are, but what am I?!” But, day after day after day of this bully telling you that you are not good enough, that you are a loser, and that no one likes you starts to take it’s toll. Your brain begins to question if it really is true. Finally, your brain stops fighting and just accepts it as if it is the truth. This acceptance shapes your belief in yourself, your thoughts, your self-talk, your relationships with others, how you present yourself to the world, and how you behave. If nothing is done to intervene or to fight back against and overpower this process, it can likely result in negative and hateful self-talk for years or even a lifetime.
“Whenever we hear an opinion and we believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.” – Don Miguel Ruiz from The Four Agreements
We often accept opinion as fact and shape our lives around that opinion. The bully’s statements were his/her opinion; our negative self-bashing is an opinion; the messages that we receive constantly from marketing and social media that we aren’t enough are opinions. The power of persuation sets in when we hear the message repeatedly.
The good news is that we can make the same shifts in our beliefs with positive self-talk and affirming statements. In my work with clients attempting to shift their beliefs, I never fail to assign affirmations to repeat as homework. The most common question I get about the assignment is, “I should just repeat it even though I don’t believe it??” I say yes and then I give the example above of not believing the bully at first, but wearing down over time.
Life events have an impact on how we speak to ourselves and many times the ego in our minds works from a place of fear with the intention of keeping us within our comfort zone. The ego is afraid of change, including positive growth, because it doesn’t know what to expect, so it uses our mind to convince us that we are good right where we are, that things probably won’t work out anyway, that it could go terribly wrong, etc. However, you can’t believe everything you think. When left to its own devices, the ego will prevent you from ever stepping out of your comfort zone and into the zone of growth.
Using positive affirmations or repeating a new thought pattern in your mind over and over will work just like the negative things the bully said. Over time, you begin to believe them and then you shape your thoughts, actions, and life around supporting those beliefs.
Give it a try. Find a statement that will support what you want to believe and who you want to become. And then repeat it to yourself as much as you can throughout the day and the week. Post it on sticky notes and write it on your mirror in dry erase marker. Hit it hard and watch things shift.
You got this.
I will be practicing right along side you.
Talk again soon,