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“Self-talk reflects your innermost feelings.”
Jenny’s Morning Dialogue
Jenny’s alarm went off. She hit the snooze button and rolled over for a few more minutes of sleep. It was only a few seconds until she sat straight up in bed.
“Oh, no!!! I forgot to call the phone company yesterday. I can’t believe they are expecting me to pay so much for my cell phone – $350, for one month. I don’t know how I’m going to handle that kind of payment.
She ran into the kitchen, picked up her phone, and dialed 611.
“Five minutes later, the customer service rep must think I have nothing else to do, but chit-chat with her,” Jenny said in her mind as he looked at the clock on the stove.
“Is there anything you can do about the bill? I’m not sure I can cover the whole amount,” Jenny said to the rep.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, there’s nothing I can do,” the rep responded.
“Okay, I see. Well, thank you anyway.”
Jenny hurriedly got ready for work, ate a piece of toast and went to the front door. She stopped, “Do I have my keys? Where are the forms I was working on last night? You’re running out of time, you’re going to be late for work again. This time they might actually fire you. I can’t afford to lose this job. I probably couldn’t find another one. All the jobs in this town don’t pay much. I really need a different job that pays more, but that would mean I have to move. I don’t have enough money to move. I guess I’m stuck in this dead-end job in this dead-end town.”
Her mind continued going through all the negative scenarios in and around her life. By the time she got to work she was exhausted and was sure she’d be fired. All the doubts and fears seemed to crowd into her mind.
What is Self-Talk?
Self-Talk is your communication with yourselves which goes on all day – all of your waking hours. It’s a non-stop chatter that continues all day, giving you a play-by-play of your day and your life.
In some cases, it continues into the night hours preventing you from sleeping. It brings out all of your doubts, fears, insecurities, questioning, and worries about your character, your inner self, which may be totally different than what you display to others around you.
Jenny At The Office
Jenny was a junior partner at one of the larger law offices in a small town in Western Tennessee. She appeared very confident in her work. She had graduated from a top college with a master’s degree in law. She was hired on as an intern and worked up to a junior partner and would be up for senior partner within a year.
She was always very professional in dealing with other attorneys and office staff.
She went above and beyond in helping her clients. Her boss noticed that she also did extra research and work on every case, which took her longer than the other junior attorneys. He tried talking to her about the time, but she insisted that she was doing just normal work.
He began paying more attention to the time she was spending on a case. He checked the time she was spending in their law library – double the time.
His concerns began to mount. He brought it up several times only to have her dismiss his concerns, but inside her inner voice grew louder and louder voicing more concerns about getting fired or bringing up every little thing saying, “Can’t you do anything right. You know how to do that,” “The boss isn’t going to like this,” “You’re going to lose this case and it’s all your fault.”
It was beginning to have a negative effect on her life in general. She was becoming a ball of nerves. She couldn’t eat without getting sick. Many nights her inner voice wouldn’t be quiet causing her to toss and turn all night.
The Enemy: Negative Self-Talk
Negative Self-Talk or Self-Talk that is out of balance is when you beat yourself up or berate yourself for making simple mistakes or putting yourself down, like the dialogue above.
The real problem, though, comes when you start lashing out at others in self-defeating behaviors. After hearing your inner voice put you down and say negative things about you over and over again you begin to believe it. The voice and the statements become so familiar and natural that eventually, you don’t even hear it. It’s just always in your head.
Jenny Lashes Out
Jenny hadn’t slept all night. She had to be in court at 9 am the next morning. She had prepared and re-prepared everything for the case. She knew it backward and forwards, but her inner voice wouldn’t let it go.
She went over every piece of evidence in her mind several times until she finally got up and actually went through the paperwork again.
She looked at the clock – 3 am. She went back to bed, but she couldn’t silence her inner voice, “You’re going to lose this case,” “You’re not going to win,” “You’re a bad attorney.”
She finally got up at 5 am and went over all the material one more time. She had been in court several times. Her inner voice said, “But, you’ve never done it all alone,” “You can’t do it,” “You’re not good enough,” “Have a drink that’ll help.”
She had a glass of her favorite wine, which she had begun to keep in the house. She began to feel better so she had another, then another.
She looked at the clock, 7 am, “Oh my I have to be in court in two hours.”
She jumped up and almost fell, “This isn’t going to work.” Her inner voice started berating her even more.
She called her boss feigning a migraine. He told her he’d meet her in court. She began screaming at him in anger when he refused to take the case on his own.
“I will meet you at the courthouse at 8:30 am. You will be there,” he said. “After court, we’re going to figure out what’s going on. It’s getting out of control.”
Jenny’s boss was waiting on the bench outside the doors to the courtroom when she arrived.
“Have you been drinking?” he asked.
“Ah, Ah, I had a small glass to try to calm my headache,” she replied.
“Oh, sh–,” her inner voice started in. “You aren’t even smart enough to think about the smell.” It went on and on.
Jenny had all the information on the case that her boss went through quickly, “This is a slam-dunk case. What is your problem? You’ve done ten times the work that was needed.”
He sat and studied her for a few moments then smiled, “You critical inner voice is chasing you, isn’t it? I had a similar problem when I first started doing cases alone. I know how to help you. Now, let’s go win this case.”
They walked into the courtroom. Their client walked in shortly after they were seated.
The boss leaned over to the client, “I’m going to take this one. Jenny’s not feeling really well this morning. It’ll be over in just a few minutes.”
He winked at Jenny to say it’s okay. I understand.
Jenny slumped in her seat taking a deep breath. “He can’t help you. Nothing can. You’ll find yourself living under a bridge.”
For the first time, Jenny gritted her teeth and said under her breathe, “Shut up.” She grinned, “Wow, that felt good. Why haven’t I done that before?”
The case was won in about a half-hour and they were on their way out of the courthouse.
“The information you compiled was way over the top, but it made for an easy case,” he said to Jenny. “Now, let’s go get some lunch.”
They entered the little café next door to the courthouse. The boss had called ahead and his table was ready. He placed his standard order when he reserved the table. Their food was on the table within a few minutes.
“I assumed you haven’t eaten much lately, so I went ahead and ordered. I hope that’s alright with you,” he said.
She nodded in agreement. She wasn’t sure how the meeting was going to go, but at least she had managed to silence her inner voice some-what.”
“I had problems with negative self-talk when I started doing cases by myself. I began to drink quite heavily to stop the noise in my head. It helped until the alcohol wore off then that voice was worse. I do know what you are experiencing, the anxiety, self-doubt, insecurity, questioning everything you do. And that voice doesn’t ever seem to shut-up.”
Jenny laughed, “You nailed it!”
“Of course, I’m a good attorney,” he said laughing also.
Jenny began to relax as they ate and laughed over some of the cases they had worked on together. Periodically, she’d take some deep breaths that helped her relax even more.
Her boss asked, “Are you ready to war against your critical inner voice?”
Jenny nodded, “I can actually get rid of it?”
“Yes, you can,” he said handing her a book about self-talk, “This will give you some good help, but I’ll give you the run down first.”
“Your negative self-talk, the anxiety, doubt, and fear that go with it are habits that you have built up over time. The good thing is that a habit is learned. If it’s learned it can be unlearned. Are you ready to make the commitment to change?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m ready,” Jenny answered. “Why do I need to do?”
Listen to Your Negative Self-Talk
“Write down your negative self-talk. Either keep a journal, or take notes on your phone, something where you can write down what you voice is saying to you. Especially become aware of what your voice is saying to you when you are stressed, anxious, or not feeling well. You’ll find that you hear more negative self-talk during those times,” he continued.
Explore The Source
“When you hear the negative self-talk explore where it is coming from, by tracking down where your judgment and belief comes from. Remember, every negative comment is connected to a core belief that you developed, usually during childhood. When you discover the source, you can fix that problem and change your core belief from fiction to the truth.”
Exchange Your Self-Talk
“How does this sound so far?” he asked.
“I think I can do this,” she said.
“You can. It’s really not that difficult. You just have to keep on it until you develop a new habit.”
“Now that you’ve explored the source of the negative self-talk, it’s time to exchange it for the truth, for positive self-talk – DO THE OPPOSITE!!”
“For Example, you’re running out of time, you’re going to be late for work again. OPPOSITE: I’m not going to think that. I’m not going to be late, I’ll use the time I have wisely.
This time they might actually fire you. OPPOSITE: I’m not going to think that, I’m not going to be fired.
I can’t afford to lose this job. OPPOSITE: I’m not going to think that, I’m not going to lose my job.”
“Write down the negative self-talk and write the positive after it. It might be a good idea to put them on 3×5 cards so you can carry them with you and practice them.”
Jenny smiled as she nodded her head, “It sounds much easier than all the research I’ve been doing. I can do this.”
“Keep telling yourself that you can do it because you can.”