When your alarm goes off in the morning, you wonder, "Why did I set it so early?" As you brush your teeth, you think, "Do I need a haircut… or not?" When you run out the front door and reach for the key, the key isn't there. Frustrated, you shout, "I can't do anything right!" you see your neighbors. Talking to yourself can be embarrassing, and some people think this behavior is a sign of mental weakness. But decades of psychological research show that talking to yourself is common.
The truth is, most of us, if not all, engage in some form of personal communication on a daily basis. So why do we talk to ourselves? Does what we say matter? Self-talk is the talk in your head, sometimes called inner talk. This is in contrast to mental images or remembering facts and figures. Basically, psychologists define self-talk as verbal thoughts directed at yourself or some aspect of your life. This includes self-talk like "I need to improve my free throw ability." But it also includes reflections you make throughout the day, such as "The gym is busy tonight. I'll be back tomorrow." . In fact, psychologists believe that most of our first personal communication occurs verbally, as children talk a lot to each other during play.
In the 1930s, the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky suggested that this way of speaking was the key to development. Through communication with adults, children can control their own behavior and emotions. Then, as we grow older, this external dialogue becomes internalized and develops into an internal dialogue. We know that this inner voice is important as it allows you to make plans, deal with difficult situations, and motivate you throughout the day. But learning self-talk is hard. This relies on a research project that really follows behaviors that occur spontaneously and often without conscious control.
Therefore, scientists are still trying to answer questions, such as why do some people talk to themselves more than others? What parts of the brain are activated when you talk to yourself? How does this activation differ from normal chat? However, one thing we know for sure is that what is said in these conversations can have a huge impact on how you feel and how you work. Engaging in self-talk, or motivation, has been shown to improve focus, boost self-esteem, and help with daily activities. For example, a study of college tennis players found that implementing guided self-talk into practice improved focus and accuracy.
Just as talking to a friend can help reduce stress, talking to yourself can help you manage your emotions. Remote self-talk is talking to yourself as if you were talking to someone else. So you might be thinking, "Galeb, you're ready for this test!" instead of "I will pass this test." Research has shown that this type of self-talk is very effective for reducing stress when dealing with stressful activities, such as meeting new people or speaking in public. But positive self-talk can help you, and negative self-talk can only hurt you.
Most people criticize themselves occasionally, but if this behavior is frequent or severe, it can become toxic. Negative emotions indicate anxiety in both children and adults. People who blame themselves for the problems they face and constantly think about the situation are more likely to suffer from depression. Today, there is an area of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which focuses on controlling a person's language. Psychologists often teach techniques for identifying negative thought patterns and replacing them with neutral or more compassionate thoughts. Over time, these tools can improve a person's mental health. So the next time you talk to yourself, remember to be kind. That inner voice is the friend you will talk to for years to come.