Did you know that self-talk influences how you perform on given tasks? In part, the type of internal dialogue you experience depends on your personality. That is, if you’re the type of person to see the glass as half-full versus half-empty, then you’ll see different results in your performance. However, there are ways in which you can learn to reap the performance benefits of positive self-talk. So, let’s master how you can harness the benefits of self-talk for your career.
By having optimistic self-talk, you’re positively shaping your self-image, which in turn influences your performance through greater life satisfaction, improved wellbeing, less distress, and combatted effects of anxiety and depression. On the other hand, the opposite goes for pessimistic self-talk—you’ll negatively shape your self-image, through decreased motivation and happiness, along with increased helplessness and rumination. So, how does this affect overall productivity? Research from the Psychology of Sport and Exercise journal discovered the mechanism by which self-talk influences performance. The scientists found that changes in task performance after sessions of motivational self-talk were proven to be related to increases in self-confidence.
There are two different perspectives when talking about the self, the self-immersed versus the self-distanced. Can you guess which is subjective and which is objective? By taking an objective lens to stressful situations, self-distancing is proven to break cycles of rumination by allowing individuals to step away from recounting emotional charging details. Research even shows that individuals have a better reality of their reactions through lowered emotional distress, physiological signs of stress (low energy, headaches, upset stomach, muscle tension, insomnia, etc.), and aggressive behaviour when practicing self-distancing.
So, how can you practice self-distancing? First, try visualizing your challenges from another perspective—an observer who is not involved. Even use third-person pronouns when addressing yourself. Alternatively, if you’re more of a writer, expressively write down your thoughts. All these strategies aim to shift your mindset to an outside, objective perspective so you can obtain a clear vision on how to surmount whatever challenge lays ahead.
Our brains are hardwired to detect threats and prevent negativities from taking over our safety. It’s pretty simple. For our ancestors, paying attention to the negative was a matter of life or death. So, those who survived passed their genes down through evolution. However, this has left us with an innate bias towards focussing on the negative. In fact, research shows that negative stimuli elicit stronger responses in the human brain compared to positive stimuli.
Do you ever notice that you tend to ruminate over negative situations longer or more strongly than positive ones? For example, think of a time when you were criticized by a superior or embarrassed yourself in front of others—did you repeatedly replay the situation in your head? Compare this to a time when you’ve were congratulated for all your hard work, or when you just received that well-deserved promotion—for most of us, the positive rush comes and goes. The problem with this bias is that it can affect decision-making, focusing on the fear of the risk or potential consequences over the realistic positive gains.
So, how can you overcome this negativity bias? First, broaden your focus to outlook on the future. Ask yourself, how will I feel about this one, five, or even ten years from now? Next, reframe your thoughts to encompass what you’ve learned and how you can build on this for future challenges. Finally, don’t let your mind’s limitations constrict your vision; open yourself up to the positivity present in life. By shifting your perspective from pessimistic to optimistic, this doesn’t mean you are naïve. You are simply giving the much-deserved equal weight to positive situations.
Many individuals swear by the positive benefits of self-affirmations on their self-confidence. These positive statements used to overcome negative ruminations are based on theory from the 1980s by Claude Steele. Based on neuroscience, researchers have discovered that positive affirmations activate pathways in the brain that are involved in self-processing, and valuation are amplified with prospection.
How does it work? There is speculation that affirmations “serve to deemphasize the implications of threat by placing it in a broader concept.” From a study at UC Berkley and Cornell, participants reported that threatening situations less align with self-concept after practicing affirmations.
So, to welcome the self-esteem benefits of practicing self-affirmations, here are some examples to spark your inspiration. Need some help? Identify what you would want others to say to you and repeat it back to yourself.
“I am fully capable of performing this task and will excel in the creation.”
“I deserve to feel good about myself at work.”
Lastly, take responsibility in recognizing when you are struggling and be kind to yourself. Self-compassion is a learnable skill we are confident everyone can improve on. For yourself, showing compassion reduces stress and anxiety and improves life satisfaction and overall happiness. Even for others around you, showing compassion to your co-workers improves loyalty, dedication, and employee engagement. Bringing objective viewpoints and reverting judgment, leading with empathy and compassion, reduces employee burnout and improves team productivity, morale, and communication.
How can you show compassion to yourself? Here are some tips:
“The more self-compassion you have, the greater your emotional arsenal.” – Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.
Try out these strategies and note how your performance changes in your career. Put yourself first for a change and use self-talk to evolve from a survive mind to a thrive mind.