You know the little voice inside your head — the one you’ve carried around inside you since before you could remember?
Call it what you will: your conscience, your subconscious, the inner you. This voice is a part of us, a part of who we are, and we self-identify with that voice on an inherent level.
For each of us, our relationship with our inner voice is different.
Some people have learned to tune theirs out. Others take great stock in the self-talk that emanates from within.
But no matter how you feel about that voice inside you, there’s something important you should know: that voice is responsible for the self-talk you engage in. And that internal conversation can have huge effects on the body and mind.
The Potential Power of Self-Talk and Neuro-Linguistic Programming
Self-talk is a form of neuro-linguistic programming. It has the potential to mold and sculpt our consciousness because our minds are malleable.
What’s neuro-linguistic programming? Glad you asked!
Neuro-linguistic programming acknowledges the fundamental connection between the brain (neuro), language (linguistic), and our internal and external behaviors (programming).
At its core, neuro-linguistic programming is a school of thought — but put into practical means, it can be translated as different exercises designed to boost self-awareness, self-esteem, social interactions, and communication skills.
The inherent importance of the mind-body connection
Neuro-linguistic programming exercises focus largely on the use of self-talk to affect the mind and the body. Both mind and body are affected by self-talk because of the dynamic mind-body connection.
The mind-body connection is the innate connection of the body and mind. What we think and what we feel has the potential to directly affect our bodies.
When we are overtaken by a pessimistic mood, we often feel this in our bodies — a heaviness in our chests, a tightness in our throats. When we’re frightened or anxious, our bodies instinctively react, our hands tremble, our pulse quickens, our lungs tighten.
The mind-body connection is an important element in the way self-talk affects us. Our self-talk, stemming from that little voice in our heads, not only has the potential to affect our mood but also has the potential to affect our physiological state, too.
Our bodies respond to what we say, both externally, and internally. And our self-talk can wield a potentially dangerous power over our bodies and minds.
Robert Richman Identifies the True Power of Self-Talk
Robert Richman is a public speaker, best-selling author, and “culture architect” that helps companies culture hack as a community to create healthier, happier workspaces.
He identifies the way subtle language changes how our brains perceive different situations. The words coming out of our mouths and the words that resound in our heads have the ability to sway our emotions, so how we talk to ourselves is critical.
The double-edged sword of self-talk
An inherent danger resides in what we say about others.
The brain has difficulty distinguishing between others and ourselves.
When we think and say words aloud, our minds don’t always make the distinction between an external person, and the self — using the words and thinking of the ideas.
If we say bad things about other people, we run the risk of encouraging such thoughts about ourselves. If we criticize others, and complain they’re selfish, lazy, obnoxious, or inconsiderate, sooner or later, we’ll likely harbor similar opinions about ourselves.
Robert Richman explains that the other side of the self-talk double-edged sword is the use of “I am” statements.
Using the words “I am” sends a powerful message to the brain.
Whenever we recruit the use of these words, we’re affirming something fundamental about ourselves. An “I am” statement is a statement of identity.
To say, “I am tired,” or “I am depressed,” doesn’t indicate a passing, temporary state. At least not to our minds. Our minds interpret such statements as a validation of self, an integral component of our identity.
And this is problematic. When we express a passing mood, thought, or emotion as an “I am” statement, whether aloud or in self-talk, our minds interpret this as a proclamation of self.
This thought, mood, or emotion isn’t just inhabiting the body and mind. It is the body and mind.
For a bit more wisdom by Robert Richman, check out his inspiring talk at Mindvalley’s A-Fest:
Healing With Neuro-Linguistic Programming: How to Self-Talk Properly
Self-talk can be a powerful tool, but we need to learn how to use self-talk properly, to our advantage.
Here are 3 powerful neuro-linguistic strategies you can use to harness the power of self-talk and the inherent mind-body connection:
1. Pay attention to your “I am” statements
This one comes from Robert Richman, who suggests that taking stock of your “I am” statements can help you guide your self-talk into more positive channels.
We use “I am” statements often. The next time you say the words, “I am,” listen carefully to what follows. If it’s a positive statement, such as “I am energized,” or “I am optimistic,” then — great! Keep it up!
But if what usually follows your “I am” statements is a negative declaration or attribute, here’s a subtle change you can make: try shifting from “I am” to “I feel.”
There’s a huge difference between these statements. Where one is a fundamental attribute of the self, the other implies a shifting state or emotion that isn’t an essential component of the individual.
Positive “I am” statements are a great way to infuse your self-talk with optimism and healthy, vibrant energy. But negative “I am” statements affect the way we perceive ourselves. Shift the negative “I am” to “I feel,” and you’ll be surprised by how your internal compass begins to shift.
2. Don’t speak ill of others
Remember — the body and mind are listening at all times.
The incredible mind-body connection can be shifted to promote your internal well-being, but only if you stay mindful of your self-talk, and about what you say about others.
Ever heard the saying, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all? This maxim works well here because it encourages you to frame the way you speak of others in a more positive light.
This can yield powerful, tangible benefits for both your body and your mind. Challenge yourself to deliver three compliments a day to others, even if they’re perfect strangers. You’ll feel great, and so will those you interact with.
3. Treat yourself as a friend
So much of our self-talk is unconscious and unchallenged. It runs in the backs of our minds like a script on repeat. If our self-talk is negative, we suffer all the more.
How can we shift negative self-talk into something more positive? This can be difficult, especially considering how automatic negative self-talk can be.
A good practice to try is that of treating yourself as a friend. The next time you catch a negative thought pattern or script running through your mind, ask yourself how you’d feel if you heard someone saying such things to a close friend or family member of yours.
If you’d feel angry or upset by hearing such things said to someone you care for, should you really dismiss such things being said about yourself? We must be able to cultivate a sense of respect, both for others, but also for ourselves. When we respect ourselves, we’re less tolerant of negative self-talk.
Sometimes, our relationships with ourselves are strained. We feel disappointed by something we’ve done, guilty about someone we’ve hurt, or critical about an action not taken.
But try, as often as you can, to treat yourself as a friend. Don’t let negative self-talk go unchallenged or undisputed.
The more aware we are of our self-talk, the better equipped we are to channel our inner voices in the direction of personal development, self-confidence, and kindness.