by Krystal Lynn Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC
Did you ever listen in on your self-talk? Most self-talk messages are an evaluation of some kind. We evaluate our work, feelings, experiences and our lives. We determine what is good or bad; and what is acceptable or to be rejected. Many people evaluate themselves negatively. They might call themselves “stupid,” “lazy” or some other unbecoming label. Maybe that is how you talk to yourself as well. You might not think anything of it at the time or even realize that it is actually damaging to your self-esteem.
From the time we are born we are evaluated, judged and labeled. We receive both positive and negative feedback about our performance, traits, and habits. We are told what we did right and what we did wrong. We constantly receive messages of approval and disapproval. All of this shapes our identity and determines what we believe about ourselves. Eventually, we repeat to ourselves the messages that we’ve heard and now believe.
Both positive and negative messages have a tremendous influence on a person’s self-esteem as well as their attitude. Think of a time when you were encouraged and strengthened to believe in yourself as a result of someone’s positive feedback and faith in you. Conversely, imagine a time when you lost your confidence and felt like giving up because you believed a negative message of criticism and defeat.
No one likes to be negatively evaluated, judged or put down. Yet, it is all too common to focus on what is wrong with ourselves and others instead of what is right; and, to overlook strengths and worth. As a result, many end up feeling that they fall short. And, they spend their lives trying to live up to certain standards in order to feel good about who they are and what they are capable of.
Everyone needs to feel intrinsic value and worth. Everyone has strengths, assets, potential, intrinsic beauty and worth. If we look for these things and all that is good in ourselves and others we will find them. We can make a conscious choice to set aside our negative evaluations, judgments and criticism. We can compliment instead of criticize, defend instead of blame, build up instead of tear down, and accept and love instead of judge or reject. Much of whether or not we will do these things depends on the kinds of messages we listen to and believe.
We don't have to replay those old messages that leave us with negative labels and discouraging self-talk. The only way to stop listening to them is to begin listening to messages of encouragement and hope. We want to hear the truth in love. Messages of simple acceptance of who you are, messages that help you see yourself as valuable, special, and worthy, and messages that build you up to believe in yourself can become louder and louder as we begin to speak them to ourselves and others.