Did you know the most important words we say are the words we say to ourselves???

It’s sooooo true. How we talk to ourselves, the words we say and the way we say them affect everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in our lives.

Negative Self-Talk: The Most Important Words You Say Are Those You Say to Yourself

First, I want to tell you a little story.

I spent a weekend in Auburn, Alabama not long ago and it was not for football. I was actually there to watch swimming. I had the privilege to watch my son and many others compete for their schools in the Alabama High School swimming and diving championship.

I always come away inspired after watching swimmers. I have the utmost respect for them – the dedication and drive it takes to swim 2-3 hours every day – head down in the water staring at line at bottom of pool. But this weekend I felt especially privileged to watch one swimmer in particular and I will tell you about him in a few minutes.

One question first: Did you know that the most important words you say are the ones to yourself?

Think about it for a minute. There is a reason or reasons why you are not completely satisfied in all domains of your life. There might be some external obstacles in your way – things outside of you that you have or have not addressed that are keeping you from being fulfilled in that domain and in your life. These obstacles could be time, money, difficult relationships, etc.

But have you thought about your internal obstacles? The words you say to yourself. Negative self-criticism, negative self-stories? These words you say to yourself hold you back so much more than any external obstacle or obstacle outside of yourself. No external obstacle is too big when you get past your self-limiting talk. The negative self-talk you tell yourself is the biggest obstacle standing between you and your personal growth and fulfillment.

Now back to what I had the absolute privilege to witness this weekend …

There was a young man at the meet who had no legs at all and only one arm. This is not someone I saw sitting in a wheelchair in the stands. He was swimming in the meet. He swam the 50 free and the 100 free.

If you aren’t familiar with swim meets, the 100-yard freestyle is 4 laps of the pool. This young swimmer swam 4 laps in one race with one arm, having to turn his body to breath very quickly. Not only did he complete the race, swimming in a heat with other swimmers for the preliminary races, but he was in the pool alone in front of hundreds for his finals race. He also gets in and out of the pool unassisted. He has found a way.

This swimmer is an incredible inspiration to me and embodies what I work on with my clients every day. He is as externally limited as a human being can be. He has real physical challenges. But in some ways, he is freer and more liberated than most of us because he does not self-limit. He has found a way to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles because he wants to swim.

Human beings can overcome most external obstacles as long as we do not tell ourselves “We can’t do it.” That is why the most important words we say are the ones we say to ourselves. Do you tell yourself, “I can do this,” which leads you to go out into the world and try with all of your might until you actually do it and prove yourself right? Or do you tell yourself, “I can’t do it” then go out into the world and prove yourself right???? You prove yourself right either way, but the outcome is sooo incredibly different depending on what you tell yourself.

That young swimmer I watched, he told himself, “I can do it,” and proved himself right.

What self-limiting words do you repeat on a loop in your head? Is it “I’m too old to learn something or try something new?” Is it “I’m not good enough, smart enough?”, “I’m too old to do xyz?”, or is it “I can’t do this until I lose weight?”

Go through your 8 domains and notice what negative stories come up. They might be so automatic at this point, that you aren’t sure what they are. But if you are not completely satisfied in a domain, I’m telling you, there is a negative story there.

  • Where does that neg story come from?
  • How long have you had this story?
  • How loud is your inner-critic?
  • How often do you hear from this inner critic?

We hold ourselves back so much more than anyone else ever could because of how we talk to ourselves. I mean, when we really want to do something, can external obstacles stop us? Nope. We can be incredible advocates for our children and for important causes we believe in. We can move mountains. But we hold ourselves back in ways we would never hold anyone else back. We speak to ourselves in words and in tones we would not use to speak to others.

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