If my best friend had to speak to me the way I speak to myself, I would probably punch them.
What a silly statement but what a profound thought. Why do we give ourselves permission to say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to anyone else? I’m so fat, I’m useless, I’m so ugly, I would never be that lucky. No one takes any notice of me. I’ll never succeed. They are way smarter than me. I could never speak in public. I will never be a leader. I can’t sell.
Now while there may be a little truth in some of the statements, there is no need to affirm them. You may be a little heavier than you would like to be but describing yourself as the fat will only erode your self-image which in turn will erode your self-esteem. Nobody is useless, everybody adds value in one way or another. In terms of ugly, real beauty comes from within. You just need to look at Mother Theresa as an example. And luckily, I have found that the harder I work the luckier I get. Personally I didn’t believe I would amount to much, who was I to be successful? How would this even be possible, my grades weren’t the greatest, there were people way smarter than me, what have I ever done to deserve success?
Change your thoughts, change your life
These are the kind of thoughts that used to consume me until I learned one of life’s most valuable lessons. Change your thoughts, change your life. Today I’m so grateful that I am a lot kinder to myself. When I thought of being a leader it came with much responsibility and what always held me back was the idea of who would listen to me. This always influenced by my self-talk, which went along the lines of “who do you think you are?”
A very good example of how self-talk affects your performance lies in one of my own personal stories. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I left school, but I knew categorically that I didn’t want to go into sales. The reason behind my thought process was, salespeople were extrovert, confident, courageous, well-spoken and to cut a long story short, all the things I was not.
I, however, surprised myself years later, when I discovered that I could in fact sell and not only could I sell, I could do it well. I actually made this discovery by pure accident. My husband and I started a blind manufacturing concern together, just a few months after we started dating. We were fortunate in that it started out very well but just like in any business there are ups and downs. There was a period where the orders started to dry up and it was pretty scary. We still had the responsibility of raising our kids and we had bonds to honour and cars to pay for. What to do? Sell, sell, and sell some more.
I can quite honestly confess, this was probably the scariest time in my life. I had to get on the phone and cold call. I had to go out and drop off pamphlets with strangers. We worked at flea markets trying to get leads and make ends meet. Everything was out of my comfort zone. I had to dig deep, I had to work hard on myself, I had to change my self talk to “I can sell and I will get this next job, we will make a success of our business.”
What happened next was short of a miracle, I could sell and the more I sold, the more confidence I got, which in turn improved my self-image, which improved my performance which raised my self-esteem which helped us bring in way more business. This is so powerful because all that really changed was two simple words……..I went from I can’t to I can.
Don’t sanction the negatives
It is really important that we do not sanction the negatives. When my daughter was still at school, one of her teachers, in front of an entire class said to her, “Claudia, why don’t you put a FOR SALE sign on your head… The brand new brain, never been used before”. Now, while we are able to see the humour in her comment, it really could have been quite damaging. Fortunately, my daughter does not lack in the self-esteem department as she has always been raised in a positive empowering home. Had this not been the case or had she said the same thing to another pupil who suffered from low self-esteem the output could have been very different. The message would have been interpreted as “I’m stupid, I’m an idiot, I can’t do this, I’m a failure, I’m embarrassing.”
It is really so important that we don’t allow negatives into our brains. We have to train ourselves to say things like “that’s not me, I’m better than that.” Once again every time we allow thoughts into our brain that do not depict who we would like to be or what makes us proud, we lower our self-esteem. We need to overwrite and reprogram our brain with positives like, “I’m smart, I’m a winner, I inspire, I am an encourager.” The scary thing about self-talk is your brain literally believes anything you tell it, if you tell it the same story over and over again.
The sad reality is that most people don’t understand how the brain works and why it is necessary to reprogram it periodically.
Understand conditioning for what it is
Low self-esteem or lack of confidence normally come from the same place. We are conditioned to believe certain things about ourselves from our home environment, being influenced from a very early age. If we are continually affirmed and lifted up, inspired to try, encouraged to be the best we can be, our self-esteem is normally intact. The same applies if we are always depicted as a failure. We are reminded of our poor grades, we are made to feel stupid, we get told to forget about being a sportsman/woman, we begin to believe that we will never amount to anything.
I so relate to low self-esteem, believing that I could never be a leader, believing that with my grades I should just be satisfied with a job. I was constantly reminded that I was not a genius and I can quite honestly say I don’t remember too many “I’m so proud of you” moments.
To demonstrate how powerful upbringing and conditioning are, I want to share a story of an exercise that completely revolutionised my life. I was on a course that was carried out over a week where we learned about the self-talk cycle, conditioning, goal setting, etc. On the last day, we were requested to write something about each of the delegates on a sticky piece of paper and to place the said paper on their backs. I respected and valued the input of all those on the course as we had known each other for a number of years. In my mind’s eye, they were all very successful and if I’m perfectly honest, I thought they were all superior to me. We then partnered up with a buddy and we were required to read to each other what others had said about us.
I was flawed……..”A born leader, Coach, Inspirational, Compassionate, Powerful, etc ”… I could not believe my ears and quite honestly I was dumbfounded. I was mesmerised and very taken aback. Certainly, they were not describing me, but they were. I never got out of my seat, I never said a word and then I was approached by the facilitator. She could see how surprised I was at what I had just heard and asked me why I was having such a hard time accepting my appraisal.
We began to unpack my feelings and what transpired was short of amazing. I could never really remember my mom ever affirming me, never telling me how good I was at anything. She never really supported me by ever attending a swimming gala or a netball match. While she seldom ripped me apart she also never made me feel very special. For this reason, my self-talk was always, I’m not special, I will never lead, I’m never going to be a high achiever. For this reason, I found it so difficult to take in and believe the positives because they were so foreign to me.
That day changed my life. I started to become aware of what I was saying to myself and I learned not to allow any negatives into my brain. This meant I spoke to myself very differently and anytime I wanted to tell myself a lie, I recognised it for what it was, a lie. I didn’t allow anyone to speak negatives into my life and I learned to continuously speak to myself only in a positive tone. This takes work and focus but the end result is short of amazing.
Today I am a caring, compassionate, inspirational leader who only wants the best for those who have chosen to follow me. I no longer wallow in self-pity, I no longer have a poor self-image. I constantly work on my self-esteem to ensure that I attract the best that life has to offer.
Vocabulary is very powerful
So be careful what you say to yourself and be careful what you allow others to say to you. Don’t use words like “hope, maybe or I can’t”. Look to replace them with “I will, I’m determined and I can.” Commit to daily affirmations, read positive books, hang around people that affirm you and make you feel good. You will improve your self-image which in turn will raise your self-esteem, which will result in you performing better on every level. You will start to feel proud of yourself and the new you, will encourage and inspire others. You will be a better parent, spouse, friend and colleague.
So change your thoughts and it will change your life.