If you pay attention, you will notice that words can have a great influence on our feeling, beliefs, and behaviour.
Some words have a demanding effect to our unconscious mind. For example, notice that when you tell yourself “I have to eat”, you give an order to yourself to eat right away, compared to when you say “I want to eat”, meaning that you wish to eat but you don’t necessarily eat right away.
Words like “should”, “must”, and “ought to” have a similar effect. These words unconsciously lead us to all-or-nothing thinking. For example, when you tell yourself “I should do my homework”. This will make you think it’s an absolute necessity for you to do your homework. It’s either you do it or not at all.
“Should”, “must”, and “ought to” can be useful if you need a motivation to complete a task. For example, if you tell yourself “I must finish my homework tonight”. Afterwards, you make yourself finish your homework. Or, when you tell yourself “I should go to school now”, then you will leave your house immediately to go to school.
“If you don’t respond to this talk with positive and encouraging words, you will feel guilty and eventually believe that you are stupid.”
However, those words can also generate strong negative feeling because it can make us think there is no room for improvement and often lead us to unrealistic expectations.
For example, when you forget to bring your homework book to school, you probably will tell yourself “I shouldn’t have forgotten that”. Later on, this will trigger a new negative thought, such as “I’m stupid”.
Take a look at the “I shouldn’t have forgotten that” talk, this created an unrealistic expectation. If you don’t respond to this talk with positive and encouraging words, you will feel guilty and eventually believe that you are stupid.
“You learned that why your words matter. Not only will they influence your decision making, but also they will affect how you feel.”
If you catch yourself in a similar situation, or if you have a habit of talking negatively to yourself, learn to change. You can start with replacing the words “have to”, “should”, “ought to”, and “must” with more compassionate and encouraging words, such as “I want to”, “I wish to”, “I am trying to” etc.
Well, I understand that sometimes you can’t help but automatically generate negative self-talk, and that is a normal reaction. Just remember to give them a response by using more encouraging words.
For example, you can say, “I do wish I didn’t forget my homework book. Next time, I’ll prepare the night before and make sure all stuff that I need is in my bag. I’m not stupid, maybe last night I was too busy with something else and I got distracted.”
Doesn’t this sound better in your mind?
“Paying attention to how you feel is part of self-care practice. Positive talk generates positive feeling and thus, improves your quality of life.”
Not only you will feel better about yourself by forgiving the mistake that you made, but you also will build a sense of self-worth. Don’t be too hard on yourself, everybody makes mistakes. And hey, that’s how we learn and grow.
An additional piece of advice from me is when you talk to yourself using certain words, try to observe how it’s affecting your emotion. Does it produce positive or negative emotion? In either case, give them a response.
Think about how you would talk to a kid, your boss, or someone you love. Do you think it’s okay to talk to them with critical and absolutely demanding words? Of course not. You know that it would damage their self-esteem and self-worth, and on top of that, it’s disrespectful.
Now, you are probably wondering what self-talk has to do with self-care? Just like the example above, we want to respect ourselves and make us feel okay with ourselves.
You learned that why your words matter. Not only will they influence your decision making, but also they will affect how you feel. Start to choose your words wisely when you want to talk to yourself. Only use the “should”, “must”, and “have to” when you need them.
Paying attention to how you feel is part of self-care practice. Positive talk generates positive feeling and thus, improves your quality of life.
Don’t give up or get frustrated easily. Forming a new habit requires lots of practice and involves a lot of self-reflection until you can master it. Spending more time on yourself is the best investment you can make and you will thank yourself later.