Why do we talk aloud to ourselves? Whether at home or out and about, self-talk can become an embarrassing habit. Tamsin, 41, has always spoken to herself in a negative way. After making a mistake, she would often criticise herself out loud for being stupid or clumsy. During a therapy session, the therapist asked: ‘Who told Tamsin she was such a silly child?’ It was then that she realised those negative words were not hers. They were a trigger, coming from a primary school teacher. From that day on, Tamsin learned to identify and reject those words. And she hasn’t spoken to herself since – instead, she sings.
Private speech is an essential part of child development – it facilitates learning and memory. But despite its value, we learn at a young age that talking to ourselves is socially unacceptable. Strangely, this tendency to vocalise our internal dialogue seems to kick back in adulthood. In fact, self-talk can be a coping mechanism or a motivational tool in adults. But excessive self-talk can affect our mood and be a sign of stress or depression. So what can you do to control it?
Examine the voice and make the distinction Who is speaking when you talk to yourself? Is it you? Or are you repeating words your parents and other people have said? Analyse the things you have heard from others. Reject all the negative judgements about who you are. Sometimes we can also use gestures. ‘When critical speech sets in, interrupt it by raising a hand and shouting, “Stop!”’ suggests clinical psychologist Laurie Hawkes.
Train yourself to say positive words Talking out loud to yourself is common and can be beneficial. So encourage the positive side of it. Start by choosing a name you would want to call yourself – like ‘darling’ or ‘love’. This is a useful trick to improve your self-esteem and boost your confidence.
Allow yourself a daily dose of free self-talk An outburst of self-talk can be a sign of over-thinking. If you think too much, your thoughts will demand a way out. You can avoid thoughts from coming out in a negative way by giving yourself time to speak: set yourself five minutes a day to talk aloud freely and frankly.