Recently, I was putting together a confidence building course. I was struggling to work out what I wanted to include, and how to put the whole programme together. I ended up questioning whether or not I was actually up for the job! My self-talk was about why I thought anyone would want to hear what I had to say and what did I know about helping people build their confidence? Was I ever getting in my way!

Old habits – The default, under pressure

I realised that I was putting myself under pressure, and because of that, I had reverted to old habits. It was as if I had old software running, with outdated programmes. They were creaky and outdated, but I was still trying to run them in my operating system today.  (Because I was working in a situation that called for confidence, that’s what I was hitting in my ‘software glitch’; I was crushing my own confidence with my negative patterns of inner dialogue.

We learned our self-talk and habitual behaviour when we were small

We learn many of our behaviours and habitual patterns during our very early years, through trial and error. We make assumptions and draw conclusions based on limited understanding, often being from pre-verbal times. Despite some mistaken logic and very limited experience from that time, we use what works. Trouble is, it might not work as well now we are adult, as it did when we were very small.
The old software has developed glitches and causes all kinds of errors and unintended knock-on effects in our everyday lives. We need to change our thinking, to install more up-to-date software.
The down-side is we will have to think and put in some effort to change. The up-side is that we now have the benefit of a lot more experience than the little under-5-year-old who made the original conclusions. If we pay attention to our internal dialogue or self-talk we may notice certain patterns in our speech.
For instance, I might say:
  • “You silly thing, you always lose your car keys. You should put them back in your handbag when you get home!”
  • “I never finish on time at work so I can go to the gym in the evening”
  • “I ought to have saved more of my money instead of booking a holiday – that was a selfish thing to do!”
  • “I should take the kids to the park, even though I have a pounding headache”.

Change the software: Learn some new habits

When we ‘hear’ or notice the words “always”, “never”, “ought”, “should”, We can rethink our self-talk and adjust our inner dialogue to a more encouraging way of talking. After all, would we talk this way to a friend?
So changing the Self-Talk Programming into something more encouraging will help us:
  1. Stay motivated
  2. Cut out judgements of our self-worth
  3. Stop comparisons of ourselves to others
  4. Separate the deed from the “do-er”
  5. Feel more encouraged
  6. Build our resilience
  7. Reduce feelings of anxiety
  8. Cut down on feelings of shame and inadequacy
Here are some ‘software updates’! When you ‘catch’ yourself getting into old patterns of self talk, try out some of these ideas:
  • Describe what you are doing, (instead of how)
  • Notice what is working and going well (no matter how small)
  • Keep talk specific to what is happening now (instead of using “always” and “never” statements)
  • Instead of “should” and “ought” substitute “I choose to…” or “I would like to…” or ”perhaps I could…”
  • Instead of “x makes me feel angry/sad/annoyed”, etc., “I feel angry when this happens”
  • Notice when ‘old’ programming sets in and change to new patterns of speech, to boost your confidence
Building new patterns and habits isn’t easy but it is worth the work. You will feel encouraged and connected and confident, just by changing a few words consistently.
Question: What old programmes have you got running? Time for a software update!
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