It was my first improvisers show. I was about to go on stage when the voice inside my head started screaming ‘Stop! This is going to be a disaster! You’re going to embarrass yourself big time!’ I shook my head, scattering those negative/pessimistic words and took a deep breath. There was no way anxiety was going to sabotage my night. I exhaled slowly and strode confidently out centre stage.
The show was a success. I performed to the best of my abilities.
The thing is, before I learnt how to master anxiety, that internal voice would either have stopped me dead in my tracks or would have continued to berate me during my performance, thereby pretty much ensuring my performance would be a disaster.
The structure of anxiety is very simple: an internal voice repeats a message of fear, danger, or lack of ability and this elicits a sequence of physical feelings, which we label “anxiety.”
We all have an internal voice. It’s the way we talk to ourselves inside our heads. People differ in how much they talk to themselves, but everyone does it to some extent. Trust me, it’s completely normal.
The message our internal voice delivers is often referred to as self-talk or inner chat.
“How we treat ourselves or ‘talk’ to ourselves can have a major impact on how happy (or not) we feel overall.”
~ Steve Andreas NLP Coach
What we say to ourselves, and how we say it, has a direct impact on the way we think and behave. Our self-talk often provides us with very useful information and direction, but more often than not it is disempowering, unhelpful and perhaps hurtful. Letting our self-talk run wild and out of control is never a good thing, because too much negative self-talk can lead to anxiety, and anxiety is a major cause of stress.
Stop reading for a second. Stop! Now…
Don’t read on until you can answer this question. What are you saying to yourself right now, at this very moment?
I’d be surprised if your answer was ‘nothing’ because it’s been estimated that the average person has roughly 65,000 individual thoughts every day (don’t ask me how they were able to arrive at this figure). That essentially means our internal voice is talking to us pretty much all the time, mostly below the level of our awareness – like a constant whisper that’s too low for us to hear.
It’s been estimated that 95% of these 65,000 thoughts/messages are the same as we gave ourselves yesterday (i.e. they’re habitual), and 80% of these repeated messages are of a negative/pessimistic nature. So most of the time we are beating ourselves up or disempowering ourselves. Do any of these messages sound familiar? –
‘I’m useless’, ‘I’m ugly’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ’I’m fat’, ‘Everyone hates me,’ ‘It’s going to be a disaster’, ‘Why bother?’, ‘You loser!’,’Why is life so cruel to me?’ and on and on and on …..
People who experience a lot of negative self-talk are often willing to do almost anything to quieten the voice and avoid the bad feelings that the voice produces. They seek distractions of various kinds such as excessive drinking, using drugs, overeating, self-harm. Many of these behaviours only provide temporary relief and have unpleasant long-term consequences.
Because our self-talk ‘just happens’, largely outside of our awareness, most people find it impossible to stop or to avoid it. However, once we learn to pay closer attention, we can start to catch our self-talk in action. That puts us back in control and enables us to take action to transform our self-talk and enjoy the positive impact doing so has on our lives.
This ability to transform self-talk is a key skill I teach the clients on my anxiety mastery programme.
NLP Coach Steve Andreas suggests that rather than argue or try and silence troublesome self-talk it’s much more effective to make small changes in how we listen to it. Here are some exercises you can experiment with to help you change the way you listen to your inner voice when it’s being negative/pessimistic.
If self-talk is troubling you and you’d like to develop the skills to transform it, I can help you. Simply give me a call (021 056 8389) or send me a message via the contact form on this website. Just imagine having a variety of ways to rapidly change the voice, the words, and how you say those words and the positive impact that will have on your life.
Right now I’m offering a limited number of free one hour anxiety mastery coaching consultations. Simply click here to read more about how you can take advantage of this opportunity.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Buddha:
“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.”
Go well & have a wonderful week.
Tony Yuile is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Personal Transformation Coach based in Wellington, NZ where he specialises in helping people suffering from anxiety, stress, panic, phobias, trauma, depression and other anxiety related issues. Tony uses a range of techniques that may include coaching, clinical hypnotherapy, mindfulness, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and various psychotherapy approaches. If you are looking for 1:1 tailored support, contact Tony today to discuss what options might be available to you. If you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch.
This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.