Self talk is a difficult thing to understand mostly because it tends to happen below the level of conscious awareness. I’d like to present an exercise that, in theory, will help you assess your own body image related self-talk. It’s called the reflection exercise.Step 1: Imagine the you are standing in front of a full length mirror. Step 2: Write down all the thoughts that come to your mind. Do not censor or change the thoughts. Step 3: Read back over the thoughts. What is your reaction? (Do you get angry, feel sad, etc.) Step 4: Imagine you are witnessing one person say your thoughts to another person. It can be any two people: friends, mother and daughter, etc. How do you react this time?
You may have found from this exercise that your body image is pretty positive and your self talk does not elicit much of a reaction. You may have also found that your self talk is on the mean side and it made feel uncomfortable to read the thoughts back.
You can see that if you have negative self talk, then you are always making yourself feel some negative emotion, whether you are aware of it or not, and that has a direct impact on your ability to function. When you don’t feel good, everything becomes harder.
The real kicker though, is step 4. If there is a difference between how you feel when you say something to yourself and when you witness someone else say it, it’s time to think about what that means. Most often people are more ok with being mean to themselves than they are with seeing one person bully another.
If this is the case for you, then you may not value yourself enough. The issue of self worth is another topic entirely but it may explain the origin of your self talk and give you a way to start changing it!
Please share your thoughts on this exercise. What does your self talk look like? Were you surprised by anything?