Migrated from Blogger – original post November 10th, 2007

I read once that our ego doesn’t understand sarcasm—so if someone says to us “You are such a loser”, even in jest, than that statement as it stands is filed away in our brains exactly like that.

Years ago, while visiting a distant family member I saw that she had all of these positive statements (“You are a winner!” and “You are your own best friend” etc) written out and taped throughout her house and car. At the time I kind of snickered to myself and thought it silly that she ‘needed some piece of paper to make herself feel good’. But after reading the factoid about our egos not understanding sarcasm it made me question my easy dismissal of her ‘feel good’ messages.

Years later, as I studied different psychology texts and life coaching techniques I ran into many references to the positive effects of positive self-talk. It caused me to re-visit my premises and to acknowledge and recognize the real value this technique could have on people’s lives. I began to watch how I spoke about myself, and how my husband and family members spoke of themselves and others. It was an eye-opening experience.

Have you ever said to yourself, “How could I have been so stupid?” or “Did I leave my brain at home this morning?” or a variety of similar negative thoughts or verbal statements. It isn’t hard to do, especially in our busy lives.

The other day I placed an ad for my organizing business in a local circular. I sent off the ad to the publisher, looked over the proof they sent me back, told them it looked great and to go ahead and print it. Two days after the circular was printed a woman called asking for more information on my company. In the course of talking to her she informed me that my website wasn’t listed on the ad (I had been referring to it during the phone call). I was so embarrassed. I gave her the website, answered a few more questions, and after the phone call ended I immediately dug up my paperwork, hoping there had been a mistake on the publisher’s end of things.

No such luck. I had screwed up and forgotten to list the website! Aaarrgggh! My mother came in and asked me if I was alright after hearing tormented sounds issuing from my office. I stopped myself just in time from saying, “I can’t believe I was so stupid!”

But even though I didn’t say it out loud, I thought it. Later that evening as I was reviewing it again, and beating myself up for not being more thorough or attentive, I remembered how destructive and limiting negative self-talk can be. I told myself that I had to learn from my mistake and go on, because there was nothing more I could do to fix it other than call the publisher and correct it for next month’s issue. So I called the publisher and did just that. The corrected ad (with the website listed!) will appear in next month’s publication of Mother & Child Reunion.

A close family member of mine is terrible about the negative self-talk. It actually really bothers me how she talks about herself. And I also see how deeply it affects her self-esteem and ability to improve her life. It literally paralyzes her ability to grow, learn from the experience, and go forward. She is just too busy reviewing her past mistakes, instead of accepting them as learning experiences and getting on with her life!

If you are ‘guilty’ of this then consider some of the following tips, they will help you to construct a better, more positive self-concept:

· Learn to notice and identify negative or self-criticizing thoughts. Become aware of how much you think negatively about yourself and diminish your personal importance.

· Speak positively to yourself. Stop the insults and self-criticism. Instead practice positive and affirming self-talk.

· Convert all of your “shoulds” into “coulds.” If you feel you should be doing something that is not particularly important to you, or is based on what other people think you should do, try to forget it. Challenge yourself to do only those activities that will reinforce your positive self-concept and strengthen you.

· Exercise! Physical exercise is an excellent way for you to strengthen your self-concept. In addition to improving your appearance and health, physical exercise nurtures positive thoughts and feelings, as bio-chemicals released by the brain during exercise create a natural and healthy high.

· Learn to differentiate between the things you can control and the things you cannot. You have absolutely no power to change another person’s chosen behavior. Recognize and use your personal power to change yourself and design and engineer your own life in the way you choose – leave changes in other’s lives to other’s!

· Learn from your mistakes without self-punishment. There are not mistakes, only lessons. Humans learn through experience. The only time we encounter problems is when we fail to learn the lessons life constantly sends our way the first time they occur.

We only get this one life. Stop wasting minutes, hours, or even weeks or months of your life wishing you had done something different or mentally whipping yourself over your mistakes and instead focus your energies on how you can learn from your experiences and apply them to the next challenge life throws your way!