Positive Self-Talk and How to Use it at Work
As we head into another year of working remotely and working online, it may be difficult for some of us to “stay positive” and “keep our heads up.” It’s no secret that working alone can cause feelings of isolation and lack of motivation.
In these uncertain times, it’s important to take care of your mental health while you’re working. Unlike physical office spaces, a home office doesn’t offer a group of coworkers who can chitchat with you and support you throughout the day. The positive affirmation and feedback you might have received from your coworkers is now limited to email threads and structured video-conferences.
When you’re working on your own, the person you deal with the most is...you! This is why self-talk is such a crucial part of working at home. How you treat yourself in times of crisis and work slumps will affect your mental health and overall productivity.
What is Self-Talk?
According to Healthline, self-talk is your inner dialogue; that voice inside your head that helps you make decisions and comments on your thoughts. Depending on your personality, your inner voice may be optimistic, hopeful, critical, or biased. Positive self-talk builds you up, while negative self-talk tears you down.
Negative: “I’m so stupid for making that mistake.”
Positive: “Everyone makes mistakes, and I will learn from this one.”
Negative: “I’ll never be as good as them.”
Positive: “I’ll work to the best of my ability; I have different strengths that I can bring to the table.”
Why is Positive Self-Talk Important?
The way you listen and respond to your self-talk makes a big difference in who you are as a person! It can affect your perception of yourself, your attitude towards work, and even your stress levels, confidence, and motivation.
Some people view negative self-talk and self-criticism as a way for them to learn and challenge themselves. They beat themselves up in their heads in order to improve. But this isn’t effective! Negative self-talk, no matter how you “learn from it,” can really harm your self-esteem, confidence, and motivation. It undermines your sense of drive and purpose, and in severe cases might even lead to anxiety and depression.
On the other hand, positive self-talk comes with a whole list of benefits, including greater life satisfaction, better body image, and reduced stress! Research suggests that positive self-talk helps people to become better problem-solvers, which leads to better stress management and more effective coping mechanisms.
Positive self-talk doesn’t come easily to many people, but it can be learned with practice. Being kind to yourself might be difficult at first, especially if you feel stuck in a cycle of negative self-talk and beating yourself up at work!
Remember! Positive self-talk isn’t about inflating your ego or being narcissistic. It’s about building yourself up and forgiving yourself in these uncertain times, even if everyone around you seems to be “doing better” and “doing more” than you.
The Golden Rule
As kids, we were all taught the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would like others to treat you.” When you start forming a positive self-talk habit, it’s a pretty similar concept! It all boils down to this: don’t say it to yourself if you wouldn’t say it to someone else! You wouldn’t tell your friend that they were stupid, dumb, or not good enough for a task. Why would you say that to yourself?
Identifying negative self-talk is a good way to start a habit of being kind to yourself. You have to know what negative self-talk looks like before you can begin to change it.
Negative self talk can be…
- Mind-reading: assuming others’ feelings and thoughts without real evidence.
“He looks angry. He’s probably mad at me because I messed something up again.”
- Magnification: exaggerating our flaws because we think the worst is going to happen.
“I seemed bored. They’re going to think that I hate them! I’m so selfish!”
- Minimization: disregarding our achievements and feeling inferior as a result
“I got an A on that exam, but I missed a really easy question. I’m dumb.”
- “Should” statements: telling ourselves what we should or shouldn’t have done
“I should have known better, there’s no way I could have come in first.”
- And many more.
Check-in with yourself regularly throughout the day to keep tabs on your self-talk. This might be something you do whenever you have a break between tasks, or when you’re finishing up for the day.
Build a Network
Keep connected with friends and coworkers! It’s much easier to be kind to yourself if you have others who are kind to you as well. Surround yourself with positive people who can both support you and be supported by you. Your outlook on life is very often determined by the attitudes of the people you’re close with, so you can see why it’s important to be encouraging in your peer group!
At the end of each day, or at a break time during the day, take a moment to exchange some thoughts and feelings. How is everyone doing? What was something positive that happened to you today? What did you struggle with? Being open with your group can help you build stronger connections.
Encourage everyone to be kinder to themselves, and highlight each others’ strengths--so often we don’t give ourselves enough credit for things we’re good at!
You’ve probably seen “vision boards” across social media, with people sharing inspiring images of their colourful workstations decorated with motivational quotes. These photo-collages often feature goals and dreams that people want to work towards. And they actually work!
Vision boards like these help you to visualize your goals every time you look at them. And the science checks out! A study on weightlifters showed that the same brain patterns emitted while they were lifting weights were also present when the athlete simply visualized lifting weights.
Fill your vision board with quotes and images that make you feel peaceful, inspired, and motivated. It’s not just about compiling images of successful people, but about creating a holistic vision for the goal you’re trying to reach.
As you bring these goals to the front of your mind, your brain emits these patterns that line up with your goals. When you put together a workstation that lifts you up and motivates you, your brain is more likely to follow suit.
Simply having these goals and statements in physical form in front of you can help you stay in a positive self-talk mindset as you go about your day! You might decide to frame a printed quote, set it as your computer wallpaper, or even put it on a sticky note by your desk.
Remember! At the end of that day, it’s all about what works for you. Your self-talk looks different from everyone else’s, and it’s all about taking time to figure out how you can motivate yourself to be the best you can be.
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