Does Self-Talk Sabotage Your Success? A Simple Shift Can Change Your Life

The most influential and frequent voice you hear is your inner-voice. It can work in your favor or against you, depending on what you listen to and act upon.”

– Maddy Malhotra



We know the words by heart. We’ve heard them all our lives. “We can be our best friend or our worst enemy.” In fact, we’ve probably said them to others as often as we have to ourselves – but certainly not as often as we remember our parents reciting them to us.  It’s that constant self-talk that gets us every time.


It’s true. We can become victims of our self-talk, or heroes of our story.  The choice is ours to pick up on the telltale signs that we’re doing ourselves in, change our thoughts and ultimately change our lives – and those we care about for the better, simply by selecting the right words to help free us of our negativity. It’s not always easy.


In a previous blog, I mentioned that the typical human has over 50,000 thoughts a day and the majority of them are negative. We try to overcome self-sabotaging thoughts to help change our attitude and increase productivity. That helps, but it’s no cure-all. Obviously, getting rid of our demons takes a conscious effort, and despite our best attempts, it’s often an uphill struggle.  After all, we’ve been talking to ourselves all our lives.  We have a lot of automatic responses to overcome and a new mindset to embrace.


How we talk to ourselves is complicated.  What we say to ourselves is a product of how we were spoken to as little children. We learned through imitation and repetition. Yes, proper words help.  When we’re encouraged, we gain confidence. If we are reprimanded we lose it. All the while, our lives go on. But we can actually gain control of our self-talk by a simple technique that shifts our perspective and helps us distance ourselves from the seemingly negative inner voice that holds us back.


I read an article in ‘Psychology Today’, about a research study that may provide an important link to why some people are able to use self-talk to their advantage and succeed, while others are stuck in the muck. The theory made perfect sense, and validated by the results of the study, clearly show that by making one simple change in the way we speak to ourselves, we can rid ourselves of the inner ‘yammies’ that hold us back.


In a series of experiments, Psychologist, Ethan Kross proved that people who referred to themselves by name,’ rather than in the ‘first person’ (I or me), were able to distance themselves psychologically – and neurologically from the problem at hand, and by doing do actually gained perspective, had more self-confidence, performed better and achieved greater success than those who referred to themselves as ‘I’ in their inner dialogues.


Simply going from ‘I’ to ‘John’ (for example), flips a switch in our thought center(cerebral cortex) and ‘lizard’ brains (amygdalas) that allows us to psychologically distance ourselves from the subjective “I”, to the more objective “John,” and enables us to think clearer, perform better and minimizes angst, depression and negativity.  We see ourselves in more objective terms and are able to make more rational decisions.


Think about it. Transitioning from first to third person, we become observers of our problem rather than active participants, and better able to see solutions with a clearer eye.


There’s a variety of ways we can apply the findings to our every day lives.  Why not give it a shot and let me know how you make out:

  • When you can’t seem to find a way around that sticky problem
  • When you need to overcome your fear of public speaking and actually make that presentation you’ve been putting off.
  • When you need to overcome a fear or phobia (like heights when you have a meeting on the top floor of a skyscraper, or bridges, tunnels, or even snakes)
  • When you make that sales call you’ve been putting off
  • At a networking event or mixer when you feel like a fish out of water.


So remember  – even when you stub your toe or get distracted and walk into a wall, rather than telling yourself, ‘I’m stupid,’ simply flip the switch.  Use the ‘third person, (your name), and resolve to simply pay more attention next time.

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