What is your self-talk telling you?

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We all have self-talk, pretty much all of the time. Sometimes we have positive self-talk, sometimes it’s negative. Just in the same way that if someone else tells you in no uncertain terms about all your flaws, you are likely believe some or all of it, the words you use with your own self-talk will have an impact on your day to day life, business performance, sports performance or self-belief.

The way we react to setbacks or pressure is often dictated by the language we use in our self-talk.

Can you change the self-talk? Yes, you absolutely can. Do this and your working / sporting performance will improve, your confidence will increase, anxiety levels will reduce and you’ll simply have more fun!

What is self-talk

Self-talk is the inner monologue that runs through your mind all day. Some of the time it’s completely trivial “there must be a bus route along this route - the overhanging trees have a square cutout shape at about the height of a bus”. Some of it is positive “That was a great training session, I felt so strong and positive in the water, I can’t wait until the big day”. But, it can be negative too, and I’ve suffered with this a lot of in the past myself “Why am I even doing this, I’m not good enough - everyone else looks great, I’m just a fraud.”

Each and every day this monologue continues. Every day this monologue will be helping to build or chip away at your self-beliefs and confidence.

Your self-talk can be your greatest tool or your biggest enemy.


Climbing the stairs to self-belief

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All too often I hear comments that indicate that someone feels out of control of their own thought processes. They try to use willpower to improve their outcome, whether that is making better food choices, being more positive about your big event or being more focused at work or in training.

At the end of the day, it is you, talking to you, you are in control, even if it doesn’t feel like that. Tempting as it is to blame your annoying teammate, a member of the family, your friend, you can always choose your reaction.

Often this comes down to habit, to routine. We do so much through automatic routines. Quite frankly we wouldn’t be able to function or get out of the house each day without creating helpful routines. Think about the things that you do automatically, without thinking:

  • Breathing

  • Understanding how your watch works

  • Getting dressed

  • Cleaning your teeth

  • Making your favourite breakfast

  • How to operate your car

  • The list goes on

If you had to consciously think through all of the steps in all of your routines it would probably take so much effort that you’d be exhausted before you even left the house!

So these are the positive routines that help you to function. We also run unhelpful routines. When these routines started it was often in response to a one time event that your subconscious didn’t like and wanted to protect you from. It created a response that became a routine that it loyally runs every day to keep you safe. That’s why it’s so difficult to break a negative habit with willpower alone. You can do it for so long and then, wham, your focus slips and you fall off the wagon. Habit wins again.

Hopefully, that makes you feel a little better about your apparent lack of willpower at times. Through hypnosis we can find out the positive intention of that part of you that appears to be sabotaging all your efforts and find an alternative and helpful way for your subconscious to protect you whilst allowing you to stop the unhelpful routine. It will feel like suddenly you have a super boost of willpower and self-belie!!

At the end of the day, that doesn’t mean that it’s only you that impacts your mood and resolve, I’m sure you can remember times when someone said just the right thing at just the right time and it was the difference that made the difference. Sometimes you just need to borrow other people’s belief in you until you find your own again. It is your self-belief that is important though.

Have you ever noticed that the higher you get up the steps in that picture, the more your performance and confidence increases? You will probably also have noticed that more opportunities present themselves to you.

Not only does confidence and performance increase as you go up the stairs, they accelerate rapidly the further you go.

Have a think about the times when you have been the most successful and think back to your self-talk, I bet it matched with the self talk that someone towards the top of the stairs would use. I bet your physiology was more open. I bet if someone looked at you on that day they could visibly see that you were in a great place. That makes absolute sense as it would be very difficult to achieve something extraordinary if you keep telling yourself that you can’t or you’re not good enough.

The most successful athletes and business people often adopt a singular mindset where the only thought they’ll entertain is ‘I will’. Anything less leaves a way out, a reason to stop, an excuse. ‘I will’ is absolute and impossible to misinterpret.

So, if you find yourself on the bottom step or walking down the steps, it may seem like a huge stretch to even get half way up the stairs. If you’re somewhere around the middle or walking up the stairs, getting to the top is a small stretch. If you’re not at the top, why not take some help - you belong on the top step!

Signs of negative self-talk


It’s not just the words that you use. How you carry yourself will say a lot for what is going through your head. Head shaking, slumped shoulders, sighs when things don’t go exactly how you want, despite the fact that you may not even know exactly what it is you want. You may just feel like you’re going along with whatever the ask is, but merely going along with it isn’t the same as being positive. The brain can’t handle a negative (think about those ‘wet paint, don’t touch’ signs - don’t you really want to touch the wet paint?), if you keep telling yourself what you don’t want, your brain has to first consider what it doesn’t want before it can think about something else - you’re locking in negativity.

Where does negative self talk come from?

Focusing on past issues

All those sessions where I got out early - I just can’t handle the enormity of the training

The past is in the past and should be left there. It’s not helpful to continually remind yourself of something that can’t be changed. Learn what you need to learn and move on. Perhaps it could actually have been your finest learning opportunity?

Focusing on what we see as our flaws

I’m so fat, I can’t believe I let myself get like that. Why do I keep eating the wrong stuff, I don’t even particularly like it.

None of us are perfect. Why do we only compare our flaws to others’ strengths and not our strengths with others’ weaknesses? If you keep telling yourself that you can’t do something, the chances are you’ll live down to your own label.

Focusing only on the result

Failure isn’t an option for me, I have to swim the channel

Like anyone is going to plan to fail at a channel swim! By focusing only on the result and not on the process of getting there you take focus away from the things that you can control - your attitude, your training, your preparation. There will always be some things that you can’t control, spending energy on those things is pointless.

Having a ‘reason’ or excuse for everything

It wasn’t my fault, Fred said they’d support me but didn’t turn up. I wasn’t as fast as I deserved because ……..

You can have results or excuses. People who get results don’t need excuses. Some people will claim not to have excuses but instead they have really good reasons why things didn’t go to plan - reasons are just excuses, wrapped up nicely. As long as you have an excuse you’re not taking responsibility for your outcome.

Expecting perfection

I have to do absolutely everything that’s asked of me on absolutely every training session

It can be fabulous to set high standards. Make sure that those standards are achievable, by which I mean achievable by you. A standard that involves comparing yourself to others may not be particularly helpful. I’m going to do a better presentation than Bob - what if Bob does a blinder - great for Bob, and it doesn’t diminish the outstanding presentation that you’ve done and on any other day would be better than any Bob. Or, I’m a faster swimmer than Felicity, so why is her channel swim faster than mine? There are so many factors there, many were outside of your control - weather and tide are great examples. How you prepared is, however, in your control. You can’t shortcut good training.

All in all, how we talk to and about ourselves can and will impact our performance.

What are the benefits of improving your own self-talk

Start of my 2018 English Channel Solo

Start of my 2018 English Channel Solo

This is much easier to easily relate to. There are many benefits of good self-talk:

  • You’ll be more focused on the things that you can actually control and will improve your performance faster

  • Positive self-talk will help you navigate the tough times

  • It is a natural confidence boost

  • When negative self-talk would tell you that it’s all going horribly wrong and you’re doomed, positive self-talk would tell you that you’ve experienced a similar situation in the past and it all worked out ok in the end, therefore, you can do this!

  • If you tell yourself you can do it, you can keep going and then you do exactly that, you are building your success pattern. Keeping going becomes a positive habit - a positive learned routine.

Types of self-talk

Instruction based

If you are aiming to perfect a skill, this is the type of self-talk for you. It’s like having a coach in your head and and hand when you need them. Reminding you of the technique tips - head still, good extension, over the barrel for the catch in swimming - whatever it is that you are working on. If you’re giving a presentation it could be about how you stand, where you look, smiling.

It can be a great distraction during times of pressure or stress.


This , unsurprisingly, helps with your motivation - ‘You’ve got this’, ‘Trust the training’, ‘You are soooo ready’.

Tweaking your self-talk

Dealing with unhelpful ‘parts’

As I said earlier, we run hundreds / thousands of routines every day. Most of these are essential to everyday life. Then there is that ‘part’ of you that just seems to be sitting there waiting to undo all your positive resolve. I have a simple hypnosis technique to get that part of you to switch behaviour to something that is useful to you.

Change the context

When it is you experiencing an issue it can be all encompassing. Fears of big events can be significant when it is you going through it. If your self-talk is along the lines of ‘I can do this’ or ‘I am brilliant’ it can be quite difficult to be congruent enough to believe and doesn’t necessarily relieve the stress that you may be feeling.

However, switch it to the third person ‘James, you’ve got this’ or ‘Lucy, remember all the training you did to get here’ it is like a pocket pep talk from a coach or trusted leader.

Act as if

If you stand with the posture of someone nervous, scared, stressed etc you will find it pretty difficult to also have a positive mindset. However, if you combine positive self-talk as above with the posture of someone who is confident, it will change how you feel and therefore what you believe. Act like the person that you want to be. Ultimately if you act for long enough, there is no difference between acting and being.

I wonder if you’ve suddenly realised that you have some unhelpful routines running your life and undermining your determination. If that is true, please get in touch now, I’d love to help you.

emma@emma2france.com ~ 07702 814690