Change Your Words, Change Your Life: How Self-Talk Affects Happiness


Have you ever had to stand up in front of a room of 40-plus people and say three things you love about yourself? If you are anything like me, let me tell you, it is a perfect recipe for a panic attack.

In my Psychology of Interpersonal Relations class, my professor made every single student do just that.

It was an activity that segued into the topic of self-talk and self-esteem, one that many young adults my age might not often think about, at least not consciously.

After we each completed the nerve-racking activity, my professor made a point to say that if we found the task uncomfortable and became anxious, it probably meant we don't talk to ourselves enough, at least not positively.

After becoming aware of the different kinds of self-talk in which we participate daily, people began sharing what they say to themselves on a daily basis.

Interestingly enough, almost everyone who shared stories was female. One girl told everyone how she missed one answer on an online statistics exam and immediately called herself "stupid" and "idiotic" throughout the rest of the exam.

Although she received an impressive grade overall, she could not stop beating herself up over the question she answered incorrectly.

Another girl said almost every day, as she is getting ready for class or work, she looks in the mirror and points out each and every flaw she can find.

It's a guaranteed way to make herself miserable first thing in the morning. These are just two examples of the many ways that self-talk can be detrimental to a person's confidence.

Psychological and brain sciences professor Susan Whitbourne has studied research revolving around self-talk, depression and other topics to prove just how life-changing your inner monologue can be.

Whitbourne points out the Rogelberg study, which was conducted by University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Steven Rogelberg and his colleagues.

The team studied how the context and nature of self-talk affects managers in leadership positions.

Based on the evaluation of 189 senior executive managers, Rogelberg made each one write a letter to him or herself that discussed his or her plans and accomplishments relating to his or her job.

The results found that the managers who engaged in positive self-talk in their letters were more motivated to accomplish goals and complete tasks.

The people who wrote letters that included destructive self-talk tended to shy away from challenges that they faced while focusing on the negative aspects of situations.

Rogelberg found that, as he expected, managers engaging in positivity were more desirable, creative, and their work-related outcomes correlated with these traits.

However, self-talk doesn't just affect your leadership status and work ethic. The Mayo Clinic Staff found that positive self-talk actually has health benefits related to it.

These include longer life spans, lower rates of depression, lower levels of distress, greater resistance to the common cold, better psychological and physical well-beings, reduced risk of death related to cardiovascular disease and, of course, better coping skills during times of stress. Who doesn't want those?

If the health benefits aren't enough to convince you to be nicer to yourself, think about this: People are attracted to confident people.

Whether it be sexually or just as a friendship, everyone wants to be surrounded by people who are comfortable in their own skin and make others feel the same way.

Confidence is sexy; we all know it. So, why do we still waste our time destroying our egos?

With that being said, I encourage everyone to make him or herself more aware of how you talk to yourself, whether during an exam, while you're getting ready for a party or during the late hours of the night (which, if you're anything like me, tend to be the worst).

For every negative thing you say about yourself, replace it with something positive and watch your self-esteem grow. Over time, you will find that when you change your words, you can change your life.