This week I’m going to be real and open with you about what’s been my biggest struggle. And if I’m to be honest with you, I’m still working through it. Over the years, there is no question that I’ve been my biggest critic. I’ve rarely needed anyone to push me. My throttle is always wide open, plus another click. But I’ve struggled with the wrong view of self-talk. I figured there were enough people around me talking positive about me, so it was my job to bring myself down a notch.
I trained myself to beat myself up with my self-talk, with the plan that it would make me push harder. And it has actually worked pretty well for me, in terms of accomplishments. Even to this this day, I’m deathly afraid of mediocrity, and I promised myself I would never become mediocre. My friends have said, “man, what are you talking about? You don’t even comprehend mediocrity. Your personality will never let that happen.” And they’re probably right, to some degree, but I wasn’t willing to take the risk, so I kept pushing myself relentlessly. I would tell myself “If you don’t pick it up a notch, you’re gonna become worthless!” And if I made a mistake, I would cuss myself under my breath, silently ripping myself to shreds. I would finish angry at myself and turn the throttle another notch to regain any lost ground, and then some.
I found some satisfaction in my successes but I was sure to never give myself a pat on the back, for fear that I would let up a notch, and camp there. As I was putting these thoughts together, I sat and tried to remember the times that my self-talk was positive and re-assuring, and I honestly can’t recall any specific times. I’m sure there have been at least a few instances where I’ve done so, but the negative talk far outweighed any positive re-enforcement. Thankfully God surrounded me with positive people, who respected and believed in me, and they let me know that they did. Otherwise I believe my self-talk would have left me shipwrecked.
The hard part to admit is that although I’d like to say that this is all in the past, that it was years ago, that’s not the case. I kept the same approach and a very similar level of self-talk through my recovery after the avalanche. And it’s easy to say “well, then it must be working well.” But if I’m to be real about the number of nights I’ve cried myself to sleep because I simply can’t accomplish what I expect myself to accomplish, you will hopefully agree that it’s not working well. Sure, I get up and go again, but within the last few months it’s hit me that I’ve got to change my self-talk. I came to the realization that I deeply hated myself. I would even internally yell at myself, silently saying, “You piece of ‘blankety-blank’! If I ever saw you walking down the road, I would beat you to beyond recognition! Your existence makes me sick! If you didn’t have three kids, I’ll kill you faster than you can blink!” Sounds violent, I know, but I’m just being real with you. And then I would settle down and say “man, what is wrong with me? I don’t hate myself. I don’t hate anything. I have so much in life to enjoy and be thankful for. How can I talk like that?” From the outside looking in, many of you are probably shocked to hear this. My life is rich. I have three healthy boys, a gorgeous girlfriend, a nice, comfortable home, reliable transportation, a book that get’s incredible reader feedback, and the opportunity to travel and invest in many lives, young and old. So how could I hate myself? It points right back to self-talk. For years, my negative self-talk has been internally programming me to think that I’m pathetic and worthless, and to eventually hate myself. That’s not a winning formula and it caught up with me.
Did you know that some Olympians have hired professional self-talk trainers in order to train and build up their minds and bodies? Some have said they believe that what got them their gold medal, was learning to self-talk themselves; stronger, faster, and overall better at what they do. They re-programmed their inner computer, just as I’m having to do now. I’m in the process of writing out my talents and abilities, my best traits, and my favorite thing about who I am. I’m taking my time and adding a little here or there, and when I finish, it’s something I’ll refer to when my self-talk starts to dwindle. We can’t be unrealistic about ourselves and happy & giddy all the time. That’s ridiculous. However, we can speak the truth about our abilities, strong points, character traits, and everything positive we bring to this world. Combat the negative self-talk, the lies, with the truth. I’ve had great success by writing out and verbally speaking the truth whenever negativity spikes. As you may know, I’m a strong believer in God. He is my source, and my strength when I get weak. The line I use often is this: “I am a child of God, created in His image. I am valuable. He has a prosperous plan for me. I’m gonna walk out that plan in HIS strength and security.”
How’s your self-talk? What message are you encoding in your internal computer? If it’s negative, don’t wait for it to catch up to you, because it will, and it might end up being too late. If it’s positive, keep it realistic, and keep it humble, but stay that course. In the words of John Maxwell, “Humility doesn’t require thinking less of yourself. It just means that you think of yourself less.” Be humble, but build yourself up with healthy self-talk.