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Wisdom Wednesday: The Power of Self-Talk

What do you say to yourself when you look into the mirror? Picasso's "Girl Before Mirror" (Photo by me)
What do you say to yourself when you look into the mirror?
Picasso’s “Girl Before Mirror” (Photo by me)

This post begins with a difficult admission.  I used to be a mean girl. Years ago,  I would speak horribly to someone who I was supposed to be nurturing, loving, and building up.  Nearly everyday, I’d utter phrases that hurt. Sometimes I’d mutter under my breath,”Your hair looks terrible!”  On other occasions, I’d whisper,”Your skin is awful!”  And sometimes, when I was feeling particularly hateful, I’d say loud enough for everyone to hear,”If you weren’t so fat, you’d have clothing that fits!”  I didn’t say these things to my children, or my friends. I said them to myself and I didn’t think they were bothering anyone but me. After all, I spent the majority of my day building up others.  As a teacher, I used only positive words in my classroom.  As a mom, I never missed an opportunity to tell my daughters how wonderful I knew they were.

Then one day, I was school shopping with my, then 10 year-old, daughter. In the middle of trying on new pants, she looked in the mirror and blurted out, “These jeans make me look fat!”   She certainly wasn’t overweight and I asked her why she would say that about herself.  “You say it when you look in the mirror, Mom.”  Her reply hit me like a ton of bricks.  I did say that to myself, and more.

After an apologetic discussion and heartfelt assurance of her perfect size and beauty, I promised to stop speaking harshly to myself.  This was not an easy task.  I’d suffered from poor self-esteem most of my life and after my divorce, my self-worth plummeted even further. I’d formed deeply ingrained, negative self-talk behaviors that felt too hard to break, but I certainly didn’t want to be a bad example to my children and I was tired of feeling bad about myself.

I couldn’t afford counseling at the time, but I had read that it takes 30 days of consistent practice to break most habits.  I decided that for the next 30 days anytime a negative thought about my appearance entered my mind that I would counter it, out loud, with a positive statement about myself.  This was difficult, because it often felt like I was lying to myself.  My head would tell me, “Ugh! You look rough today!” but my voice would sing, “You look beautiful.  I love you!  I feel good about myself!” 

Over and over, day after day, I kept up with my experiment.  Oftentimes, my young daughters would catch me praising myself and giggle.  I would then remind them of their beauty, inside and out. Soon, I began to hear them complimenting themselves, and each other, laced with happy laughter,  in the mornings before school.

Sixteen years later, I still have my same routine.  My adult kids will still giggle when they walk in on me finishing up my makeup and saying, “Damn, I look good today!”  They know I’m not a raging narcissist, but they also know that I now believe my words to be true. In the midst of caring for, and about others, I care about myself, too.


What are you saying to yourself? Have you ever broken a negative habit?  How did you do it?


***If you would like to participate in Wisdom Wednesdays, please email me at I’d love to read stories of how life’s situations have helped you gain personal wisdom.  I welcome writers of all ages and experiences.******   (I could really use a few posts. :))


29 thoughts on “Wisdom Wednesday: The Power of Self-Talk”

  1. I think that the power of reaffirmation can not be understated. I think that it’s a tendency for many of us to focus on the negative. I used to be a procrastinator. I’d start projects, then leave them incomplete. It was really bad! I’m really not sure how it changed, but now I’m the opposite. I try to complete everything the same day that I had started the project. That’s not always possible, but it’s true most of the time.

    1. You’re so right about the power of positive reaffirmation! Not only does focusing on the negative personally harm us, our children notice how we behave and emulate us. They tend to be a great mirror of our behavior.
      Luckily, and unluckily, I’m too anxious of a person to procrastinate. I tend to finish what needs done right away, to prevent losing sleep over it later.
      Have a great day! 🙂

      1. It can work against us. I started to cut in a flower bed one year. It was 5’x15′. I started to feel pain in my elbow, but I HAD to finish it. I ended up with an 8 week prescription to physical therapy for tendonitis in my elbow. Have a great day as well!

  2. Oh, I SOOOOOOOOOO love this! I even love the way you set the post up, and then turning the issue to yourself. I love you determination to change your self talk. I need to follow your good example, my friend!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. Thank you! It was no easy task, but years of negative self-talk aided only in making me feel worse and in teaching my kids the same behavior.
      You have no reason whatsoever for any negative self-talk. When I think of you, I immediately think of your lovely, upbeat personality and the beautiful colors that you surround yourself with. You’re creative, adventurous, brave, and you live life on your own terms. You could hang out in front of the mirror saying good things to yourself about yourself all day! 🙂 Give my 30 day method a try! 🙂 Hugs right back atcha!

  3. And yet another beautifully written and life enriching post from you. Thank you and congratulations to you (and your family) for breaking your habit! It is so important to be nice to oneself. It might not always be possible because sometimes we just feel like nothing’s right with us, but at least we can try. My mum was also a person who most of the time spoke badly to herself because she didn’t know otherwise, and I think I helped her to break this pattern because I did the exact opposite: I was encouraging and complimenting myself as well as her and other people. She still does it sometimes but certainly not every day as far as I know, and she is happier now.

    1. That’s so wonderful that you helped your mom break free of this pattern. Perhaps her own life experiences made her feel badly about herself. My own father was very critical of me, just as his father was of him. I swore I’d never put my children down, and I never have. I should have made the same promise to myself. Thank you so much for your very kind words! 🙂

  4. I’ve been through exactly the same journey, I’ve been that horrible to myself too, for so many years, and only just learnt to remove that internal dialogue in the last few years. It’s so good to have a clear head now 🙂 well done for achieving this and for sharing it honey and for showing your beautiful girls a positive example xx

    1. Thank you so much. I don’t know why we’re so hard on ourselves when we have such a great capacity to show kindness to others. We need to always show that same kindness to ourselves. You’re right it’s freeing to be rid of negative internal dialogue. 🙂

      1. I agree with that! I think part of it comes from comparing ourselves to media figures that are primped and airbrushed, and the other part comes from negative experiences that we’ve had with people who’ve bullied us at some time or another.
        Bullying is so rampant and it begins so young. Plus, there’s social media as another outlet for bullies.
        It’s tough being a kid these days.

      2. It is. I was really pleased when Ben told me that as part of their sex education at school there was an extra lesson about body image which talked about exactly that, airbrushing and unreal expectations. Let’s hope it helps! Although, as far as I’m concerned, it should come from home not school, but hey, as long as the message gets to them somehow..

      3. That’s wonderful that the school is reinforcing what should be taught at home. There are those children who never get talked to by their parents about important life issues or skills. During my 16 years of teaching, I witnessed so many kids who got little more than food, clothing, and shelter from their parents.
        My son-in-law was raised like that. His parents never involved themselves in his life education. During his teen years, he often came to my husband and I for advice. It’s heartbreaking.

        That says so much about how well you’ve taught Ben, that he feels comfortable to talk to you about everything that’s discussed in sex education.

      4. Thank you 🙂 my view is that the school supports and adds to what we teach him, not the other way round. I am his teacher as much as his parent. I can see from his friends that it’s not the same in every household which is so sad 😦

  5. I read an article or blog once upon a time where a woman made a similar point about the impact her comments about herself had on her daughter. I realized as I read it, that I did the same thing as her. My daughter would tell me I was beautiful and I would tell her she was wrong. How horrible is that? I read the story to her and now when she tells me I’m beautiful, I tell her thank you. I’ll have to see if I can dig it up and share it with you. It was very moving.

    1. I’d love to read it if you can find it. It’s funny you can say positive things over and over to your children, but if they hear you saying negative things to yourself (the person they look up to the most) it has quite an impact. I certainly learned my lesson when I heard myself in my daughter.

  6. Your strength is to be admired in many aspects of your life. I think we all have self doubt and negativity to some extent. We are picky people, always finding fault be it little or large. If it reaches the point of being self venomous, then yes it needs to change for self improvement and self worth, which in turn makes us happier people. Interesting post and glad you no longer cuss at yourself. x

    1. Me too! You’re right, we do feel happier when we’re nice to ourselves! It took me a while, but I finally got the hang of treating myself like l would treat others. Good to see you!! 🙂 Hope you’re doing well!

  7. This one–THIS post of yours–may well be the best thing either of us has ever written. So very well crafted, and so insightful. Wonderful, and I love you!

  8. Great post. Makes me realise how important it is to listen to positive messages in entertainment media too! Just shows how we absorb what we hear. Brilliantly written!

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