How You Talk To Yourself Has An Impact On Your Ability To Handle Stress


No, you’re not crazy. Even the most normal person you pass on the street talks to himself. Telling yourself that you’re doing a great job or encouraging yourself to complete a project is a great way to boost your confidence and make you happier. Recent research has also proven that the way you talk to yourself is just as important as the act itself.

Whether you’re young or old, famous or ordinary, self talk is as common as night and day. Everyone does it. Researchers at the University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, and Michigan State conducted various experiments that determined that people who spoke to themselves using pronouns like “he” or “she” or using direct names fared better with stressful tasks than those who spoke to themselves using a simple “I.” For example, when you’re revving yourself up for a big presentation, it’s better to say, “John, you can do this” instead of “I can do this!” Thinking of yourself as a fly on the wall looking down on yourself gives you a better ability to think objectively and with more confidence.

U Michigan’s test focused on individuals who were told they must prepare a speech for the next day. Half were told to prepare themselves by using the first-person pronoun and the others were told to identify with second-person pronouns or their actual names. Those who thought objectively were much calmer and confident and assessed themselves more highly afterwards than their counterparts in the study. 

The authors of the study believe that their research has greater meaning, helping “people perform better under stress and get control of their emotions, [as well as help] them reason more wisely.” Their past research also indicates that the more you self-distance yourself, the easier it is for you to handle life’s little complications. Self-distancing can help depressed people to change their way of thinking of themselves, and can teach young children better coping mechanisms. Implications for those with bipolar disorder are also evident in that using self-distancing techniques can keep someone from experiencing too much of an emotion, whether positive or negative. Plenty of research is being conducted on self-talk and the way we do it, and there is still much to be learned. 

Remember that self-talk is absolutely normal and, in fact, encouraged by healthcare professionals. As long as you are thinking positive thoughts and not overly critical, constantly negative thoughts, talking to yourself is a confidence booster and a way to make you feel more comfortable with yourself and anything life wants to throw at you. Think of yourself outside of yourself, as someone else critiquing you, and you’ll learn quickly that you’ll be able to accomplish your task with less fretting than usual.

Next time, try sentences like, “You can do it” or “This is going to take some work but you’ve prepared well and you’re going to give a great presentation tomorrow” or “Amy, all you have to do is study a little longer and you’ll be able to ace that exam.” Use your own name and “you,” “he” or “she” when you talk to yourself and you’ll feel better about yourself both before and after your task is completed.