Have you ever tried to psych yourself up for something? A big test, a job interview, a workout? I’m willing to bet all of the chocolate I have right now that you have done this at some point. Almost everyone uses this self-talk technique, so I wanted to see if I could delve deeper into it. How can YOU make the best use of these “self-pep talks” as I like to call them, and apply them throughout your life, ie. NOT just when you are about to take the AP Bio test that only 6% of people score a 5 on (hehe, who’s worried about that? Definitely not me… hehe *nervous laugh*).
When you hear “self-pep talk” you might think of the SNL sketch where Stuart Smalley says “I'm good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me!”. It may have been a comedic sketch but the value of such self-talk is no joke *ba dum tss*.
Hearing motivational talk boosts our self-esteem and makes us more confident (duh!). But what happens when there’s no one around to give us a pep talk? Or maybe only we know what it is that we really need to hear. That’s when you need to take things into your own hands and be your own Stuart Smalley.
So let’s talk about what makes an effective self-pep talk.
First, focus on using positive language. You know how elementary school rules avoid saying “don’t” and try to phrase things more positively? For example, rather than “don’t run” (which might give kids the idea to do exactly that), they'll say “walk calmly”. Instead of “don’t yell”, “use level 1 voices”. The same thing applies to you! “Don’t procrastinate” has negative connotations. “You will get your to-dos completed now so you have more free time later” sounds sooo much better, doesn’t it?
“Don’t procrastinate” has negative connotations. “You will get your to-dos completed now so you have more free time later” sounds sooo much better, doesn’t it?
Second, (and this is something I only learned and started doing today), use “you” or *your name* to refer to yourself. A University of Michigan study (that's right, I'm throwing SCIENCE in here) found that it is more effective to talk in third person when trying to pump yourself up. In another Michigan State study, people had to talk about negative experiences they’d had, using either first-person or third-person language. Those who referred to themselves using their name were actually able to experience less intense emotions! Which is exactly what you need when you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
This intuitively makes sense, because if we avoid saying “I”, we can pull ourselves out of the situation, detach from it emotionally, and get a more rational look at whatever it is that we’re having trouble with. “Beatrice” isn’t the me that’s sitting at my desk, frustrated with studying and feeling STUCK. Beatrice is some girl I know who I am trying to comfort. Someone who I know is strong and capable and intelligent, and I need to make sure she knows that!
And have you ever noticed that you sometimes find it easier to be kind to your friends than to yourself? It can be easier to dole out good, loving advice to others than to ourselves because of negative self-talk patterns we’ve built up. Using “you” makes us feel like we are talking to a friend!
Alright, so how do you do this “self-pep talk” thing? It’s really quite easy.
1. Recognize that you are in a place where you need a pep talk. Perhaps you are experiencing some negative emotion. Fear, worry, anxiety, stress, etc. Or maybe you just need to get yourself pumped up for something that will require your best, most energetic self.
2. Take deep breaths. When are deep breaths NOT useful? Take 3, or 5, or 10. Get that heart rate down and deliver fresh oxygen to your brain so you can think clearly.
3. If you can, find a calm place to do this. It’s great if you can say it out loud, but writing it also works well. And in a pinch, the voice in your head would always be happy to narrate your self-pep talk.
4. Switch to your third person mode. Start referring to yourself as “you” or *your name*. If you feel weird about it, start out with saying something like “you are calm”, just to get yourself warmed up.
5. Pep talk! Basically, say what you would want someone to say to you to comfort you. What is worrying you and what is the antidote to that worry? Or another way of thinking of it - if your friend was feeling the same way, what would you say to them?
6. Throw some more deep breaths in there.
7. If it feels appropriate, try out a power pose. Stand with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart, and put your hands on your hips or stretch them out high above you. Don’t you feel POWERFUL? I actually did this in the bathroom one time before I had an important presentation for a state competition. I placed first, so I guess it worked!
Something else that I’ve started doing is keeping a little notebook of affirmations and self-pep talks. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing down what I say to myself when I’m feeling down. These situation-specific pep talks are all stored in that notebook and I can refer back to them when I’m again feeling down for the same reason. It’s kind of like a little pep talk playbook.
When can you give yourself pep talks?
Not just when you feel down! You can use it as a kind of preventative self-care, too. Try a pep talk in the morning, to get yourself pumped up for the day. A great place to do this is in your journal. In the evening, congratulate yourself on a day well spent. Or, if it wasn’t a very good day, comfort yourself by assuring yourself the next day will be better. Again, journal that ish out!
I also like to say affirmations while I’m driving. I find driving to already be a pretty relaxing activity. Just focusing on the road, steering, not having to think about anything. I can really capitalize on that time if I also take the opportunity to get some affirmations in. For example, I’ll say out loud: “You are focused. You are calm. You are happy. You will do great on your math test.”
You can also try making a self-pep talk jar for when you need a pick-me-up but aren’t exactly sure what you need to hear. Fill it with little messages like:
“You are focused and productive.”
“You are smashing your to-do list.”
“You are cheerful and optimistic.”
“You can achieve anything you think of.” (I know, this just gets cheesier and cheesier as we go along, doesn’t it?)
Wow, just writing this post has made me feel so positive. This stuff works! "Guaranteed to work or your money back" ;)
My question of the day: When is a time you could use a pep talk? For me, I think it would be when I get home from school. That's when I need to tackle my to-do list, so a bit of motivation would definitely help! Actually, I think I should add that to my "tips for being efficient with schoolwork" video - giving yourself a pep talk before you start!
Thank you for reading, don't forget to share with your friends who might need a pep talk every now and then, and I hope you have a lovely, POSITIVE, MOTIVATED, PRODUCTIVE day.