I once had a client tell me that the way they talked down to themselves served as a way to keep them from being prideful, arrogant and thinking they were better than others. It was an interesting way to go about keeping a check on how they presented themselves to others and themselves.
I’ve seen this many times with clients in counseling. They shame themselves, talk badly to themselves or are flat out mean to themselves as a way to manage their behavior. As if beating themselves up is a way to initiate and maintain change. They often compare themselves to others to motivate themselves into changing. It might help a little, but doesn’t create lasting change.
As a counselor, I often help them to use positive self-talk. Most people misunderstand what positive self-talk is and think that it is simply talking positively to yourself, ignoring the issue and even pretending its not there. That would be like saying, after having your arm cut off, “I’m not – nothing wrong here” as you are bleeding out. That isn’t positive self-talk – that’s ignorant and not smart.
Positive self-talk is two things: realistic and compassionate. It is realistic through saying something like this, “My arm is cut off. This is a serious problem.” And it’s also compassionate by saying, “And I can do this, I can get help and I will do the best I can to fix it”.
Using positive self-talk to combat negative self-talk is an important tool to overcoming depression. At first someone will think that negative self-talk is something that ‘just is’ and is the ‘truth’. They find it hard to combat it because they don’t know they are doing it or actually believe it.
The more you practice engaging in positive self-talk the more you will star to believe it.