However, I do believe in the power of self-talk, both positive and negative, to have a great impact on our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Psychology tells us that what we say aloud to ourselves really makes a difference. Negative statements can bring us down, while positive, encouraging words can build us up. It may be just bit by bit, but every bit makes an impact over time.
Historically I just have not been very successful at taking advantage of this. If anything, my self-talk is often negative, pointing out where I fell short, or forgot to do something, or let someone down, or don’t feel well, or am tired. Hearing these words from my own mouth day after day after day becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So I have been working on how to improve this.
At first when I think of positive self-talk, I can’t help but visualize Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live. I can see him sitting in front of his mirror saying “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”. As much as I love that character, I am not sure if that approach fits my personality.
As I have said many times before, I am a nerd. So I have been trying out a technology solution to this problem.
Yep, I said passwords. Passwords are something everyone has, and probably more than one. They are also something that we have to type in often, maybe multiple times per day.
Plus it is important to have a strong password that will not be easily hacked, to improve your security. A common suggestion for this is to use a passphrase rather than a password. A passphrase is a group of words or even an entire sentence. Since it is a sentence conveying an entire thought, a passphrase can be much easier to remember. Of course you can still get creative with capital letters, numbers in place of some letters, and use of punctuation.
So I have decided to make my passwords stronger, and in the process try to make myself stronger as well.
What I have been testing out is making my passphrase a sentence of positive talk. It could be anything like:
There are endless possibilities for the positive passphrase you could use. The key is to choose something that builds you up, helps you heal through the pain, and grow toward your goals. Something that acknowledges your value and the value of others. Something that helps you process the past and embrace the present. It will be unique for you.
On our work domain we have to change our password every three months. Of course I can change it sooner if I want. On my Google accounts I can change them anytime I wish. The point is I am now creating a passphrase with a positive message for myself.
Now for the next three months, day after day, maybe multiple times per day, I have to type in that message. When I log into my work computer first thing in the morning. When I unlock it after lunch. When I log in on a different computer for a training. And on and on.
Each time I do this, I am reading a message I sent to myself weeks ago. I am being reminded of a powerful encouraging truth that can help me heal and move forward in my life.
And sometimes it is perfectly timed. I have had those mornings at work when life has not gone well. Maybe nobody in the cubicles around me know that I am struggling, that I feel like a failure, that Facebook just had to choose this morning to show me a picture from 9 years ago of a happier time, that I am feeling lonely, that I am anxious, that I am depressed, that I am angry.
And then I type in my password. A message from myself to myself. It reminds me to forgive, to grieve, to stop beating myself up, to find the beauty, to take one day at a time, maybe even just one step at a time. And sometimes that is exactly what I need.
So everyone needs better passwords. Well if this is something you are going to have to type in hundreds of times over the coming weeks or months, then I encourage you to choose something that will literally encourage you. Create a passphrase of positive self-talk. Strengthen your password and strengthen yourself!