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Buddhists call it the monkey mind. It is the constant, agitated, easily-distracted self-talk that seemingly goes on in your mind forever. Watch a troop of monkey and their erratic behavior, often accompanied by incessant chattering, very clearly illustrates the undirected and always present level of consciousness that leads humans to engage in silent self-talk.

When you consciously direct this egocentric voice to think positively, self-talk can be amazing. Successful athletes, celebrities, politicians and others performing at the highest levels in their perspective fields often give themselves a quiet “pep talk” before a big game, performance or event. Used throughout the day, you can promote positive behavior and beneficial results.

However, it is likely that you are very busy most of the time. This means your conscious actions and thought processes are frequently engaged. That doesn’t allow you much time to control your monkey mind, and when it latches onto a negative focus, high levels of self-doubt and low levels of self-esteem can be the result.

Are You Unconsciously Incompetent and Overconfident?

There are 4 levels or stages of competence.

  • Unconscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Incompetence
  • Conscious Competence
  • Unconscious Competence

At the lowest level of ability, an individual is unconscious of the fact that he or she is not very competent at a particular task or skill. Once they are made aware of their inability, they can begin consciously working towards changing it. This can lead to effective competence when that person consciously makes an effort. Eventually, through repetition a level of unconscious competence can be attained, where high performance is routinely achieved without having to think about the process.

What does this have to do with self-talk?

It’s relevant because you may be engaging in self-talk that is overly and incorrectly confident. Overconfidence in your abilities can be just as damaging as negative self-talk. Like the unconsciously incompetent individual at the lowest level of ability or performance, you are unaware that your overly eager self-talk is creating an inaccurate and unrealistic estimation of your abilities.

You boost your ego with an inflated view of yourself which is promoted by the silent conversations you have. It may be hard to admit, but we lie to ourselves all the time. This not only leads to frustration when our behaviors don’t create the benefits and rewards we’re looking for, but it can also be downright dangerous to our health and even existence in some situations.

Overly negative and incorrectly positive self-talk are equally as stifling. When you “beat yourself up” mentally, you limit your abilities. When you dramatically over-represent your confidence, any number of problems can result. Psychologists have noticed the following disadvantages and negative symptoms of inaccurate self-talk:

  • You can become incapable of changing or reversing an opinion, even in the face of mounting evidence you’re wrong.
  • Frustration, stress and anxiety are often the result.
  • Creativity and adaptability are stifled.
  • Your brain chemistry actually changes, decreasing the capacity for you to develop ideas and original areas of thought.
  • Sadness and depression lead to chemical processes which boost inflammation throughout your body, in turn affecting both your emotional and physical health.
  • A sense of hopelessness often accompanies negative self-talk that keeps you from taking appropriate action.
  • This condition can lead to severe misconceptions and distorted attitudes, which in turn causes the development of unrealistically low or high goal setting.

Defeating the Downside of self-talk

Understand that conversations you have with yourself don’t always require action. Your mind is processing thoughts hundreds or even thousands of times a day. Not all of that information is accurate, and much of it is negatively influential.

Start consciously attempting to identify when the voice in your head is incorrectly related to reality. You can consciously say “Stop!” out loud when you want to silence a train of thought. Then say “Change!” and adopt a more positive, realistic voice.

Your self-talk is just a series of brainwave activity. Sometimes it is negative, sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s accurate, and sometimes it is unrealistic. For you to survive, your brain has to constantly process information and attempt to predict how that information will impact you. By consciously recognizing that you have control over how you talk to yourself, you can eventually learn to ignore your monkey mind chatter.

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