I am an only child and so it was often left to my own imagination when it came to playing as a child. I would gather my dolls or soft toys for pretend picnics and act out different scenes, voicing all the parts in these scenarios quite happily. Talking to yourself in this way is a healthy and normal part of growing up; I enjoy listening to my grandchildren doing this with their Barbie dolls now.
As we grow up, we continue to talk to ourselves, but by and large we internalise these conversations lest others think we are odd (or because we do not want others to hear what we are saying to ourselves.) These internal conversations are not just monologues; they often contain dialogue as we argue different points of view and consider how we feel and how we should act.
We are often not aware of these conversations, which may well include admonitory phrases. When I drop something, for instance, the conversation often starts with, ‘You’re so clumsy, Julie!’ or if I lose my keys (which I regularly do on a daily basis), ‘How could you be so stupid? You know you’re supposed to put them there: why didn’t you?’
Whilst many of these internal conversations seem harmless and inconsequential, the truth is that what we say to ourselves is actually very important and these conversations to ourselves can either build us up or tear us down.
It’s important that our inner dialogues are as consistent with truth as our spoken words to other people. Paul told the Ephesians to ‘speak the truth in love’ (Eph 4:15), and this applies not only to what we say to others, but to what we say to ourselves. Hebrews 13:6 says, “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?'”
This is the kind of positive self-talk which puts problems into perspective and builds truth into our souls (and if we do not build truth into our souls, we cannot expect others to.) It’s significant that this self-talk is actually quoting Scripture to oneself (the reference is from Psalm 118:6-7). There is a solidity and stability to Biblical truth which is not found in the ‘positive confessions’ advocated by the world, however helpful these may be at times. The very best words to speak to ourselves are God’s words, because these words are truth. They are not tainted by subjectivity; they are not tarnished by bias or prejudice.
When we stop to listen to our internal conversations, we must make sure that these are rooted in truth or we will end up defeated, dejected and depressed. It isn’t just about being positive or optimistic or ignoring life’s problems. It is about speaking God’s word in confidence and then allowing that word to permeate our whole being and shape our thiinking and attitudes.
Michelle Obama says she tries to start each day with a message of kindness to herself because she struggles daily to like and accept herself and has a ‘fearful mind.’ I would urge us all not only to be kind to ourselves, but to speak truth to ourselves, God’s truth, as this has the power to set us free.