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The Self-Talk Effect


I tend to find myself in this situation.

The bus is in front of me, mocking my forgetfulness, as I just realised that my transportation card is literally in my other tote bag. I tell myself, “There better not be any controleurs waiting for me!”

Playing my usual main hero in Overwatch 2 while finally having my first win of the day, I’ll tell myself, again, “After this win, I can finally be at peace to start my assignments.” 

In fact, I neither won nor finished my assignments. But that is another story.

Yes, I do talk to myself a lot, whether expressing it out loud or just a random opinion inside my mind, and this is not something that I am embarrassed about. Obviously, in this society, talking to ourselves – out loud – can be regarded as a weird thing, and we tend to feel uneasy while doing so. Being out of the ordinary is abnormal, and self-talking is a behaviour perceived as crazy.

As a person who tends to be self-aware in public, I would not prefer to be stared at weirdly. However, I still do love having tons of conversations with myself, you know, in case there’s no one I can gossip to.

Reading through all the posts and comments regarding this topic on Reddit, I resonated with a lot of users like me – an active self-talker At least I could say that self-talking is a common phenomenon where it occurs all the time.

I remember starting to have these kinds of self-talk when I was 6 years old. I would draw characters and bring them into life by creating magical and absurd stories. Sometimes, it would be an exciting adventure about a secret heirloom treasure hunt or a group of superheroes with special superpowers trying to save the city. Using every toy and doll I have, I was the narrator and storyteller for all my stories. 

Turning into a young adult now, I am becoming more introverted, and eventually, my conversations are not so external anymore, and instead of creating imaginative fairy tales, the topics are more realistic. Unconsciously, I am becoming more and more of an actress instead of the narrator in these private monologues in my head.

It’s not like I isolate myself from other people in real life, but sometimes you just have some thoughts that you would prefer to keep to yourselves.

Every so often I become conscious of myself, easily influenced and dependent on those conversations. Imagine as if there’s a tug of war in your brain, you might get a grip on how chaotic my brain is.

If you are still reading this article, give yourself a good minute to think about moments when you had talked to yourself, internally or externally, knowingly or not. Not only can you reminisce, but you might also be able to prove me right (or wrong?).

Now, let’s talk about how this self-talk effect happens in our daily life.

I do realise that having a conversation with my inner self helps me a lot with my self-esteem. Sometimes, my inner self will give me words of affirmation when I encounter difficult situations because of my stupid decisions. 

Rewinding back to my recent disastrous moment when I just realised that I have messed up the submission of my individual assignment. The file that I had uploaded was faulty and full with technical errors which made it impossible to open it. What was even worse is that I was only critically aware of this problem hours after the deadline.

Choking on my tears with a handful of tissues, I tried to upload back the correct version of the file but it was too late as the submission page was closed. I was so disappointed in myself while feeling helpless, and I had no option but to humbly and politely ask for help from my lecturer for possible solutions. 

While I was drafting my email, I thought it was the end of me for this course, knowing that I could have avoided this problem made my stomach turn. Plus, this assignment holds a big portion of the course, which makes me even helpless. Having no one to pour out my bottled feelings, I turned to myself, “What am I going to do now? Am I going to get low grades for this semester?”

“Hey, it’s not the end though,” the other me soothed, “We can solve this actually.”

I questioned with a huge ball of uncertainty, “With a screwed up file? Really?” 

“We can still explain this to the lecturer before it’s too late with your correct file attached. Like how much time you had sacrificed for this and also the technical problems that caused it to happen, which is technically not your fault…”


That’s not a bad idea- I mean it might not work, but still… Maybe I’ll get a second chance?

Before I knew it, I had written a good long paragraph explaining in detail about my issues to my lecturer, with the correct file attached of course. 

In case I made a mistake again, I checked the document before sending it. Thrice.

I clicked on the “send” button with my heart beating rapidly, it was a 50/50 possibility of it getting accepted by my lecturer so I wasn’t sure if this would work. But thanks to my other self who kept comforting me in my mind, I stayed as optimistic as possible. Not gonna lie, to a certain point, I was impressed by how my inner conversations could be very persuasive – at least to me.


[Outlook: You have a new email!]

I rushed to reopen my window tab, and became so relieved and glad to see my lecturer trusted me enough (thanks to my proactive self for giving a “good student vibes” ) to accept my correct version of my document. 

My grades were saved! Huzza!

I always appreciate my inner self who always reassures me and brainstorms solutions for me with a calm manner when I am having a potential panic crisis. Having a dialogue in my mind often helps me to refocus without getting emotionally affected by the situation. My self-talks ground me, it is like carrying a portable pocket friend who can motivate you and stabilise your emotions, which actually makes a difference when tackling daily activities.

Not always will people give you reassurance in your life, but it feels great to have a positive conversation with your inner voice as it inadvertently helps to keep you energised to go on with your day.

However, no matter how positive our inner monologue can be, inevitably, it can be a deadly double edged sword as well. As an overthinker, sometimes self-talk could be toxic for me when it comes to self-criticism. To be honest, I am very intense with my sentiments, which makes me feel anxious and jumpy more frequently.

I still remember clearly when I was preparing for my previous piano exam back in 2020, it was hectic and stressful. Achieving Grade 8 was one of my proudest moments in my life, but behind the scenes I have been critical of myself. I wanted to push myself further since it was my last step in learning piano, so I was always practising, harder and harder, testing my limits to the fullest. I did not really realise I was acting towards myself harshly to the point that I was losing my passion for piano.

“If you don’t practise more, or play well, you’re gonna disappoint everyone that puts hope on you! Your parents, your teacher, your aunties, they have high expectations, don’t make yourself an embarrassment to them! “

“It’s impossible to pass! Look at you, always making this mistake on this part, how are you gonna ace this music piece without messing it up?”

This is just some of the comments I will make towards myself, just to make myself ‘motivated’ to play better. If I feel like I didn’t practise enough, I would tell myself that I might not deserve to achieve Grade 8.

Alas, after the day of submission when I chose the perfect video to be uploaded on the exam website, all I could feel was exhaustion and emptiness, as if the music pieces had sucked the soul out of me. It took me a while to recover my enthusiasm, as I often felt nauseous just trying to play the piano from the music sheets.

Now, when I try to relive those memories, my inner self was definitely not acting like the pocket friend who helped me through difficulties. It has strongly affected my attitude towards what I have loved since the beginning of my music journey. Under the heavy pressure, it drastically lowered my self-confidence and increased my anxiety.

Having negative self-talk conversations can be overwhelming. We could give up easily just because our inner self says it is impossible, or feel devastated by how our inner self can be a nuisance in criticising ourselves.

Hence, it is way important to recognise our conversations with ourselves and try to manage them well. To prevent burn out, try to think from a different perspective with the same thought, or maybe challenging it! By being aware of what we are saying to ourselves, we can find the roots of the negative feelings and try to understand the reasons why we are feeling so. Then, replace them with more neutral or positive comments.

Instead of saying, “I couldn’t do this, it is impossible to finish this within the time given, I might give up for now.” Maybe we could motivate ourselves, “Don’t panic, let’s do it one at a time. I can first organise what’s important and what’s less urgent, take it slow and steady.”

Sometimes, we tend to exaggerate when we are treating ourselves negatively. So do remember that most of the things that we are worrying about might not happen. Managing our negative self-talk can be very difficult as it will come up naturally, however instead of avoiding it, it is way better to face them by bombarding them with a lot of questions. 

Is it true? How accurate is this? So what? Is this helpful? 

I am sure that just by asking these questions, we can easily decode our “devil self” to stop producing “negative vibes”.

In the end, self-talk always happens naturally. It is like a self-installed software in our brain, where it just pops out whenever it wants. But I always find it fascinating how we can be easily influenced by the effects of self-talk, not just in the way we feel, but also in how we react and behave. 

This self-talk effect adds into the complexity of being a human, making each of us more unique from each other, knowing that we have a little ourselves that sits in our brain, talking to us from time to time.

Next time, before having a conversation with your inner self, give yourself a reminder to treat your inner self kindly and positively, as that inner voice of yours will be a handy helper in your life onwards!