Positive self-talk is a bit like being a personal cheerleader. By using a strengths perspective (based on your own strengths) you focus on what you have to offer, not on what you lack. You stop emphasizing the negatives and your deficits, and, instead, acknowledge and grow the talents you possess.
Self-talk is an important psychological concept. It is a powerful influence, and it can be a partial antidote to insecurity and perceived vulnerability. When used appropriately, self-talk can help you prevent failure or giving up.
Sometimes, however, self-talk becomes self-deception. When this happens, it can lead to an inflated sense of self and a denial of reality. This is often seen in the workplace during performance evaluations, promotions, and reorganizations.
How difficult is it to recognize when you are getting close to the self-deception line? Some clues follow. If you hear yourself making self-comments similar to the ones below, you may want to stop and further evaluate your statement and the evidence you have to back it up.
•I know I am the smartest person in this room.
• My boss is an idiot. I could do her job and have time left over at the end of the workday.
• No one here works harder than I do.
• I can’t believe she got promoted instead of me. I am much more deserving.
• I did most of the work on that project. I don’t see why they are acknowledging everyone.
It is possible that you are actually smarter than your colleagues, and we all know that idiot bosses do exist. You may be a hard worker and you may have carried the team project. While it is difficult (and less than useful) to document the stupidity of a boss or your own brilliance, it is a good idea to keep track of your hours and effort spent on a project. It is also important to realistically evaluate and document your role and contributions. The key word in that sentence is “realistic.” If necessary, get some input from a trusted colleague or two, or have a discussion with your mentor to try and put your beliefs into a better perspective.
There is no denying that self-talk is important. You should use positive self-talk as a tool for workplace motivation and for enhancing self-esteem when needed. At the same time, avoid crossing the line between self-talk and self-deception. Self-deception has the tendency to make you overstate your efforts. It makes you look like you lack self-awareness, or that you are taking credit for the efforts of others, or that you are bragging or whining. None of these work in your favor.
So use self-talk, but guard against self-deception. You don’t want your self-talk to turn into professional self-destruction.