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Not long ago, I discovered that my first introduction to self-talk did not come from a management book, but from the Bible. It has been there the whole time; I just did not recognize it. In a recent early morning prayer meeting I discovered the Psalmist saying, “O my soul” and realized that right in the pages of inspired Scripture, the biblical author was talking to himself. Looking further, I discovered numerous occasions where the writers were penning words to their own soul.
Perhaps the big difference between the “self-talk” promoted by management gurus and the biblical examples is the issue of motivation. Clearly, the motives for self-talk in the Scriptures are the glory of God and the spiritual health of the soul. …
In Psalms 42 and 43, David talks to himself three times with the same basic words. These words were likely written when he was in exile after being banished by the betrayal of his son Absalom. He is far from home and close to despair. He says to himself: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”1
David is asking himself the reason for the discouragement and trouble he feels within his soul. He tells himself to put his hope in God with the result that his soul will give praise to God because He can always be counted on to help. The rest of Psalms 42 and 43 include David’s longings for deliverance, his cries for help, and his reassurance in the promise and character of God.
In Psalm 103 David again speaks to his own soul with these words: “Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”2
Here, David commands his soul to focus on God’s holy name with every fiber of his being. He tells himself to remember the benefits of God. In keeping with this self-talk he then rehearses some of the reasons for this needful focus when he writes about God’s deeds: “Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”3 …
These examples of biblical self-talk reflect a resolve to stay on task with choices of gratitude, worship, trust, and prayer. David wrote, “Let all that is within me bless His holy name.”4—Daniel Henderson5
Overcoming negative self-talk
One day, early in my career, I heard myself utter these words as I hit myself in the head, “I am so stupid.” It was the first time I heard this negative self-talk out loud, though I had been repeating it inside my mind for years. I needed new words to live by. …
My habit of negative self-talk released the power of death in my life. And I didn’t fully realize its grip until I began to feel the life-giving effects of fighting it with truth! Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”6
When we rehearse negative self-talk, we eat of the fruit of those words like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we think it, we will speak it. When we speak it, it’s like giving it life. Whoa! I do not want to eat the words I used to speak about myself! How about you? Have you examined your self-talk?
The best way to fight negative self-talk is by replacing it with what I call God talk. God talk is recognizing that you may be weak, but in Him you find everything: strength, endurance, and acceptance. God talk is what God Himself would tell you if you asked Him for His opinion of you.
Whenever I hear negative self-talk vomiting from my mouth, I stop and replace it with God talk!
Negative self-talk: I am worthless. God talk: I must be valuable if Jesus paid the price of His life for me.7
Negative self-talk: There’s nothing good in my future. God talk: Before I was born, God knew me and already had a hope and a future for me!8
Negative self-talk: I am insignificant. God talk: God knows every last hair on my head.9
Faithfully speaking God’s words in place of my negative words will protect my heart. It has grown my love bank so that I have more love to give! God has healed my deepest wounds, and He desires to heal yours!—Sheri Yates10
Thoughts, feelings, actions
Long before psychology came around, God said your thoughts determine your feelings and your feelings determine your actions. If you want to change your life, you have to control the way you think.
You’re constantly talking to yourself—all the time. Your mind is talking to you! You’re talking to yourself right now. … The problem is that a lot of us are like Job, who says, “Everything I say seems to condemn me.”11 He’s saying, in effect, “Everything I say puts me down.” If you are typical to the human race, you are your own worst critic.
We’re always putting ourselves down. We walk into a room, smiling, but inside we’re thinking, “I’m fat. I’m dumb. I’m ugly. And I’m always late!”
God wants us to stop putting ourselves down. When you put yourself down, who are you really putting down? When you say, “I’m fat. I’m dumb. I’m ugly. I’m no good. I have no talent,” you’re really pointing to the Creator who made you. When you say, “God, I’m worthless. I’m no good. I can’t do anything,” you’re saying, “God, you blew it with me.” That’s why God says it’s wrong to put yourself down.
How do you eliminate negative self-talk so you can become a more confident person? The Bible teaches the principle of replacement. “Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right… Think about all you can thank God for and be glad about.”12 In other words, don’t think about all those weaknesses in your life. Focus on who God wants you to be and on what God wants to do in your life.
There isn’t a better thing you can do to raise your confidence level than to start believing what God says about you. As I read through the Bible, chapter by chapter, and find a verse that speaks to me, I write it down on a card, memorize it, and then I affirm it back to God: “Father, thank you that I am valuable; I am significant; I am forgivable; I am capable.” Let God renew your mind because “your life is shaped by your thoughts.”13
I don’t know any better antidote to low self-esteem (or to facing your hurts, habits, and hang-ups) than to read God’s Word every day. Study it, memorize it, meditate on it, and apply it in your life. How are you doing with self-discipline in your daily quiet time with God?—Rick Warren14
Adopting a positive mindset
During a recent course I took on counseling, my classmates and I were exploring the topic of negative self-talk, and it quickly became obvious this bad habit had served as a damper to success, suffocated great ideas right at the start, and influenced reactions and perceptions about situations in each of our lives.
Negativity, ranging from regret over lost opportunities to bitterness, comparing unfavorably with others, jealousy, to little phrases like, “Oh, how clumsy I am,” “How could I be that dumb?” or “How could anyone like me?” seem all too common.
I decided to embark on changing the way I think and made an effort to tune in to the messages that go through my mind. These are some of the strategies I have been learning about and trying to implement:
When a negative message pops up, replace it with a positive one. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”15
When faced with an obstacle or bad news, pray for a solution and imagine the good that God can bring to pass even out of a messy situation. “All things work together for good to those who love God.”16
When things seem to go all wrong remind yourself that, no matter how small, there is always a ray of hope in each situation and a light at the end of every tunnel. “I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light.”17
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, fill your mind with thoughts of God’s goodness and love toward you. “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”18—Iris Richard
Published on Anchor June 2022. Read by John Laurence.
1 Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5.
2 Psalm 103:1–2.
3 Psalm 103:3–5.
4 Psalm 103:1.
7 1 Peter 2:24.
8 Jeremiah 29:11.
9 Luke 12:6–7.
11 Job 9:20 GNT.
12 Philippians 4:8 LB.
13 Proverbs 4:23 GNT.
15 Philippians 4:4.
16 Romans 8:28.
17 Micah 7:8 CEV.
18 Jeremiah 29:11 NIV.