How to Talk to Yourself

Speak to yourself using words that soothe and heal.

Posted Feb 23, 2015

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When the going gets rough, I often speak to myself silently or softly, using words of compassion to help me feel better. If I feel let down by a friend, I might repeat silently, “I feel hurt by her behavior but I mustn’t blame myself.” If I’m sad about having to miss a gathering, I might whisper soothingly to myself, “It’s hard not to be there when I want so badly to visit with everyone.” When I don’t deny that I feel bad, and even acknowledge it in a self-compassionate way, I’m better able to cope with disappointment and sorrow.

A few months ago, I decided to look for quotations from others to give me ideas for expanding my self-talk repertoire. In other words, I was hoping to become more creative in talking to myself! Here’s what I came up with. I hope you find it useful.

The highest form of wisdom is kindness. —The Talmud

If you’re having one of those days when you don’t feel the least bit wise (I know those days well), this quotation can remind you of wisdom’s highest form. Kindness to ourselves and others is something we can always make room for in our lives.

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails… —country music singer Jimmy Dean

It would be nice if we could control the weather in our minds, but the mind is going to think what it’s going to think. That’s what minds do: chatter chatter chatter. A lot of it is nonsense, and a lot of it can make us feel bad about ourselves. But we don’t have to believe those thoughts. We can look upon a thought as just arising and passing mental energy (that’s what I mean by “chatter, chatter, chatter”!).

Questioning the validity of our thoughts is a skillful way to adjust our sails so we can change direction and steer away from thoughts that are stormy and stressful. We can also practice catching the wind of kind and compassionate thoughts so that they flourish in our minds.

Flowers and pricker bushes grow out of the same dust. —author Cynthia Lewis

This is a nice reminder that we never know when something beautiful will grow out of the dust that’s swirling around us.

The only way to make sense of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join in the dance. —Alan Watts

The way I see it, if you’re truly seeking peace in this life, it makes good sense to work on embracing change. This quotation is so meaningful to me that I put it at the beginning of the first chapter in my new book!

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold. —Zelda Fitzgerald

By all accounts, Zelda Fitzgerald was a troubled person. Even so, it appears she understood the human heart. Repeating her words can serve as a reminder that our hearts can hold—as gently as a parent holds a newborn baby—everything about our life, including its challenges and difficulties.

A little kingdom I possess, where thoughts and feelings dwell; And very hard the task I find of governing it well. —Louisa May Alcott

It is a very hard task, but one that all of us can tackle. Governing our thoughts and feelings begins by becoming aware of those that are beneficial and those that are not, and then encouraging the former but not the latter. Beneficial thoughts and feelings are those that help us accept our lives, even if we’re struggling. Beneficial thoughts and feelings are also those that open our hearts to other people since we all share the same planet.

Encouraging beneficial thoughts and feelings can take many forms. If you like to visualize, you can imagine a self-compassionate thought or feeling glowing brighter and brighter, until it fills your entire body. Or, you can let a kind thought or feeling slowly expand in your mind until it reaches everyone in the world with a wish that their suffering ease.

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but add color to my sunset sky. —Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore’s words are always so gentle and wise. He was referring to aging in this quotation but, to me, his words apply equally when our lives are clouded by any struggle. Sometimes I take it as a challenge to find a speck of beautiful color even in the most difficult circumstances.

The greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves. —Sophocles

We cause ourselves grief by getting stuck in our desires, what I often call want/don’t want mind. If we take an honest look at our lives, we’ll see that most of our desires go unfulfilled. In addition, more often than not, we don’t control the seemingly infinite turns our lives take. Because of this, I find it helpful to repeat to myself: “I’m causing myself grief because I want to control what I’m incapable of controlling.”

Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future. —author Daphne Rose Kingma

Living in the past is a source of unhappiness for me. Letting go is freeing.

For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream. —Vincent van Gogh

If the sight of the stars could make this troubled soul dream, surely that sight can make us dream.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls the butterfly. —Richard Bach

Repeating this beautiful thought softly or silently can help us remember that everything is in flux in this world. Today’s blue mood may, by tomorrow, transform into appreciation for life’s beauty—even if all we can muster is appreciation for one small butterfly.

I’m not bald; I’m a person of scalp. —Unknown

I couldn’t resist including this. I saw it on a sweatshirt one day. Some may need to take it literally. Others can use it metaphorically to turn a negative viewpoint into a positive one.

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Finally, here are some quotations that were written in the second person. I’ve taken the liberty of changing them to the first person singular so they’re in a form you can use to speak kindly to yourself. Pick those that resonate with you.

No one can make me feel inferior without my consent. —Eleanor Roosevelt

I can clutch the past so tightly to my chest that it leaves my arms too full to embrace the present. —Jan Glidewell

There are two ways to live my life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. —Albert Einstein

The final quotation in this piece is from Joseph Campbell. I’ve quoted his words before, but in the first person plural (“we”) as he wrote them. For our purposes, I’ve taken the liberty of putting the quotation in the first person singular. I hope you’ll use his words as I do, by repeating them to yourself in a compassionate voice:

I must let go of the life I’ve planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for me.

© 2015 Toni Bernhard. Thank you for reading my work. I'm the author of three books:

How to Live Well with Chronic Pain and Illness: A Mindful Guide (2015)

How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow (2013)

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and their Caregivers (2010)

All of my books are available in audio format from Amazon, audible.com, and iTunes.

Visit www.tonibernhard.com for more information and buying options.

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