October 4, 2022

SENZON | Shifting your Internal Dialogue

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Internal dialogue is something many people seem to overlook.

Yet, internal dialogue is one of the most important aspects of experiencing growth and working toward your goals. Recently, I’ve noticed my internal dialogue seems to have been defaulted to a negative thought process — I tend to be extra harsh on myself, especially when under pressure in unideal situations. I’m beginning to realize how important it is to shift your internal dialogue when you find yourself in these hyper-pressurized situations.

This negative internal dialogue, generally speaking, sounds something like: “Why can’t I handle this?” and “I can’t do this.”

Though, in the moment these urges to put myself down seem out of my control, or simply unimportant, they have major implications on the way we approach roadblocks and shortcomings in our lives. These negative thoughts manifest themselves into greater issues like an inability to identify a problem and derive a solution to the problem. If we make conscious efforts to shift our internal dialogue to thoughts that encourage us to improve on our mistakes, then we’re ultimately prioritizing ourselves and taking steps toward our goals. 

How do I shift my internal dialogue? How can I tell when I’m expressing negative internal dialogue?

It’s simple. Internal dialogue is the way you talk to yourself in your head — and we seem to be using it at all times throughout the day. The tricky part is that internal dialogue tends to be subconsciously taking place within the mind. It’s your job to catch yourself in an irrational thought process and counteract it with a conscious, forward-thinking shift in your internal dialogue that can prevent the internalization of these negative ideologies. If you’re wondering what that looks like, imagine you’re about to take an exam — worth a large percent of your grade — and you find yourself thinking, “I’m so anxious that there’s no way I’m going to pass this exam.” Instead, try thinking, “I’m anxious right now, but I’ve studied for this exam and I’m going to do well.”

I believe that high-pressure environments foster the additional potential for negative internal dialogue to present itself in your subconscious, this has been something I’ve learned through experience. One of my professors, Vanessa Bohns, industrial and labor relations, has helped remind me that everything should come back to a growth mindset. If you believe you have the courage to recognize your faults and make room for improvement, then you’re inherently taking steps toward success; not only would you be demonstrating a growth mindset, but a way to supercharge this growth mindset would be to support it with positive internal dialogue. 

Now that you’ve heard my two cents, let me provide you with an instance where I recently made a conscious effort to introduce positive internal dialogue into my daily routine — the goal here is to make it habitual. 

I haven’t been feeling confident in my efforts to prioritize health and have been very imbalanced over the past few weeks. Most of my nights are spent studying at libraries, or planning every intricate detail of my day out. I haven’t been getting physical activity, and this has adversely affected my belief that I have the discipline to handle the responsibilities I’ve taken on at the moment. As a result, I’ve developed a negative internal dialogue where I often find myself thinking I’m far less capable than my peers. Why can’t I just get up and go to the gym? Why haven’t I taken a break when all I want to do is relax? Falling into these thought processes and negative internal dialogue cycles discourages us from maximizing our full potential — whether it be by decreasing productivity or deterring you from achieving your long-term goals. 

So, once again I encourage you to catch yourself. You have the grit and capability to do so. Continue to move forward in your life, understand the lessons that you’ve learned through making mistakes, make conscious efforts to shift your internal dialogue and try to think twice before giving in to doubtful thoughts. If you’d like to learn more about grit in specifics I suggest listening to a TED talk hosted by American psychologist, Angela Duckworth, titled “Grit: The power of passion and perseverance” where she delves more precisely into what it means to have grit and be gritty, emphasizing how this plays into overarching long term goals. 

Thank you to Prof. Bohns for inspiring me to approach learning within my undergraduate career with a growth mindset — but more importantly for encouraging me to find importance and purpose through hard work and grit. Continue to put your best foot forward when it comes to being gritty, allowing for conscious efforts to be made as you exercise positive internal dialogue. 

Adam Senzon (he/him) is a freshman at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected]. My Two Sen-ts runs every other Tuesday this semester.