Self-talk is more than just the words you tell yourself. Self-talk includes how you relate to social media, the music you listen to and the friends you spend time with. These messages combine to create a single core message that can define you. When you become aware of your self-talk and the core message in your life, you’re empowered to understand what drives your actions. For instance, someone who feels loved and supported and has a core message of “I am lovable” typically engages in a healthy life pattern with rich relationships. Someone who has a core message of “I am unlovable” lives a fear-based life experience full of coping mechanisms that are unhealthy and have significant consequences.
Understanding Core Messages
Another way of looking at this is to think of a core message like a tagline. A tagline is: “a short text which serves to clarify a thought…Many tagline slogans are reiterated phrases associated with an individual, social group, or product.” A core message could be described as a short phrase that we reiterate and associate with ourselves. Just as in advertising, these personal taglines can be meaningful, powerful and often untrue.
While Nike plasters its slogan of “Just Do It” everywhere, our personal taglines are much more subtle. In fact, most of us are completely unaware of the taglines we live by. Here are some examples of personal taglines or core messages you might be telling yourself:
- I am unlovable
- I am helpless
- I am worthless
- I damage everything and everyone around me
- I am lovable
- I am capable
- I have worth
- I am a force for good
Identifying Your Core Message
Before you can change your core message, you first need to be able to identify it. Being kind and patient with yourself is a great place to start. Everyone deserves to have love and support in their life. Giving such permission to yourself initiates a journey of awareness of what core message you are living by. Try these three activities to improve your self-awareness and identify your core message:
- Identify what you are feeling or saying about yourself when you have a contemplative moment? This can happen when lying in bed at night, sitting in traffic with radio off, in the shower, reflecting upon your life.
- Spend time with a loved one, especially one of your children, and ask yourself, “How am I doing as a parent? How am I doing as a daughter, as a friend, as a student or as an employee?” Record your response in a journal and keep a log and see if there is a pattern to the messages you tell yourself.
- Talk with a therapist or an objective person about how other people see you vs. how you see yourself.
Once you have identified a core message that you have about yourself, examine how you live your life in response to this core message. If you live by a positive message such as “I am a force for good” you’ll see healthy and productive ways of living. If you live by a sad message such as “I am unlovable” you’re probably experiencing coping mechanisms such as avoidance, intense emotions such as unhappiness, harmful behaviors, and so forth.
Change Your Core Message to Start Healing
If your identified core message is negative, you can use that knowledge to start your healing journey. Start your journey with these steps:
- Talk, talk, talk- Open up to someone who cares about you. If you are watching a television show that becomes offensive, you can change the channel. The same is true with our negative core messages. It is important to change the channel and get other people’s perspectives on our lives.
- Find Healthy Coping Mechanisms- Realize you have these challenging coping mechanisms because you haven’t experienced healthy coping mechanisms in your life. Here are some common healthy coping mechanisms:
- Practice Sleep Hygiene and get 8 hours of sleep a night.
- Exercise, even if it is going for a walk around the block.
- Practice Mindfulness and Meditation.
- Laugh and have fun- Call a friend, play a game or go see a comedy.
- Do something you love- enjoy a hobby or go to the museum.
- Realize You Are Deserving- Work to know you also deserve the same kindness you show others. You wouldn’t verbally abuse a stranger on the street, or the man behind you in line at the grocery store. You treat them with respect and kindness.
- Know that you have worth and value- A $100-dollar bill, whether pristine or crumpled, still is a $100-dollar bill. Life may wrinkle you or wad you up, you still have value and worth.
- Seek Professional Help- Sometimes we find we need outside help. A counselor or therapist that can guide you in the process of healing yourself so you can experience a positive core message.
Most of us have been repeating our core messages to ourselves for years. Changing our negative core messages can be hard. It won’t happen overnight or even after a couple of weeks, so please be patient with yourself. And please remember that changing your negative core messages to positive ones can heal your life and change how you interact everyone around you.