If you have been listening to my podcast or following me for a while you will know that I am a huge advocate of positive self talk. The way we speak to ourselves, the way we talk about ourselves, can be the silver bullet for improving our confidence and our self esteem.

So okay, you know that you need to be kinder to yourself if you are going to make progress, but how the bloody hell do you do that?

For insights into self talk, the challenges and the solutions, I had a chat with my good friend and NLP Master Practitioner Beth Penfold


Beth, for people who find talking to themselves positively really uncomfortable, what would you say are the main reasons that they find it so hard?

It’s because they don’t love themselves. If you do not love yourself it is obviously going to be hard to say nice things to yourself.

And without the positive self talk, it will be hard for the self love to grow. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. So where could somebody start, if speaking lovingly to themselves is just too uncomfortable right now?

You can start by just not talking negatively to yourself. Any negative things that come to mind, say something like “do you know what, I’m going to spare you that. Do you know what, I’m going to leave that, that doesn’t need to be said.”

Then stating facts is a good neutral ground. So if you look in the mirror and hate your stomach, you just look in the mirror and say “this is a human stomach”. No judgement, just fact.

Sometimes you have to start way down. Just be civil to yourself!

So it’s a bit like a thought ladder isn’t it, starting with something just a little bit better than the negatives you are saying now, then moving up to neutral facts, before climbing the ladder to positive self talk and self love?

Yes! Start out on polite nodding terms with yourself. Greet yourself in the mirror in the morning, just say “hi”. So often we don’t do that, we look in the mirror and just immediately start criticising our appearance. If we don’t even afford ourselves basic politeness how on earth are we supposed to love ourselves?

It’s so difficult, because I meet people who understand that positive self talk is a good aim to have, but they are waiting for external permission to feel as though they deserve it. That I think is the biggest barrier. Starting it, practising it, doing it, reaping the benefits is the easy bit. The hard bit is feeling as though you are good enough to deserve more than just criticism in the first place.

No one is ever going to turn up at the front door with a delivery of self worth.

Yes! Who are you waiting for to give you permission to be kind to yourself? Why would they do that? What is it about them that makes them the person from whom you need permission?

Another question would be, do you have friends who talk nicely to themselves? Who gave them permission? Who is it that lets them do that, what is it about them that is different from you?

The origins of it are fascinating to me. We know that some of it comes from negative parental input, but some of it just comes from parents not modelling it themselves. Having a parent who loved you but clearly didn’t think much of themselves means that you have never had self esteem modelled to you.

Absolutely. We read lovely stories to our kids, then we are walking around talking crap about ourselves. We know not to speak negatively to our children about themselves, but them watching us say bad things to ourselves is a big driver of how they will speak to themselves as adults.

It feels to me like such a crucial element, and the first thing is to notice that you are doing it. I meet lots of people who in ordinary conversation will talk about how they are “crap”, “rubbish”, “shit at this” and so on.

Noticing it is really important, but also giving yourself permission to tackle it. There is only one person who can give you that permission, and it does have to happen. This is all about choice. You have to decide that you are going to start reducing the negative self talk and consciously be loving towards yourself.

That permission can be a physical thing. You can write yourself a little note and keep it in your pocket, a note that gives you permission, much like a note to school to get you out of P.E., a note from yourself that says “I have permission to be kind to myself always.”

That is powerful.

Maybe it is also important to remember to start small. It can be so easy to imagine when starting something new that you have to do it perfectly immediately, but maybe start by saying something loving to yourself just once a day.

Yes! Never mind the kids’ star charts on the fridge, how about your star chart for ticking off how many times you have said kind things to yourself today?

Was I nice to myself today? If I was unkind to myself, did I then apologise?

It hurts me when I hear people talking negatively to and about themselves, but I cannot have influence over that. It has to come from within, by starting small and noticing and just changing it bit by bit.


If you would like support with changing your self talk and your perception of your self worth, please do book in a call with me or contact Beth for a chat. We all deserve to be loving towards ourselves – not because we have done amazing things but simply because we are human.

Helen Calvert
December 2021