How do you talk to yourself? Whether you are aware of it or not, you are constantly talking to yourself—everyone has a continuous inner dialogue that is endlessly going back and forth, ultimately guiding much of our behavior. More often than not, our inner dialogue is extremely negative, judgmental, and overly critical—of others, but also of ourselves. Furthermore, we are frequently unaware of just how critical we are of ourselves and how automatic it is. Mindfulness practice cultivates present-moment attention, awareness, and acceptance of our experiences, mental states, and emotions, including that inner dialogue we have with ourselves.
As a graduate student and research assistant, the primary goal of our research in the Sport Psychology lab at Catholic University has focused primarily on how mindfulness practice impacts athletic performance and the overall psychological well-being of athletes. In order to teach mindfulness, I first had to develop my own consistent practice—and it is important to point out that mindfulness is not merely a practice that consists of a few minutes of meditation each day, but rather an approach to life, and living.
Through my practice, a palpable awareness of my negative and judgmental inner dialogue emerged. The conversations I was having with myself were not encouraging, positive, nor accepting of myself—I rarely showed any compassion to myself, I never thanked myself, and I seldom gave myself any credit. That is still my default, but from the awareness that has surfaced through my daily practice, I am better able to notice those negative and judgmental thoughts and simply recognize them for what they are—mere thoughts, that I can choose to let go instead of allowing them to hang over my head.
You are awesome. Tell yourself that you are awesome. Intentionally thank yourself for all that you do for yourself and others—even when you come up short of your own expectations. Being selfless, helping, thanking, and giving credit to others is important, but also remember that it is not selfish to do the same to yourself. Be mindful of the conversations you have with yourself and take a few contemplative moments each day to unplug, breathe, be present and show yourself some love.
Tommy is a first-year graduate student in the Psychological Science program at Catholic University, where he is a research assistant with the mindfulness and sport psychology lab. He is also an assistant with the men’s lacrosse team at Catholic.