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How to be your own best friend by combating negative self-talk

Self-talk is such a simple but powerful thing. It can be your foe, or your friend; a blessing, or a curse. Because whether we like it or not, the voice in your head is inevitably the voice you’ll listen to most purely because we can’t escape it. It can be the difference between a great day and one that’s, well…not.

Personally, self-talk has been something I struggled with in the past. At school, despite the fact that I love English and devoured (and still do devour) books at an almost unhealthy rate, I was convinced I couldn’t write. I always found myself staring at a blank document for hours, consumed with the fear that whatever I wrote, it would not be good enough.

And it wasn’t just with English. Once upon a time, I’d also considered myself a STEM enthusiast who was fascinated by the sciences and not terrible with numbers either. Yet, as the years progressed and the whispers intensified, I noticed myself slipping. Perhaps maths really wasn’t my thing, I thought; maybe I’m just not meant to be good at chemistry. This mindset meant that it was dread that accompanied me into the Year 12 chemistry exam, rather than courage. I doubted my own capabilities and ultimately the consequences of this manifested in my study score.

But you know what the really annoying thing is? I know now that I could have done so much better if only I’d allowed myself to believe that I could.

My love for science hadn’t actually faded. I still loved and still do love learning about how things work, how the universe knits itself together in such intricate ways that for centuries people believed it could only be the work of a god, or gods. Yet all of this was clouded by the little voice in my head. Its negativity took over, shrouding my ability to think clearly and rationally. I would repeat to myself over and over again that I was simply a ‘humanities person’ and I needed to accept it. So I did, and now I’m a law/arts student, surrounding myself with words and words only, with not an equation in sight.

And I don’t regret the decision at all – I love it here, I really do – but sometimes I wonder to myself…what if?

All this is to say that self-talk is powerful. Like, life-changing powerful. It can shape who you are as a person by guiding you to decide what you can and cannot do. It can be debilitating – as evidenced by my frustrations with my own scientific capabilities – but, as the title of this article suggests, it can also be your best friend and the key to getting through law school.

But how do we change this internal foe into a friend?

The trick is to remember that you are in control of the voice; you decide what whispers you feed yourself. The voice is, after all, just an extension of you telling yourself what to believe. If it helps, give the voice a name. Your middle name, if you have one. Or the name of your favourite fictional character. Strange as it may sound, but by personifying this voice it may become easier to rationalise with it; and with yourself. So when “Elizabeth” starts filling my head with whispers that I’ll never make a good lawyer, that getting into law school was just a fluke and that I don’t deserve to be here, I can point out the fallacies in her arguments. I can whisper back that no one gets into law school by fluke - that in fact, it’s a pretty darn impressive feat just to be here and evidence that I can do so much more.

Remember also that your “Elizabeth’s” opinions are not gospel, nor are they fixed. With time, you can persuade her that you are strong enough and she’ll believe you; you’ll believe yourself.

Then you’ll be unstoppable.

Written by Sarah “Elizabeth” Whalen

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