I love playing the piano and I love teaching piano lessons. But I’m not the biggest fan of performing. I imagine everything that could possibly go wrong and immediately tense up when I sit down to perform. Ironically, I’m currently in college, majoring in piano performance. And as you can imagine, I have a lot of performing to do, so I’m working on growing in this area.
Negative self-talk requires our complete attention
When I play the piano and list off all of the things that could go wrong, all of my musicality goes out the window. I can only think about two things: the mistakes I’ve already made and the mistakes that haven’t even happened yet.
Self-talk demands complete control over our thought processes. Our minds can only focus on one thing at a time. So negativity distracts us from everything else.
My professor gave this example (you can test it out to see if it’s true!):
If two people read two different books out loud at the same time, they will only be able to remember the information that they read themselves. No matter how hard person 1 tries to listen to what person 2 is reading, they won’t be able to comprehend or retain the majority of it.
The book that person 1 is reading represents negative self-talk. It’s all-consuming. It’s controlling. It dominates our thought processes.
I know this to be true in performing. And I’m willing to bet that you’ve experienced this same consuming power in other areas of your own life.
Self-talk creates self-centeredness
When I experience performance anxiety, I’m completely wrapped up in what others think about me. I worry about their opinion of me.
When we feed ourselves lies and feast on negativity, we are entirely absorbed in ourselves. We only care about what other people think about us. “My skin looks really terrible today.” “I’m not outgoing enough.” “I’m not as talented as her.”
Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Self talk completely hinders us from following this commandment. Believe it or not, negative self talk is a form of conceit. We think that we’re the center of attention and that everyone is watching us. Our negativity is inward focused and blinds us to others. When we tear ourselves down, we are so self absorbed that we fail in the relationships department. We have no idea what’s even going on in the lives of those around us, so we can’t even begin to put their interests before our own.
We have to give our minds something else to do
The world will tell you that to feel better about yourself, all you have to do is start telling yourself that you’re beautiful, smart, and talented. But if we tell ourselves how amazing we are, we end up with the same exact problem: self absorption and conceit.
In the area of piano performance, I can’t just tell myself what an amazing performer I am. I have to give myself a specific focus in every phrase of my piece to keep my mind from going down a path of negative self talk. I might choose to listen for the crescendo in one line, for the top voices of the chords in the next phrase, or dynamic contrast in the next.
We can apply this same concept to our daily lives. We need to replace the negativity and lies with truth. What if we preached gospel truths to ourselves every time we felt the temptation to degrade ourselves? What if instead of focusing on our flaws we focused on our Savior’s perfection? What if we spoke truths about our Savior’s love for us instead of our dissatisfaction with ourselves?
Romans 8:5-6 says, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
I recently heard author Dannah Gresh speak about self talk. She challenged us to turn our “self talk” into “Savior talk.” I want to challenge you to do the same. Every time you feel the urge tell yourselves lies about your appearance, worth, or gifts, tell yourself 5 truths about your Savior instead.
Our thought processes can be radically changed by preaching gospel truths to ourselves instead of listening to our own negativity. It isn’t easy to completely change a thought process. It takes intentionality and commitment, but it’s worth it. If our identity is rooted and grounded in our Savior, we are freed to look outside of ourselves as we bask in the great love that has been shown to us.