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Watch What You Tell Yourself

Why negative self-talk can lead to an exam fail

In an experiment, researchers asked the subjects to read pre-prepared statements to themselves. The subjects had their brain activity monitored and were also asked about their subjective feelings during the experiment.

When given around twenty or so negative statements to read, such as “Looking back on my life, I wonder if I have accomplished anything really worthwhile” and “There are things about me that aren’t very attractive”, the subjects not only reported a subjective deterioration in their mood, their brain activity changed significantly, indicating that they were depressed.

On the other hand, given twenty positive statements, the subjects reported feelings of elation and this was backed up by the changes in their brain waves.

It’s easy to miss the significance of this evidence if you skip over the detail, but stop for a second and understand just what it means. What you tell yourself really can affect your self-image.

What This Means For You

As a positive self-image leads to improved performance, you need to be employing positive self-statements, or verbalisations, to ensure you take advantage of this reality. What exactly should you be doing then to introduce verbalisations to your repertoire of self-help techniques? Here’s the what, how and when.

The Basic Technique

The Requirement for Positive Self-Statements

The first thing you need to do is come up with some positive self-statements. They should be

Identify Your Problem Areas

I would suggest initially taking half an hour to carry out some self-analysis. Be honest with yourself. What do you think are your problems and weaknesses when it comes to the study process? What areas could you improve in?

Turn a Negative Into a Positive

Once you have done this, take one of the problem areas you have highlighted and restate the negative as a positive in the form of a statement.

For example, maybe you feel that you will fail your exam because you aren’t doing enough work. If so, your positive self-statement could be “I have every intention of passing my exam and I’m doing everything I can to make it happen”.

Or perhaps you have a tendency to spend hours worrying about the future, working through possible scenarios in your head, and so have less time to concentrate on what you should be doing right now. In the case, your verbalisation could be simply “Stick to the here and now”.

Repetition is the Key

To start with, come up with a couple of these verbalisations. Practice them regularly. The key to getting the maximum benefit from these is repetition – you need to repeat them so many times that they filter down to your subconscious and are eventually taken as the truth. The more you tell yourself these positive things, the more likely you are to believe them. I would suggest 10 repetitions per verbalisation, twice a day.  

Talk to Yourself

And if possible, try to say them out loud. For some reason, this seems to give them added weight. But if you can’t manage this, don’t worry. Repeating them silently to yourself will still have a positive effect. And this silent method allows you to carry out the exercise anywhere, and at any time, on the train, in the office, or even in bed.

The End Result

When you have been practising your chosen verbalisations for a while, you will find that what you are telling yourself becomes believable at the conscious level. Simply repeating the statements will somehow feel right.  You should experience a feeling of resonance when you repeat the chosen words of your affirmations.

Tackle Other Problem Areas

Once you have mastered your first few statements, consider whether there are any more areas that you feel might benefit from positive verbalisations. Create verbalisations for these too. You’ll be doing your studies no end of good.