The Power of Self-Talk

Women have a bad habit of putting ourselves down when talking to each other. Conversations are liberally sprinkled with phrases like, “My hair looks awful today,” or “I hate my clothes. I feel like I look fat in everything,” or even “I feel like a bad mom/friend/sister/spouse.” It too often feels like a competition among women over who can be the most “humble,” by putting themselves down the most.

My friend Christie has the best response when I, or others around her, start in with the negative talk. “Please don’t talk about my friend that way,” she’ll say. It’s a great wake-up call. I wouldn’t talk about other people the way I too often talk about myself.           

And I’m probably one of the better ones for not doing negative self-talk. (Although I don’t know—I may have just heard 10 of my friends drop to the floor laughing as they read this.) But one of the things I like most about myself is that I like myself. I don’t mind hanging out alone. I’m smart and funny and I think I’m good company.

Where I’ve started paying attention as of late to self-talk, both positive and negative, is in my training. I did a 10-mile run a couple of weekends ago with friends and I was down on myself the entire time. I felt tired and was fading behind the main group.

 “I’m weak. I’m under-trained. I’m not working hard enough. I’m slacking on my training. I can’t keep up. I suck.”

These were the thoughts going through my head as a I ran. And I thought they were valid because the evidence was right there in front of me—the group was leaving me behind, my breathing was hard and my legs felt heavy.            


At the end of the 10-miles I re-evaluated. I’d been planning on running the 10 at an 8-minute pace. Instead, I averaged a 7:28. On hills. In ungodly humid weather. When my longest runs had been closer to 8 miles at a slower pace.

In short, I f’ing killed that run.

And so I wonder how much more I might have enjoyed the run, or had an easier time of it, if the talk in my head had been different.

“I am killing this pace. I can’t believe I’m holding this pace on these hills, in this heat. I’m stronger than I thought.”

I’m guilty of this on swims and bike rides as well. The minute it gets hard and starts to hurt, I go negative in my head. I’m not alone. On the 100-mile bike ride I did on my birthday, at the mile 80 rest stop my CEO, who is a super-strong cyclist, pulled up and said, “I was getting into some pretty bad self-talk back there.”

The key is to realize the pain is going to happen and to embrace it. Pain and being tired doesn’t mean I’m weak. It means I’m getting stronger.

Mantra, please. I’m currently in search of a new mantra to repeat to myself during this year’s marathons and ultras. Something both badass and inspiring. If any of you have mantras you use that work that you’d care to share, I’d love to hear them.

And if any of you start to engage in negative self-talk today, I have a request to make of you.

Please don’t talk about my friend that way.