Dialogue with Yourself: The Art and Limits of Talking to Yourself

Megan Smith
 min read

This article is about the internal dialogue with yourself, which includes your thoughts, memories, images, hopes, dreams, and even talking to yourself.

Black American Woman With Short Hair In White Tshirt And Dark Shorts Illustration Of Having Dialogue With Yourself In Meditation

We discuss the benefits and limitations of talking to yourself, exercises you can try, and the role of mental environments.

Dialogue with yourself: Introduction

Talking to yourself could be likened to some music playing in the background of your mind.

However, when you do not have good self-esteem, this background music in your head can often become negative and confusing.

This article explains how to dialogue with yourself without exceeding the limits.

When you dialogue with yourself, it is not just an image

The philosopher Plato once said that thinking is equivalent to talking to yourself.

Cartoon Of White Figure On Black Background Speaking To Himself Using Old Communication System 2 Cups And Wire Symbolizing Dialogue With Yourself

Our inner life is composed of images, impressions, emotions, and thoughts that are more or less precise and that we produce for ourselves.

Each person is simultaneously the transmitter and the receiver of their internal dialogue.

When our mind cannot produce clear ideas or images, it slowly creates the habit of not trying to give a precise form to these productions.

However, clarifying these complex whispers and inner rumors is also necessary.

Generally, when we have self-esteem problems, we notice that our thoughts are occupied by ruminations that are often sad or defeatist. We will also find negative, fuzzy, poor, and repetitive thoughts.

Although these thoughts have a somewhat distressing effect, we do not really pay attention to them.

Our mind will try to escape these negative thoughts through distraction, like reading a good book, watching an episode (or several) of our favorite series, listening to music, etc., just to busy our mind with something else.

During these "mental automatisms," our consciousness is on autopilot. We don't consciously think anymore but mumble to ourselves instead. These include:

  • Unclear intentions that we call "plans."
  • Or confused ruminations that we call "thoughts."

However, these confused whispers are a problem and play a more critical role than we think. In fact, they condition a large part of our satisfaction with ourselves, our morale, our daring, and our renunciation.

This inner voice could be described as a little, evil demon on our shoulder, urging us to whine rather than act or to give up rather than move forward.

Man With Brown Hair And Beard In Background Holding A White Cloud With Two Hands Symbolizing Inner Dialogue And Self Talk

We must leave the confused murmur of our states of mind

When our thoughts wander between two states of mind, it can be described as a "confused murmuring of our state of mind."

For example, when our thoughts jump between a voluntary thought of solving a problem and an active thought of wanting to start a new project.

We could avoid this if we clarify this confusing whisper and make actual use of the thought as a tool instead of merely undergoing it.

However, only some people can accomplish this by themselves, or at least very rarely, because we don't know how to do it and we have never been taught.

Three Types Of Dialogue Balloons Symbolizing The Murmurs In Our Minds That Confuse Us

It used to be rare for someone to talk to themselves, for talking to oneself was considered more a sign of madness than wisdom.

But today, it has become a common practice in our street view, even though it is primarily people who talk on the phone using their earbuds.

Benefits of talking to yourself in a psychotherapist's office

Session Between Female Psychotherapist Wearing Plaid Blazer And Woman With Dark Hair And Light Blue Sweater

When people want to learn how to talk to themselves, they often go to a psychotherapist.

During a session, people not only talk about themselves and their worries, contrary to what many people think, but they also talk with themselves.

This is where a good part of the effectiveness of psychotherapy comes from.

Seeing a psychotherapist regularly to work on how to reflect on yourself is an excellent method to increase your self-esteem.

Learning to dialogue with yourself would help extract this confused whisper, these approximations, these habits, and our daily thoughts.

This would help us to consciously think, not just ruminate, but to make sentences, put words on what we feel, and really try to specify our otherwise vague sensations or intuitions.

In therapy, where we learn to talk to ourselves, we look at how our difficulties were built and how they are being maintained.

After several sessions of exercises, and when the therapy has gone well, it is possible to emerge with increased capacities of self-reflection.

Man With Brown Long Hair Holds With Right Hand A White Dialogue Cloud Above His Head Understanding Inner Thoughts And Dialogue

However, as in many areas, we should avoid too much of a good thing and not overdo it. Indeed, there are many other subjects to think about than only ourselves.

Going about therapy the wrong way could make us obsess about ourselves. But on the other hand, successful psychotherapy can undoubtedly provide a valuable ability for dialogue with yourself.

Talking to oneself has become quite an art

Abstract Artwork Of Female Face Fading And Transitioning Into Graceful Wavy Lines To The Right Symbol Of Talking To Yourself Is An Art

For a long time, the relationship with oneself went through philosophy or spirituality.

In fact, the first to engage in it were the Stoic philosophers such as Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Their literature is proof of their efforts to clarify their thoughts and soothe their souls.

Then, the Christian thinkers (e.g., the Confessions of Saint Augustine) also lent themselves to the exercise, with the objective of self-improvement, but through submission to the divine will.

As such, these spiritual exercises became a tradition of the Catholic religion, the most famous of which are those of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

He expressed that by doing spiritual exercises, one understands how to examine one's own consciousness, and it also allows one to meditate, contemplate, pray (mentally and vocally), and conduct all other spiritual activities.

Whatever the context, whether secular or spiritual, there are three observations when wanting to practice these exercises yourself:

  1. First of all, it is immensely and surprisingly difficult in the beginning.
  2. Secondly, these exercises can be learned, and there are rules to follow.
  3. Thirdly, these exercises are good for us.

Try this exercise for yourself

Start by thinking about what you want.

For example, do as the children do: wish for something, thank someone, or think about what you would like to do with your life.

Try to specify the words, link the ideas as much as possible, and don't settle for a vague and fuzzy intention. Don't just idly think about it but actually do it, perhaps even with pen and paper or at a keyboard if you prefer.

You will quickly realize the exercise is more challenging than expected.

Brunette Looking Out The Window At The Mountains And Pondering What She Wants Out Of Life

You'll find your thoughts wandering off easily or find yourself looking for external support.

You might even think it would be easier if someone asked you questions and forced you to clarify your thinking. (Can you see how therapy can be a valuable help?)

This other person would help to bring you back to the main question gently and regularly instead of letting your mind wander and thinking about a thousand other things as well.

It's no wonder it's so tricky because we don't really do it: we always talk to ourselves but in a fuzzy way. Whether it is superficial and stereotypical chatter or ruminations, we surrender to their fate.

"Ok, I get it, but therapy is expensive and I have nobody to talk to about such personal things?"

You're quite right then when asking: Who can help me? Fortunately, we can help ourselves with relatively simple introspective writing exercises.

Make an appointment with yourself: Write in a diary and take time for meditation

Woman With A Cup Of Tea Opening Her Journal To Start Introspective Writing Comes With Many Benefits

Studies in psychotherapy have pointed out the psychological benefits of this so-called "introspective writing" in a diary.

For people who have experienced traumatic or harrowing events, writing in a diary has helped them immensely.

Writing down the events and their impact on the individuals, their thoughts, emotions, and the link between them proved very effective for these people.

Generally, writing about or reflecting on difficult events can increase pain or cause painful emotions in the short term. However, in the long run, the benefits become apparent and systematic.

Ideally, the exercise should be regular, if not daily, but there is no obligation to write every day.

For example, you could take a moment each morning or evening to reflect on yourself and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What happened to me today?
  • Have I experienced pleasant or less pleasant situations?
  • Did I find myself beautiful in the mirror?
  • Have I learned anything about myself?
  • How did I behave with myself and with others?
  • Did being overweight prevent me from having a good day?
  • Etc.

Of course, such a list is very personal, according to each person's needs, beliefs, and values.

There is another easy method where every night (or morning), you can do a few minutes of self-reflection with the help of 5 steps:

1. Breathe: Start with 5 long deep breaths to calm down and get into the right frame of mind.

If you're doing this in the morning after the alarm clock wakes you, then sit up in bed to avoid falling asleep again (yes, I speak from experience).

Piece Of White Cardboard On Gray Canvas On Which The Word Breathe Is Drawn In Graceful Letters On Square Backgrounds

2. Previous day: What could you have done better? Which reaction was unnecessary? What can you do better in the future? Who could you be kinder to?

This self-awareness exercise allows you to self-evaluate and become a better version of yourself.

3. Now: Make an effort to think of what you are grateful for in this very moment.

You can be thankful for something small or big, material (like objects) or intangible (like relationships with others).

Try to come up with several of them, no matter how small. Such an exercise in gratitude can instantly put you in a better mood.

It can also bring to light things you would otherwise take for granted.

Photo Of Woman In White Pants And Brown Coat Holding Cardboard With Big Smiley Face On It Symbolizing Being Grateful For Small And Big Things

4. Next day: What do you want to do tomorrow? This could include work, chores, and errands, but also how you would like to handle certain situations and your reactions.

Ideally, you limit yourself to a few main goals for the day. As such, they will be easy to remember and more manageable.

Completing these will give you a sense of fulfillment for the day. Anything else you can get done is a bonus.

On the contrary, if you plan too many things, you may get frustrated for not finishing your list.

5. Smile: You don't own all the problems in the world, so stretch those lips and bare your teeth into a broad smile! Even if you don't feel like it and look like a fool doing it alone in the room.

You may find yourself laughing at yourself for doing this exercise. That's a good sign, for it proves that it works to lift your spirits. 

Wearing a simple smile on your face goes a long way, not just for the benefit of others in your daily life but also for your own mental well-being.

Female Face Smiling Broadly Beautiful Lips And Well Cared For White Teeth Around The Mouth All Kinds Of Happy Emoticons Stickered In Sticker Format

Such easy exercises simplify and structure the dialogue with yourself, forcing you to clarify the confusion of your intimate experiences, your mixture of impressions, images, fuzzy feelings, and vague thoughts.

During these exercises, it is advisable to formulate sentences, questions, and answers clearly. Making this effort to articulate sentences moves thoughts from fuzzy to precise, from unusable to usable. We can better understand reality by putting thoughts into words.

For example, if a child is repeatedly told it is clumsy,

"Watch what you're doing, you're such a stupid child!"

it certainly won't have the same impact as:

"Please be careful! Do it more slowly, you'll do better."

The impact of words on self-esteem is considerable since we are all emotionally triggered.

FYI: Many great writers have cultivated the habit of these "writings of the self," self-reflection, or introspective writing.

If you do this yourself, you will quickly realize that these exercises of putting things into words, especially in the case of the diary, are also exercises in humility.

Indeed, these words sometimes reveal the emptiness of our thoughts, or rather their lack of originality or variety.

When we are carried away by the moment's emotion, we can sometimes think we have a "great idea." But after you take a few minutes to put it into a sentence or write it down on paper, it's not so great anymore.

A good dose of humility now and again does you no harm. However, be mindful not to allow your inner critic to take control of your life.

When is the best time to do these exercises to talk to yourself?

Hand Of Obese Man Holding Apple Watch In Context Of Best Time To Start Dialogue With Yourself

What matters most is to dedicate a specific time of day and routinely stick to it to create and keep up the habit. The time of day is secondary to the primary goal of just getting it done.

Often, we are advised to choose a time in the morning or evening, for then we are most likely to have some time to ourselves.

In the morning, you should ideally get up a few minutes earlier, face a window or go outside in the morning sun if possible, and start the dialogue with yourself.

In the evening, instead of watching a Netflix series or reading a book, you can sit or lie down and reflect on your day, with or without the help of the example exercises above.

Beware: It is essential to realize that the "distractions" of everyday life take us away from ourselves. Whether talking with others, watching TV, listening to music, or reading, all of this can be a way to avoid or even escape thinking quietly and regularly about ourselves.

For example, try making a habit of doing these exercises regularly:

  • Meditate, write in your diary, or self-reflect in bed at night before a good night's sleep or in the morning after waking up.
  • Keep the radio switched off in the car or kitchen, and allow yourself some quiet time to think.
  • Get your head out of your smartphone on public transportation and use this time to self-reflect.

Starting or resuming a habit of reflecting on one's life helps free you from mindless activities, thoughts, and requests.

Take a few moments to reflect on how you spend the limited hours of your days:

  • For example, you can easily waste them away on your smartphone (check your screen time), on your sofa in front of the TV, or in your comfortable gaming chair in front of your favorite gaming console.
  • Or, you can consciously choose to spend your time wisely, with the highest impact on the things that matter to you, such as personal fulfillment, physical exercise, and meaningful relationships with family and friends.

Try to free your mind and obtain a new perspective by simply observing the present moment instead of going through the motions without thinking.

Do we have to talk to each other positively? What is the role of "mental environments"?

All Kinds Of Scrabble Letters That Make Up The Words Be Positive On A White Table

Is it good to tell yourself positive things? Or is that just autosuggestion, bordering on self-hypnosis or wishful thinking? These are frequently asked questions in the field of psychotherapy.

Studies have shown the existence of unconscious influences on self-esteem. Let's take the example of the subliminal appearance of the word "I" on a computer screen, together with positive adjectives such as courageous, sympathetic, intelligent, etc.

The results showed that this increased the implicit self-esteem of the volunteers and made them more resistant to criticism about their intelligence.

However, this type of research does not demonstrate that we must always be positive. Indeed, we shouldn't expect miracles from this type of psychological tool.

Even so, having more psychologically beneficial triggers is desirable because there is no "miracle cure" to increase self-esteem.

These studies emphasize the importance of our environments in terms of self-esteem.

The role of mental environments

Mental environments are vital for self-esteem since they contain many small subliminal messages. None of these subliminal messages have much individual impact, but their cumulative effect is significant.

Suppose you were subjected to devaluing speech as a child, by little sentences repeated daily like

"Leave it, I'll do it, you are not capable, you'll make a mess,"

then why continue damaging our self-esteem in adulthood?

Some people make us feel good because they see us positively, support our actions, or accept us for who we are. They express this subtly through small interactions, such as using positive words addressed to us.

During therapy, it is vital for psychotherapists to emphasize the success, qualities, and achievements of their patients and to give them credit.

The psychotherapist must do all this in a discreet, unofficial manner. The goal is not to try to cheer up the patient but simply to do them justice.

To boost your self-esteem, it is advisable to quietly congratulate yourself, praise yourself, and clearly pronounce these phrases, if not out loud, at least in your head.

However, be careful not to lose yourself in competition and comparison with others.

Prefer to say to yourself:

"Well done, you've made good progress with your weight management program,"

as opposed to:

"Yes, you're the thinnest of all your friends."

There is no need to celebrate ourselves and become vain. It's enough to recognize what we do well and acknowledge our qualities.

What are the limits of the dialogue with yourself?

Cartoon Of Male In Red Pants With Yellow Shirt And Green Tie Trying To Push The Letter L Of The Word Limits To The Left

This dialogue with yourself has its limitations and is not a miracle cure. For example, it is no substitute for real-life interaction with others.

Also, you must still take action to improve your life instead of merely thinking or talking to yourself about it. Meditation or self-reflection is merely intended to replace ruminations and clarify our thoughts.

In doing so, it is also recommended to stop any pessimistic self-talk, give your self-talk a positive spin and not have your thinking dominated by self-critical thoughts. This inner dialogue with yourself should comfort you, not make you feel bad.

Lastly, as with all good things, self-reflection and talking to yourself are best done in moderation, for we mustn't get too wrapped up in our own bubble either.

Dialogue with yourself: Conclusion

When you lack self-confidence, it is possible to strengthen your self-esteem by practicing exercises aimed at talking to yourself.

However, it can be challenging to start a dialogue with yourself and put into words what you really feel.

It is important to remember that everyone is different and has their qualities and faults and that we must also accept ourselves as we are.

Writing in a diary or practicing meditations on oneself can help regain some self-confidence.

Woman Meditating On Wooden Terrace With View Of Jungle And Palm Tree Quality Time And Perfect Moment For Dialogue With Oneself

Putting into words or expressing in sentences what we feel and what we really want allows us to move forward positively in our daily lives.

Finally, not everyone finds it easy to reflect on themselves, perhaps for fear of what they might unearth. Therefore, feel free to call upon a professional therapist if you wish to explore this further with a guide to help you get started.

About Megan Smith

Megan has been fighting overweight and her plus size since her teenage years. After trying all types of remedies without success, she started doing her own research. Megan founded Plus Size Zeal to share her findings. She also developed various detailed buying guides for plus-size people in order to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Read More