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Motivation Articles  ›  Picking Yourself Back Up

Talk Yourself into Reaching Your Goals

How Self-Talk Can Help (or Hinder) Your Progress

-- By Dean Anderson, Behavioral Psychology Expert
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We all know that getting support and encouragement is crucial to losing weight and becoming healthier. That’s why the Message Boards, SparkPages, SparkMail, and SparkTeams are such important components of the SparkPeople program.

But getting support from others is only one part of the formula for success. Equally important is your ability to support yourself. In fact, if you’re not the loudest and most active member of your own fan club, your chances for long-term success will be pretty low. Other people may help you get started or keep you going on those inevitable bad days. But you are the one who has to be there for yourself each day when it’s time to make the right decisions to reach your goals.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t know how to "be there" for ourselves in an effective way. I sure didn’t. I always started my numerous weight loss campaigns with a lot of negative feelings towards myself. I wanted to lose weight because I felt disgusted every time I saw myself in the mirror or a photo, and was convinced that others saw me the same way. Every time I messed up, I mercilessly beat myself up for not having the willpower or character to simply say no to a candy bar or a second helping of dinner. And I told myself that nothing good would come my way as long as I stayed fat. All I got in return was a long history of losing a little weight and gaining back even more.

This “tougher than tough love” kind of self-talk is a prescription for failure. Mostly, it increases feelings of resentment, deprivation, and helplessness until they erupt in a self-defeating binge or a collapse into depression and hopelessness. And it definitely keeps you from focusing your attention and energy where it can actually do you some good.

At the same time, your self-talk can’t just switch to the other extreme, where it’s full of sweetness and abstract fluff about how wonderful you are and how you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. That may help you turn off the negative thoughts that keep you stuck in the same old patterns, but that’s just the beginning. Like any good coach, you need to recognize your real strengths and weaknesses, learn to work with them, keep yourself focused on the positive in every situation, and put your best efforts forward.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • SALLY8180
    This really hit home. Thank you! - 10/30/2013 10:02:19 AM
  • Thank you for the article. The first tip about saying things to yourself that you wouldn't say to others was what I needed to hear. We cannot succeed if we are always negative and down on ourselves. So I am going to really tune in to positive thoughts for myself. - 9/11/2013 6:21:51 PM
  • Thank you for posting this...Just what I needed to read
    - 8/11/2013 12:02:22 PM
  • Thank you! - 8/11/2013 4:25:48 AM
  • great article and perfect timing, i do beat myself up about a small failure and forget to see the big picture of what I've done thats positive. thank you - 6/20/2013 9:12:28 AM
  • Great insights! I can see that this article touched a nerve. Maintaining a healthy perspective is such a key breakthrough. I am doing better at how I view temporary slip-ups--such as too many potato chips and other snacks over Memorial Day weekend. I re-gained 4 lbs in as many days, and now I have to work harder to take it off again. But is it a disaster worth screaming at myself about? No, it is not.

    We also have to know what to take seriously. My mom dismissed her doctors' repeated warnings about being an overweight, sedentary smoker with a slew of health problems (and scary family history) until it was too late. - 6/1/2013 11:38:17 AM
  • Ditch the drama!!!! THAT says it all! We beat ourselves up every time we skip that workout we should have done, eat something we shouldn't have eaten. In "the grand scheme of things", does it REALLY matter? NO! It's the consistent 'beating yourself up' and allowing ourselves to continue to fail that's preventing us from reaching our goals. Let's GET OVER IT! We are imperfect! We WILL have bad days! We WILL skip a workout! We WILL eat something we regret! So let's forgive ourselves. Those 500 extra calories we ate today will only matter if we do it consistently. That missed workout will only matter if we continue to miss them.

    That said, "DITCH THE DRAMA!" :) - 5/27/2013 12:32:37 PM
  • This article really hit me. I am always beating myself up and telling myself that I am not as good as other people. If I mess up one day, it takes me a long time to get back on track. However, with Spark Streaks I notice I don't want to break a streak. No matter what I did. I will still track calories even if I ate too many. Thanks for counsel. - 5/20/2013 9:50:07 PM
  • ABIMOLINE
    This article was really motivating to me!! It made me think. Why should I say to myself what I wouldnt ever say to others? Thanks!! - 5/11/2013 12:07:26 PM
  • I have very black and white, all or nothing thinking. This helps me because when I cheat or go over fat and calories I really judge myself harshly. - 4/19/2013 11:19:31 AM
  • I have very black and white, all or nothing thinking. This helps me because when I cheat or go over fat and calories I really judge myself harshly. - 4/19/2013 11:19:30 AM
  • I needed to hear this today. I am tired of beating myself up when I "mess up" or when I look in the mirror. I am a child of the Most High God and He loves me just the way I am, BUT, He does always want me to strive to get my "temple" in shape :) - 4/14/2013 9:56:35 PM
  • RONNIER3
    Boy did I need this article today! I have been trying to motivate myself to get back on track since January, and I have gone absolutely nowhere! Glad I logged in today, and I will begin to practice the points in this article so that I can achieve my goals. - 4/14/2013 1:49:40 PM
  • MERRYMERRY6
    I had to jot a few notes down in my inspiration notebook from this article. Great points. I am working on being kind to myself, treating my self with respect and stopping the negative self talk in its tracks. Thanks! - 4/14/2013 8:04:53 AM
  • I really enjoyed this article! - 4/9/2013 7:04:49 PM