Don’t just talk about yourself – talk to yourself
People who like to talk about themselves can come off as egotistic when they describe their successes and as whiners when they explain (away) their failures.
Undoubtedly, when reversals are caused by factors beyond our power, we may need to clarify things, which might require talking about ourselves: our situations and limitations. Nonetheless, we can often better do things that are in our power to do by talking to ourselves – that is, by urging ourselves to improve ourselves. For example, during vital phases of play, some sports players galvanize themselves with self-exhortations: “Come on,” “Buck up,” “The time is now.”
Taking such self-talk beyond pep talks to philosophical introspection, the Bhagavad-gita (06.05) suggests that we create a self-reflective difference of subject and object within ourselves when it urges us to elevate the self with the self. While some commentators translate the instrumental self here as the mind, others stick to the literal import of the word ‘atma’ as self. With the direct reading, this Gita guideline channels one of our deepest tendencies: to give advice to others. By treating ourselves as the other, we can give advice to ourselves.
This self-talk is neither the irrational self-obsession of the lunatic, nor the unconsidered chatter of the wild-minded. It is the mature, measured, focused introspection of those who first internalize scripture and in its light observe themselves, evaluate their actions and encourage themselves to do better. Unlike the public, effusive self-exhortations of sportspersons, spiritual seekers, who strive to improve their inner terrain, often prefer more private, restrained forms of self-counseling. Journaling is one such way, wherein we talk with ourselves on paper, thereby bringing greater objectivity and longevity to our self-talk.
By adopting the self-talk we find most helpful, we can progress towards self-improvement, thereby finding increasing satisfaction within and making increasing contribution without.
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