So I says to myself... (talking to yourself)

Originally Published: April 27, 1995 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 2, 2010
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Alice,

I frequently drift into talking to myself when alone or even when walking on the street. Is this healthy? I find that so long as I don't talk for a long time, it leaves a good effect on me. However, sometimes it's just a sub-conscious way of wasting time. Should I actively try to stop myself from this self-talking, or should I let myself "be natural"? I am twenty-four!

—Self-Talker

Dear Self-Talker,

Well, hello there! It's great that you have a means of channeling positive feelings that make you feel good. Self-talking can be a powerful tool that people use to calm down, increase mental toughness, prepare for a conversation, and/or get psyched for a particular event. Self-talk can be healthy, provided that the talk does not revolve around negative thoughts and messages and does not interfere with the ability to function day to day and carry on relationships with people in your life.

People put self-talk to use in a number of ways. Self-talk may function as a coping mechanism. It may also allow us to think through problems and gain perspective (our own, of course). According to one study, motivational self-talk ("you can do it!") increased athletes' self-confidence, lowered their anxiety levels, and improved their athletic performance. These examples point to the ways in which self-talk can be healthy.

Of course, self-talk may not always be healthy. In some cases, it may be annoying to others, such as co-workers or other students within hearing range. In addition, beware of the unhealthy, negative self-talk that tells you that you're a loser, are to blame for everything, and can't do anything right. If you find that the dialogue with yourself is self-defeating, blameful, and/or hostile, you may want to consider speaking to someone that you trust and/or a counseling professional. Signs that self-talk may be unhealthy include:

  • Exaggerating the importance of problems or personal flaws
  • Blaming yourself for situations that are not completely within your control
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Telling yourself positive experiences are not the norm in your life
  • Seeing situations as all-or-nothing, i.e., not "looking on the bright side"
    List adapted from The Power of Self-Talk by Harriet Braker.

You've mentioned that self-talk can have a "good effect" on you and that you suspect that you may use it as a "way of wasting time." In this regard, it may be helpful to consider monitoring your self-talk. Spend some time listening carefully to what you're saying and, if you feel comfortable doing so, write it down. What kinds of feelings do you have after self-talking that you may not have when not talking to yourself? If you feel that you're just self-talking to waste time, consider whether you are procrastinating to avoid, for example, studying for that final exam, talking to your boss about a difficult topic, or are just enjoying the solitude of your own mind for a while. Additionally, have you noticed others' reactions to your self-talk? Has anyone expressed concern and/or annoyance at your self-talking? In addition to the above, you may also want to consider whether self-talking the only way to achieve that "good effect." Exploring enjoyable activities and/or hobbies that have positive effects on attitudes and wellbeing, such as yoga, meditation, or tai-chi, can be valuable for improving mental wellbeing and building self-confidence.

If you would like to stop talking to yourself, for whatever reason, you may choose to discuss this with a counseling professional. If you are a student at Columbia, you can make an appointment with a counselor from Counseling and Psychological Services by calling x4-2878. If you are not at Columbia, you can visit the American Psychological Association website to locate a provider in your area.

Unless you're concerned about self-talking, others are finding it annoying and/or concerning, and/or you find yourself becoming caught up in negative, disturbing thoughts, feel comfortable to talk the talk. 

Alice

March 20, 2012

508877
I believe talking to your self is very normal, but how ever it can be good or it can be bad. This all depends with what you are saying to our self, positive talking is recommended and will help you...
I believe talking to your self is very normal, but how ever it can be good or it can be bad. This all depends with what you are saying to our self, positive talking is recommended and will help you feel good. but I thing you should also include the negative talk (TO A LESSER EXTENT) especially when trying to solve a situation. This helps in evaluating your thoughts more than just saying nice things to your self all the time, teach your self to be tough. Should be able to take anything to solve anything.

November 5, 2007

21373
I am so glad that it is OK to talk to yourself... I have found it so helpful in solving issues of the heart, and afterwards I feel so much better. I was worried that perhaps I was going a little...
I am so glad that it is OK to talk to yourself... I have found it so helpful in solving issues of the heart, and afterwards I feel so much better. I was worried that perhaps I was going a little crazy by finding this so freeing. Thanks.

April 12, 2007

21221

Self-Talker,

I also talk to myself. Often times, it's when I'm upset with someone or myself. I pretend that the person is there, and I tell them what I really think.

I would die if...

Self-Talker,

I also talk to myself. Often times, it's when I'm upset with someone or myself. I pretend that the person is there, and I tell them what I really think.

I would die if someone walked in on me! I was taught to repress all my feelings when growing up. Sometimes I even pretend to be someone else... for example someone with a happy life, nice figure, someone everyone likes. Unfortunately, I have agoraphobia with panic disorder. This adds to the problem of being isolated, which brings on talking to myself more. I am glad to know that other people do not see talking to yourself as a bad thing.

— Not feeling as lonely in Indiana

March 14, 2007

21212
Hello,

I stumbled upon this website while looking for people who talk to themselves. I'm from Belgium and I do this also. In my case, I talk to someone who is not there! It helps me to enhance my...

Hello,

I stumbled upon this website while looking for people who talk to themselves. I'm from Belgium and I do this also. In my case, I talk to someone who is not there! It helps me to enhance my conviction on certain thoughts, decisions I have to make on certain issues, or problems. I even do it when I hear someone say something — I silently react to it.

Because I only do it when I am alone or when there is no one nearby, I sometimes find myself in an awkward situation when someone suddenly seems to have heard me or when I see that, for example, a door or window was open without me knowing it.

I am glad to read that I'm not the only one with this behavior.

— Kaycee

May 9, 2004

20625
Dear Alice, Talking to yourself... Yes, I have to agree, talking to yourself is not considered the norm in today's society. As far as standards go anyway, which I find to be typical and...
Dear Alice, Talking to yourself... Yes, I have to agree, talking to yourself is not considered the norm in today's society. As far as standards go anyway, which I find to be typical and stereotypical to say the least. As far as a different response, a positive aspect on the "subject," it does show a sign of intelligence, and I do it all the time and am not ashamed of it. However, unfortunately, I am guilty of giving into society and not allowing myself to do it where others can hear. This being due to the fact that I would portray myself as mentally disturbed in their eyes, at least. I grew up lonely and no one to talk to in school, so it comforted me in a way. Just a little food for thought for those self-talkers out there. -Talking aloud and proud

May 9, 2004

20626
Dear Alice, I just have to say, while self-talking may not be unhealthy to the talker, it sure is unhealthy to those that HAVE to listen to it while trapped in an office with a self-talker for 8...
Dear Alice, I just have to say, while self-talking may not be unhealthy to the talker, it sure is unhealthy to those that HAVE to listen to it while trapped in an office with a self-talker for 8 hours a day! For the sake of poor office schmucks like me out there... Keep it to yourself!

April 5, 2002

20414
Dear Alice, Just a thank-you note for the great answer. My eight-year-old does this (exactly what the writer of the question described — it's just that she's younger) and I appreciate the help in...
Dear Alice, Just a thank-you note for the great answer. My eight-year-old does this (exactly what the writer of the question described — it's just that she's younger) and I appreciate the help in letting her know it's OKAY! She's starting to worry about this behavior. Liz in VT