The Happiness Connection  

The power of talking to yourself in the third person

Third-person positive

Distancing: make (someone or something) far off or remote in position or nature. — Oxford Languages

Do you remember the first time you heard the term social distancing?

As with many new things, it might have initially sounded strange and jarring. But today, it’s an expression few people bat an eye at.

I was recently reminded of my initial reaction when I happened upon the term psychological distancing. It turns out this type of space can also benefit your health and is probably a term we should all get used to.

Psychological distancing refers to the process of stepping away from people or situations to gain perspective. This is an especially helpful tool if the person you need some space from is yourself.

The part of you that you might need a break from is that inner voice that loves to share. Its monologue comes from a combination of conscious thought and personal beliefs and biases.

If you suffer from low self-esteem, this voice is likely to be critical and delight in reminding you of your short-comings and perceived weaknesses.

“You’re too fat to ever find someone to love and desire you.”

“Don’t bother applying for that job. They’ll never give it to someone like you.”

“Why spend all that time getting ready when nobody’s going to want to talk to you anyway? You might as well just stay home.”

These may sound familiar, or it may be something else that your inner voice loves to whisper in your ear when you least desire it.

Having a low opinion about yourself can impact you both physically and mentally. Poor self-esteem can ruin your ability to connect with others, rob you of happiness, or sabotage your career.

It’s important to know that just because your inner voice is telling you negative things about yourself, that doesn’t mean any of it’s true.

When your self-talk becomes critical, take a step back. Give yourself psychological distance.

Psychologist Ethan Kross, the author of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It (2022) discovered that gaining perspective by giving yourself space is a powerful way to silence negative self-talk.

An easy way to do this is to simply change your inner responses from first person pronouns to third person. When your inner chatter suggests you aren’t good enough to get a promotion, instead of responding, “Yes I am,” try “Yes she is.” This approach creates space. It’s like responding to a friend or family member.

Talking about yourself in the third person allows you to step back from any emotions that come with negative self-talk. Gaining perspective makes it easier to see the truth about the things your inner voice is telling you.

Try this technique with a limiting belief you hold about yourself.

“Carrying around a few extra pounds doesn’t mean you aren’t loveable.”

“Just because you didn’t go to university, doesn’t mean you aren’t intelligent.”

“You’re good enough to do whatever you decide to do.”

Research shows that using a high percentage of “I-talk,” or first-person singular pronouns, is a reliable marker of negative emotions. It keeps you too closely attached to the feelings you’re experiencing. Talking in the third person lets you take a valuable step back.

Another simple yet effective technique you can use to combat negative self-talk is to refer to yourself by name.

When my inner voice makes negative comments, I’ve started asking myself, “Is that really true, Reen?” Using my name puts me into a position of separation as if I’m talking to one of my children. It helps reframe my inner thoughts in more abstract and less emotional terms.

This isn’t a new technique. The following quotes are from Meditations, by the stoic Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius.

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

It may sound like he’s addressing his readers, but the Meditations are his private notes to himself.

These extracts also demonstrate another effective tool for combating negative self-talk. Consciously add third person positive affirmations to your inner conversations.

“Your beauty shines from the inside out.”

“You are strong enough to do anything you put your mind to.”

“Anyone would be lucky to have you for a friend.”

Psychological distancing can give you the healing space you need to view your negative self-talk more realistically. Stepping back gives perspective and allows you the opportunity to make better decisions and to respond in a more appropriate manner.

So, the next time the voice in your head needs to be silenced, start by giving yourself some space.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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