I first conceived of WANT: Women Against Negative Talk back in 2007. It was born out of my own personal pain, and my own simultaneous a-ha moments that a) conscious and unconscious negative self-talk was what held so many women back from the life they longed to lead, and b) people needed a place to go to empower themselves to shift their self-talk in a real, lasting way that went beyond momentary feel-good affirmations and mantras.
I wanted to create a multi-faceted platform that addressed all kinds of negative self-talk – self-talk related to body image, relationships, work, community, self-worth, the narratives that are passed down to us by the people before us, and the narratives that are passed around to us by the people who stand beside us today.
WANT has come a long way since 2007. It’s a movement. It’s an editorial platform, a podcast, workshops, toolkits, and a vibrant community on both social media and IRL. It’s let go of podcast sponsorships in favor of spotlighting and amplifying organizations doing work on the community and global level to advocate for change – both change in policy and change in paradigms. WANT has never been my passion project – it’s always been my purpose project. And with time, that purpose has only gotten clearer and stronger. Not only the purpose…but the urgency behind it.
For anyone new here, I wanted to write this primer on why shifting your self-talk matters. For anyone who’s been here for a while, I wanted to post this as a reminder of what we – all of us – stand for, and why the work we do is so, so worth it.
Over the last few years, I’ve rejected the idea that shifting your self-talk is a ‘self-help’ issue. Sure, there’s overlap. But shifting your self-talk, to me, is the very opposite of the good-vibe-ness that self-help and wellness have become notorious for in so much of mainstream self-help/wellness conversations.
Shifting your self-talk is so, so much more urgent than that.
The work of shifting your self-talk – which is really the work of finding, being, and staying your Self – isn’t just about changing your life, in the long run.
It’s about changing life. Period.
Shifting your self-talk is about facing your shame, guilt, doubt, fear, frustration, and blind spots head-on and being proactive, not reactive. What does that mean? It means using critical thinking skills to listen, learn, and act even (especially!) when the stakes are high and you might fuck up. Because as Maya Angelou said, when you know better, you do better…but if you aren’t putting yourself in a position to know better, you will never, ever do better.
Shifting your self-talk is about finding, using, and owning your own voice whether people are watching or not – so that when you get feedback from the world, explicitly (like via words) or otherwise (like via emotions), you’re able to grow, learn, and be better in a way that’s sustainable.
We need major policy changes and systemic paradigm shifts. We need police and criminal justice reform, we need legislation passed that protects Black communities, POC, LGBTQ+, women and girls, people with disabilities, and allows equity to everyone.
We also need radical personal changes.
It’s not an either-or situation.
It’s an at-the-same-time one.
We need both simultaneously, because there is no way that fighting for and creating the proverbial “change we wish to see in the world” will ever be sustainable if we’re constantly offloading our ‘hard’ emotions off on others by using hateful words or inflicting harm (side note, it’s really easy to sit back and convince yourself you’re doing something to change when in fact all you’re doing is criticizing the ‘people in the arena’ actually taking those steps forward. See: entire premise of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly), or shaming ourselves into silence because we’re overwhelmed or too afraid to make a mistake.
We think a future version of our Self will know better. Be stronger. Speak louder. Or that one day, we’ll be successful or self-actualized ‘enough’ to say what we truly mean instead of what we think checks all the right boxes. The stakes are too high right now, we convince ourselves. I don’t know enough yet. Like once we achieve a very specific self-dictated level of success or expertise, the conversational doors will fly open. When that happens, we say, we’ll use our voice. We’ll talk about the things that matter. Systemic racism. Gender disparities. Wage gaps. Mental health. When, when, when.
Yet each time we say when, we not only put our Self on the sidelines, we delay the very progress we desire to contribute to. Each time we say when, we reinforce the narrative in our mind that the ‘right’ time is far off in the distance.
The world needs your voice, and the world needs your growth. It all stems from the story you tell yourself, about your Self. Click To Tweet
Imagine if everyone in the world waited until their own self-determined ‘day whens.’ We would never have any change or progress. We would spend our years waiting around and call that a life.
Society would love for you to keep telling yourself the story of your shame, your guilt, your self-doubt and your defeat.
Society would love for you to stay silent and small. It would love to keep steering you far from who you are and discouraging your growth.
But the world needs your voice, and the world needs your growth. It all stems from the story you tell yourself, about your Self.
Will shifting your self-talk alone change the world? Of course not. But we must treat it like the vital puzzle piece of change that it is. We must practice using our voice so that when the chance comes to make a change, we speak up and out instead of shying away. And because what we say on the outside is a direct reflection of what we say on the inside – we must practice diving in, digging deep, and changing our internal AND external world simultaneously.
Shifting your self-talk is an essential piece of fighting for the world you actually want to live in, for yourself and for others.
The when is now. The right time is now.
Take your Self off the sidelines. You are so ready to get into the arena.