How Business Leaders Can Overcome Negative Self-Talk
Updated: Apr 30
When I was in my 20s, I had just experienced a tragic loss, and I was unsure what to do next. My friends had already graduated from college and started their careers, and I felt like I was behind everyone else my age.
I had no idea where to start the rest of my life. It never crossed my mind that I could still go to college. Instead, I went the nontraditional route of starting a business. At that time, my mother was closing her debt collection agency, and because I had worked at her agency when I was younger, I decided to try my hand at running my own. So, at 24, I was calling her former clients and securing a few of them to start my own agency.
From that point forward, I focused on my career. I built my agency from the ground up and continued to develop as a business owner and debt collector. Despite the success, I felt like something was missing. That’s when I began my journey of personal development. Eventually, though, I hit a roadblock: How could I be a more positive, happy person while also collecting people’s debts?
I wanted to improve myself, which meant I needed to figure something out: Is it possible to implement personal development while owning a business?
I'm here to tell you that self-development as an entrepreneur is not only possible but also necessary to thrive in the 21st century. As business leaders, we have the responsibility to be mentors in our respective industries. To be a good mentor, personal development is key. Luckily, it can be as simple as implementing positive self-talk in your day-to-day life.
The Power Of Positive Self-Talk
When starting my debt-collection agency, I was on the phone daily with consumers who were at their most vulnerable state, and in a way, I felt guilty asking them for money. As a new business owner, I could have given into the guilt I felt for collecting debt rather than developing an empathetic brand. I could have taken my personal criticisms to heart and stayed in an endless cycle of anxiety. That was never in my best interest, though. After all, those negative thoughts were standing in the way of what I would go on to develop.
I began to rewire my own thinking patterns. I uncovered my barrier beliefs and challenged them. I also listed my limitations in my journal and crafted plans to overcome them. Over time, my thought processes transformed, and I began to create my ideas to increase humanity in my everyday business operations.
As I changed my own mindset about my career, I created content that would help other collection agencies. I was able to study psychology and neuroscience to truly understand the power of words. And, I was able to become a more empathetic person, which made speaking to consumers each day that much easier.
While it might seem easy on the surface, implementing positive self-talk can be difficult. If you struggle with this, you're not alone, and I'm excited to share with you some fantastic tips that will help you transform your thought quality.
What Can You Do?
Many of us tell ourselves what we can't do. I'm guilty of this myself. A few years ago, I really wanted to write a book. Every time I thought about writing it, I said to myself, "I can't write a book. I'm not a writer." Each time I told myself I couldn't do the one thing I wanted to do, I was pushing myself further away from that goal. One day, I realized that I would never write a book is I kept telling myself I was incapable of it. So, I began to tell myself what I could do instead.
At first, telling yourself what you can do won't be easy. You're so used to doing the opposite that it doesn't come naturally, and that's OK; just find something small that you know you can do, and go from there. For example, instead of saying, "I can't write a book," you could say, "I can go to a writing workshop to learn more about writing a book." That way, you're taking a step in the right direction and eliminating the negative self-talk.
Think About Your Feelings
It's pretty common for our negative self-talk to manifest as misunderstood emotions that we're not sure how to handle. For instance, if you make a mistake on a big project at work, your first instinct might be to tell yourself that you're stupid and bad at your job. When those thoughts creep in, it's helpful to try to identify what emotion is causing them.
According to a 2007 study, labeling our emotions can help us process them better. So, when you start to use negative self-talk, it's helpful to write down the emotions you are feeling. For instance, when you make a mistake at work and you tell yourself you don't know anything, perhaps you're feeling frustrated or embarrassed.
Regardless of the emotion, simply identifying it can help deter you from a negative thought cycle. When that happens, you're more likely to persevere and continue to do your best in your position without letting one mistake ruin your day, week, or month.
Look Back at Your Progress
While going through an identity crisis in my 20s was difficult, to say the least, I think it was necessary. I have since discovered how to combine my love of personal development with my passion for collections. Today, my everyday collections work and my personal development go together thanks to my thought patterns.
While it hasn’t been easy to forge this path, it has definitely been worth it.
Do you want to know more about my personal story? Check out my book, Conscious Communications.
A version of this post was originally featured on Forbes.com.