How to Give Yourself a Pep Talk
Science-backed strategies for creating your own confidence boost
If life were a sports movie, you’d have on-demand access to energetic coaches with booming voices, ready at a moment’s notice to inspire you through the next challenge. Whenever you were gearing up to initiate an awkward relationship talk or deliver a presentation in front of your terrifyingly stone-faced boss — boom, there would be Coach, fresh from the locker room to remind you that you’ve got heart and that winning is all about your attitude. Now go get ’em, champ.
Unfortunately, we’re usually left to do our own dirty work — to stare in the mirror, rack our brains for the right aphorisms, and hope one of them will actually resonate. It’s hard to infuse any line with real confidence if you’re whispering it to yourself as you frantically reapply deodorant.
But there’s a better way. In fact, if you do it right, you really can be the most effective vehicle for your own pep talk.
“What we colloquially refer to as pep talks are most often called self-talk in the scientific literature,” says Benjamin D. Rosenberg, a professor of psychology at Dominican University. And self-talk has one very important advantage over a pep talk from someone else: We tend to trust ourselves more than we trust other people.
Research has shown that self-talk has a huge positive effect on self-confidence and self-efficacy, or the belief that we what it takes to accomplish a task. Here’s how to convince yourself you’ve got things under control.
Address your symptoms
Silently talking to yourself can decrease the physical effects of anxiety that often ramp up just before we have to perform, Rosenberg says, by “decreas[ing] cognitive anxiety, negative, or repetitive thoughts.” One study, for example, found that people were able to keep their heart rates more in control while telling themselves kind things.
You can also quell the fear completely by divorcing it from your own performance — for example, telling yourself the sweaty palms are just a little bit of stage fright creeping in, not a sign that you’re likely to fumble your words. Try thinking things like, “My brain is reacting to feelings of fear…