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I see these people in the market all the time. You probably have too. As they walk down the aisle, shoveling sundry items in their cart, they're carrying on an animated conversation seemingly with themselves! At closer inspection you can see the earpiece and realize that these customers are not insane like those crazies on the street corner. They are not talking to themselves. They are merely on the phone. Because only crazy people shout like that when nobody in particular is listening, right? Well, sort of.

In The Voice of Reason, author Pamela Weintraub discusses self-talk. Everyone does it, she says. But most of us do it silently, in the form of thoughts about ourselves, and many don't even know this inner talk, which Austin Powers so aptly called the "inner monologue," is even going on. It seems we are all crazies on the corner.

I started talking to myself in a voice loud enough to hear when I was 10 years old. I had changed schools and hadn't yet made any new friends, and my mom was busy with my two younger brothers, so who was there to hear about my day but me?

And so after school I'd go into the back yard, or if it was during recess to a secluded part of the school parking lot, and carry on a conversation in which I addressed myself as "you." I quickly found that I was a good listener who gave great advice. Being your own interlocutor has its perks.

And I still talk to myself. It is a form of self-soothing. I guess I'm my own best friend. I hadn't thought much about my outer (because it's out loud) dialogue (because it's me talking to me as "you") until reading the Weintraub piece. Her argument is that self-talk is pervasive and important. "Inner talk," she writes, "is one of the most effective, least-utilized tools available to master the psyche and foster life success."

But how you do it is what matters. If your inner talk follows certain parameters, it can free you from your fears and make you as wise about yourself as you often are about others. The guidelines she offers follow here:

1. Distance yourself by addressing yourself by name, so as to see yourself as you would a friend in need of advice. This distance confers wisdom, calm and confidence you'd not likely have if immersed in the situation as I or me.

2. Give yourself direction, and be precise. Like the child who engages in building blocks and talks herself through the next step, instruct yourself on how to think or feel. "Be calm," you can say. That's good advice in any situation.

3. Offer yourself a few self-affirmations. You are intelligent, accomplished and beautiful. Say it aloud. It feels good to hear, doesn't it?

Just don't go talking to yourself at the market unless you have an earpiece on as a decoy. Others might think you're crazy! But aren't we all?


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