Blog General Others Self-Talk: The Psychology Behind “I Can Do It”

Self-Talk: The Psychology Behind “I Can Do It”


Maybe you’ve been told to speak positively to yourself when facing a challenge, or to just approach it with a never-give-up attitude. 

Some people think that such advice is nonsense. After all, just telling yourself that you can do something and encouragement doesn’t exactly solve the problem at hand. 

Not directly, anyway. Positive self-talk does have an effect on your performance and mood, so it’s something worth engaging in. 

For students, positive self-talk is important because it changes how you approach problems, and there are a lot of those in student life. 

Before incorporating it into your life, why not find out more about it? Here’s what you need to know about self-talk. 

What is Self-Talk?


We all have our own conscious and unconscious beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. It was a guy called Sigmund Freud who first came up with this idea—and that our unconscious thought processes affect our behaviour in ways we don’t realise. 

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Apart from these beliefs, self-talk is our internal commentary and it occurs naturally. Sometimes our self-talk can be negative, which can affect our mood and how we do things. It can also be positive, which is what we want to achieve. 

Personally I’ve found that back in school, positive self-talk has helped me improve my grades and approach obstacles with more determination. Studying Chinese no longer became such a chore when I stopped thinking I was bad at it and started trying to learn it well. 

The Effects of Negative Self-Talk


Constantly telling yourself you can’t do things isn’t going to do wonders for your mental health. That being said, telling yourself you can do it is… probably much easier said than done, isn’t it?

Negative self-talk is understandable when you’re in a stressful situation, but always engaging in it can lead to a vicious cycle, according to the College of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies

A person who tells themselves they can’t do something is more likely to put less effort into it, which results in them failing, and then they think, Well, this was expected. I suck anyway. Or thoughts along those lines. 

Unfortunately this can lead to you, for example, taking on less work in a group project, afraid to fail. This is a problem if you’re graded by your peers because it’ll affect your final grade. 

Someone who continually engages in negative self-talk is also more prone to depression and anxiety. That’s why it’s important to stop it in its tracks and reframe your mindset to something more positive. 


Positive self-talk directly challenges the negative mindset and builds a more positive one. 

Ever heard of the Growth Mindset? It’s a mindset where you start to view challenges as learning opportunities instead of setbacks, and believe that you always have room to grow and improve. 

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It helps you improve because you focus more of your energy on learning new skills instead of focusing on how the skills you have now are not enough—and that they cannot improve. There is always room for improvement, but that’s a good thing.

Positive self-talk is a part of it. For example, if you normally say “I’m not good” then you should say a more helpful “I want to learn” instead!

How to Start Positive Self-Talk?


Positive and negative self-talk often becomes a habitual thought process or attitude. 

For a negative self-talker, it will take some time to build up the habit of talking to themselves positively. However, it’s definitely something they can change

Like with every problem, the way to tackle it is to first identify the problem. In this case, that’s the negative self-talk. 

What are some examples of negative self-talk that happens when you face a problem? From there, you can find out which thought is the problem and you can consciously start changing the thoughts you get by combatting them with more positive ones. 

Changing this habit does require self-awareness, as you need to take note of the negative thoughts you have in the first place and try to change them whenever they come up. It can be tiring, but it’s worth it in the end.

Why Should You Engage in Positive Self-Talk?


Engaging in positive self-talk has many benefits—it allows you to take on more challenges and face adversity head-on.

You may not be more confident in yourself, but you’ll be more prepared to take on scarier tasks when your aim is to learn from them. Being able to approach these tasks and take on them eventually might help your self-confidence, though!

This will also help your mental health, and make you more positive in general. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. 



Now that I have shed some light on what goes on with positive and negative self-talk and the Growth Mindset, it’s time for you to shed some light on your thought processes!

You can fight negative self-talk and improve yourself, both in terms of work and in general. 

Good luck!

Rum Tan

Rum Tan is the founder of SmileTutor and he believes that every child deserves a smile. Motivated by this belief and passion, he works hard day & night with his team to maintain the most trustworthy source of home tutors in Singapore. In his free time, he writes articles hoping to educate, enlighten, and empower parents, students, and tutors. You may try out his free home tutoring services via or by calling 6266 4475 directly today.