Demotivational Quote

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I happened across this site in one of my internet travels and it offered to send you little quotes and inspirational things every day.  I used to think that kind of stuff was a little silly but I’ve come around and sometimes it gives you something to think about so I signed up.

Well, this is what came through today.

Your Inspiration For Today!
Self-talk is what we say to ourselves all day long, and also how we say it. For years, performance experts worldwide have known about the impact self-talk has on us. That being said, average performers are oblivious to what they are saying to themselves and how it is affecting the quality of their lives. The pros have always been aware of the power of language in programming and reprogramming the human computer. 77% of the average person’s self-talk is negative.

If you are a regular reader to this blog, you know that I have many issues with self-confidence and I’ve had many moments when I’ve engaged in rather mean and vicious negative self-talk.  I can be a very effective bully to myself so I consider myself a bit of an expert on negative self-talk.

It is something I try to control.  Sometimes, I get politely slapped around here about being too hard on myself which is good thing.  But this particular paragraph really set me off for a whole lot of reasons.

Let’s start with the whole “average performers” vs “pros”.  What metric is being used here to define “average” vs “pro”?  I don’t like the use of “oblivious” because it implies that the average people are just wandering around in a daze running themselves down without a clue of what it is doing to them.  Why don’t we just call it what it is.  It really sounds like the author wanted to say “winners” and “losers” but talked himself out of it because “loser” might come across too harsh.

But here’s my problem with things like this where they present a dichotomous choice.  Clearly, nobody wants to be average (a loser).  Based on the description, we’d all want to be pros (winners!).  Is being aware of the power of language enough?  I know it may seem obvious but the power comes from trying to focus on positive self-talk.

Let’s take my case.  I’m not totally oblivious to the fact that I can be very mean to myself.  I may not always recognize it but there are certainly times that I do.  I write what I feel and sometimes I just feel down on myself so that comes out.  Yeah, I certainly know the impact and how it makes me feel so I must certainly know about the power of language.  So I can’t be “average”, right?  But am I really a pro?  If this is what being a pro is, then this paragraph isn’t very freaking motivating because it would tell me that I’m fine and I know that I have to fight to keep the negativity from overwhelming me.

At a very high level, this little paragraph is really only saying two things:

  1. Negative self-talk is bad.
  2. Stop doing it.

OK, thanks, that was less than helpful and certainly not motivating.  Stating the obvious doesn’t qualify as motivation.

But it is the context behind it that is the problem.  I went deep into the definitions and found they didn’t make much sense.  You can stay on the surface and actually get this message out of it:

  1. Losers talk bad about themselves.
  2. Winners don’t.
  3. If you want to be winner, don’t talk bad about yourself.

It is the implied “winners” and “losers” that is the problem.  You might think I’m reading too much into this but I’m just telling you how it comes across.  When you are deal with confidence issues and engage in this kind of negative self-talk, it is easy to make that leap.  But then it sets up the unattainable ideal.  To be fair, it is probably attainable but it is long journey and there are going to be set backs and failures along the way.  The problem with this type of winner vs loser motivation is that it just gives you even more incentive to hate yourself when you have the inevitable slip up.

In other words, you could resolve to never run yourself down again.  And, its a good resolution to make.  But, I think some of us struggle more than others.  Maybe it is a personality thing.  Maybe it is the circumstances of our lives.  Maybe we weren’t given enough praise as children.  Maybe the deep seated insecurities come from other reasons.  Who knows, but the point is that it can be very hard for some of us to avoid falling back into the pit of despair where you verbally run yourself down for some perceived imperfection.  But, now, you’ve blown your resolution and you are back in the loser camp.  So this attempt at motivation and growth can actually be bad for you.

And, just because I want to keep going, what is the deal with that 77% figure?  Would love to see the research on that.  What did they do, strap voice recorders to a group of people and then transcribe them later and have someone count all the occurrences of negative self-talk.  How did they define self talk in the first place?  What about things that are thought and not said?  Negative thoughts are probably as bad as negative talking and there is no way to measure that.  Unless they gave people a “thought diary” to record all of that.

Now, if 77% of the average person’s self-talk is negative, what about a pro?  Are they are 0?  Are they at 50%? 25%? 75%? On the other hand, even if you had a goal to shoot for, how are you going to measure progress.  In other words, if you wanted to know how you compared to the average, could you even do it?  If you went on some motivational kick and tried to knock off the negative stuff, could you even figure out a way to know if you’ve moved from the 77% figure.

Sorry, but this feels more like something someone pulled out of their nether regions.  Probably picked a number like 77% because it seems more real than picking a round number like 80%.  Or, maybe the author just liked the number 7.  Maybe it was a bet to see if you could work 77 into a post.  Whatever it is, the one thing it isn’t is useful.

I think I need to find a different web site.  This one seemed to have the opposite of its intended impact.





  1. I had to go back and reread the quote after reading your analysis. I agree, it isn’t put together well and leaves you feeling like “huh?” My first confusion was over “average performers.” What performers? Performers of self-talk?? And then it never says that the “pros” have mastered any specific kind of self-talk, positive or negative, it just says they’re more aware. Ok, so then you and I are definitely pros because we’re fully aware of how much we bash ourselves! Then the stat at the end about the average person (not performer, so different than the first mention of average?) feels totally random, like oh by the way. You, I and many of the other ballroom bloggers have definitely written better motivational pieces about self-talk!

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