What to Say When You Talk to Yourself (2017) explores the principles behind self talk. In the book, the author Shad Helmstetter elaborates on five distinct levels of self talk as well as precise scripts that readers can use to improve their inner dialogue and optimize their lives for health, wealth, and success.

“What to Say When You Talk to Yourself” Summary

  • “After examining the philosophies, the theories, and the practiced methods of influencing human behavior, I was shocked to learn the simplicity of that one small fact: You will become what you think about most; your success or failure in anything, large or small, will depend on your programming – what you accept from others, and what you say when you talk to yourself.”
  • “The brain simply believes what you tell it most. And what you tell it about you, it will create. It has no choice.”
  • [Reframe Self Talk] “I just can’t seem to get anything done today!” ->  “I am organized and complete my work on time!”
  • “Mastering your future starts by managing yourself.”

Shad Helmstetter “What to Say When You Talk to Yourself” Summary


The Five Levels Of Self-Talk

[Book Notes] “Self talk is a specific set of concisely worded directions –usually a group of dozen or more combined phrases. They link together on the same subject, which jointly paints a detailed picture of the better you which you would like to become or the change in your life you would like to create.”

On any given day, each of us engages in self talk on different levels, says Helmstetter. Some of the levels work for us, whilst others work against us. The five distinct levels of self talk are:

Level 1: “Negative Acceptance.”
Level 2: “Recognition and the Need to Change.”
Level 3: “Decision to Change.”
Level 4: “A Better You.”
Level 5: “Universal Affirmation.”

Level 1: “Negative Acceptance” is the lowest level of self talk and is the most damaging. According to the author, most of our self talk occurs at this level. Here are a few examples:

 “I can’t seem to get anything right!”
“I just can’t!”
“Today just isn’t my day!”
“…was right, I’m useless!”

In level 2, our self talk may appear neutral, but in reality, is actually working against us. Examples include:

 “I really should get to work on time.”
“I need to lose some weight badly!”
“I’ve got to do something about this!”

Helmstetter points out that when we say things such as “I need to be more organized,” what we are really saying is “I need to be more organized… but I’m not!” 

Level 3 is where our self-talk shifts and is aimed towards working for our benefit rather than against us.

“I no longer have a problem dealing with people at work.”
“I don’t eat more than I should.”
“I never get upset in traffic.”

Helmstetter clarifies: “when you move to Level III, you are automatically beginning to rephrase old negative ‘cannots.’ That is, you are putting them behind you, and stating them in a new and positive way. This tells your subconscious mind to wake up, get moving, and make the change.”

Level 4: “A Better You” is the most effective level of self-talk because it is crucial for sustaining change, but we tend to use it the least. Some of the positive dialogue at this level include:

 “I am organized and get things done”
“I have determination, drive and self belief.”
“I am a winner, I believe in myself!”

Level 5: “Universal Affirmation” is to do with ‘oneness’ and divinity with the universe. Words at this level are meaningful and engaging, such as “I am one with the universe, and it is one with me.”

The author explains: “This is the self talk for seekers, still living amongst mankind, but anxious to find a greater reward.”


Methods for Applying Self-Talk

Silent Self-Speak. This is what you think about yourself and everyone else around you. ‘Silent self speak’ happens both consciously and on an unconscious level. The key is to listen to all the negative things you say to yourself and then to re-frame them.

Consider this phrase: I can’t seem to get anything done today!”… and reframe it to: “I am organized and complete my work on time.”

What you say when you are speaking paints an important part of the pictures and commands that you send to your subconscious. Furthermore, Helmstetter advises only on using words that align with who you want to become and not saying phrases that might be counter-productive.

Self Conversation. This involves talking to yourself loudly as if you were having a dialogue with yourself whilst holding down both ends of the conversation.

Self Write. The idea here is to write down your self-talk; it involves noting the most significant self talk suggestions that you are giving to yourself  since this helps with identifying negative chatter. It’s to do with noting phrases starting with, “I can’t…” or “nothing seems to go right,” or “it’s just not my day.”

Once you have written them down, reframe them into more positive and empowering statements.


Situational Self Talk

The primary goal of Situational Self-Talk says Helmstetter, is to adjust situations by adjusting how we look at them. Below is a list of everyday situations which demonstrates how effective situational self talk can be applied:

[When standing in a long queue] “I don’t mind standing in line. That’s where I am and I’m doing what I need to do. Standing in line doesn’t bother me –and I really like getting things done.”

[Amidst bad weather] “It’s raining today and that’s fine with me. I’m going to have a good day and a little rain can’t stop me.”

[An incoming call from an irate customer] “I like solving problems. I always deal with problems and I never avoid them. I’ll take the call and I’ll tackle the problem head on.”

[While driving] “I enjoy relaxing while I am driving in the car. I always give myself the necessary amount of time to get anywhere I am going. I always arrive at -or before -the time I need to be there.”


Self Talk Script on ‘Taking Responsibility’

In chapter 14 of “What to Say When You Talk to Yourself,” Helmstetter provides a complete self talk script, which he suggests reading multiple times daily:

“I take full responsibility for everything about me- even the thoughts that I think. I am in control of the vast resources of my own mind.”

“I alone am responsible for what I do and what I tell myself about me. No one can share this responsibility with me.”

“I also allow others to accept their responsibilities for themselves and I do not try to accept their responsibilities for them.”

“I enjoy being responsible. It puts me in charge of being me –and that’s a challenge I enjoy.”

“I allow no one else, at any time, to assume control or responsibility over my life or over anything that I do. My responsibility to others is an extension of my own responsibility to myself.”

“I choose to leave nothing about me up to chance. When it comes to me –and anything in my life –I choose to CHOOSE!”

“My choices are mine alone to make for myself. I do not, at any time, allow anyone else to make my choices for me, and I accept full responsibility for every choice and decision I make.”

“I always meet all of the obligations which I accept. And I accept no obligations which I will not meet.”

“I am trustworthy. I can be counted on. I have accepted winning responsibility for myself –and I always live up to the responsibilities I accept.”

“There is no they on whom I lay blame, or with whom I share my own responsibilities. I have learned the great secret of mastering my own destiny. I have learned that ‘they’ is ‘me!’ ”

“I have no need to make excuses and no one needs to carry my responsibility for me. I gladly carry my own weight –and carry it well.

“Each day I acknowledge and accept the responsibility not only for my own actions –but also for my emotions, my thoughts, and my attitudes.”

“I accept the responsibility for living my life in a way that creates my strengths, my happiness, my positive healthy beliefs, and for my past, my present, and my future.”


More Book Summaries

Susan Cain Quiet Summary
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012) explores the psychology of 2 distinct personality types, that is, introversion and extraversion and explains how cultures tend to undervalue introverts. The author, Susan Cain is a …
Continue Reading…
calming the emotional storm summary
“Calming The Emotional Storm” (2012) is about how to bear emotional pain skillfully. The book distills the core teachings of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which is a branch of psychotherapy with the premise that (similar to CBT) your thoughts, emotions, …
Continue Reading…
full catastrophe living summary
Full Catastrophe Living (1990) introduces the reader to the concept of mindfulness. The author, Jon Kabat-Zinn is a professor, and teacher who founded The Stress Reduction Clinic. In Full Catastrophe Living, Kabat-Zinn draws from decades of experience – combining personal …
Continue Reading…