Character Chats

Optimism and Our Self-Talk

Optimism and our inner self-talk.

Here at True Balance Karate, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character.

I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. And we’ve developed this curriculum to best meet the needs of all of our students here at the studio, from as young as three and as old as 84.


And this month, we’ve been talking about optimism. We started the month talking about the difference between optimism and pessimism, looking on the bright side versus having this, “I can’t do it,” kind of an attitude.

And then we talked about overcoming challenges, how we were all going to be faced with a challenge at some point, and it’s a matter of keeping that optimistic attitude and creating something that will help you reach your goal.

And then we talked about mistakes and how we don’t want to point fingers or blame, but instead we want to embrace our mistakes, learn from them, grow from them, so that we can keep that optimistic attitude. Because we are all going to make them, and none of us are perfect.

Positive Self-Talk

And today, we’re talking about our inner self-talk, how we talk to ourselves, how we see a new situation, and the first things we might say to ourselves are either, “I can’t do it,” or, “I can do it.” And it’s a matter of being able to flip the script, if you will.

Some of us walk around all the time thinking about what we can’t do, and what we’re unable to do, and what’s too hard, and what we’ll never get done, and our to-do lists are this long, and I’ll never learn how to tie my shoes, or learn how to ride my bike, or learn how to read, because everything is too hard. And it’s a matter of flipping it. It’s a matter of addressing our inner self-talk.

You Are Awesome

And within the studio, we have a leadership program here. And for our younger kids, we actually talk about this particular subject with a book called You Are Awesome, and it talks about building your confidence, figuring out how to talk to yourself. One of the workbooks that goes along with it actually has a pretty important picture, the one of the iceberg. Everybody sees the stuff above the water and nobody sees all the hard work that went into it underneath.

But along the way, we also talk about, “Well, what goes into that hard work is what you say to yourself. And what goes into the practice is what you say to yourself.” Because we all get tired, and we all get drained, and we all get to the point where we just want to sit on the couch and play video games or watch TV. And it’s that self-talk that keeps us motivated so that we can be awesome.

What To Say When You Talk To Yourself

Another book that we talk about in our leadership is What To Say When You Talk To Yourself. And this is a really, really good one from the standpoint of changing that inner self-talk. I personally took the word ‘trying’ out of my vocabulary.

I was trying to eat more protein, I was trying to drink more water. And when I took the word trying out, because I finally recognized that I was doing it, I wound up meeting more of my goals, because I was no longer going to try to accomplish something, I was going to accomplish it.

That one little word gives our minds the freedom to make excuses. “I’m just trying. I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I’ll give it a try,” versus, “I’m going to do it.” It gives you a more definite answer. It helps your thinking be in a more defined way.

When I was still teaching in the classroom, I actually had a circle with a line through it, and the word ‘can’t’ written there as a visual reminder to the students that you can do stuff, and I didn’t want to hear about how you can’t, because we’re all learning, and we’re all growing, and we all make mistakes, and we’re not perfect.

But as we work on these things, we have to change how we talk to ourselves. And I would challenge you to begin to listen to how it is that you speak to yourself, how you speak when no one’s listening. Because I would imagine that how you speak when no one’s listening is the same as how you speak when people are listening, and many of us have young ears around us.

Being a Positive Example

And when I started to change and take out the word ‘try,’ and I was going to, even my teenagers started to speak a little bit differently at home, because we do have an impact in the world around us.

And the more we can look on the bright side, the more we can have an optimistic attitude. The more we can address our own self-talk, the more we are positive ourselves, which then impacts kind attitudes to others around us.

It reminds us to say thank you. It reminds us to say please. It reminds us to let things just roll off our shoulders, because we can address any situations that come up. And as we look forward to the rest of 2023, keeping this optimistic attitude going will help us achieve all of the goals that we have set in front of us.

Creating Positivity Habits

So as we’re working on our own inner self-talk, one of the first things you can do is write down when you hear yourself being a little bit negative, write down the words that you say most frequently, and then write down what you want to say. Give yourself a little mantra for how the day will go.

I know before my kids ever leave the house for school, I say the same things to them every morning, like, “You’re great. It’s going to be a fabulous day. Love you lots. Make sure you smile.” All those little things that we tell them along with the parent reminders.

But it’s the positive mantra of, “Today’s going to be a fabulous day,” that helps remind us that the day is going to be a fabulous day. It helps remind us to put a smile on our face. It helps remind us to use those kind, polite words.

So if we come up with this idea, this mantra of what we want to say to ourselves every day, that inner self talk starts to come out in all other areas of our lives, and then we hear it in other people, and we can work to be a more positive group altogether.

Go Out and Be Positive!

And that’s the whole goal of optimism, learning from our mistakes, facing our challenges, growing as people, and finding creative, bright ideas to help us solve our problems. Because we are all kind, and we are all good, and we are all optimistic.

So I encourage you to keep your optimistic attitude throughout the entire year.

And I will see all of you on the mat, thanks!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here