What can we learn from a jar of jalapenos about maintaining good mental health?

In this short video I share a few thoughts about developing awareness and good habits on your self-talk.

If you prefer to read, rather than to watch, you’ll find a transcription below. This is an automatically generated transcript so please excuse any errors.


I always try to make these videos about you and not about me. But if I may, I’d like to share with you something that happened recently in the hope that I can illustrate one of the most important concepts when it comes to overcoming anxiety.

A few days ago, I was making my breakfast, and I was making smoothie for the children that same time.

I was a little bit distracted, I was thinking about what was on my agenda for the day. And looking back on it, I was probably a little bit rushed at the time, I’d got quite a few things that I needed to put away in the fridge. And I’ve got several things in each hand.

Now somehow, I managed to get the fridge door open, and I started to put things down. And so did instead of putting one  of them down onto the shelf I dropped it. It was only from a short distance. but as it fell, it knocked over jar of jalapenos that started to fall from the fridge.  It was a glass jar. And that would have been quite a messy start to my day.

Thankfully, I managed to gather my wits and I put down what was in front of me. And with a move that I’m sure many cricketers would have been proud of, I caught the jar of  jalapenos. And as I did, I said to myself, great catch, Tony, well done.

When I  reflected on that I realized that in the past, my response would have been very different.

If you’ve watched any of my videos before, you’ll know that many years ago, I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for a long time. And during that time, my response would have been very different, it would have been something more like, I am so stupid, I’m so clumsy. And then I would have been mad at myself for ages for not having thought things through.

What’s important is that in that past life of mine, there were two things going on. The first is that I would not have even been aware of the way that I was talking to myself. And the second was that even if I was aware of it, or wouldn’t have thought it was important, because I hadn’t yet learned how crucial self talk is in maintaining a healthy mental state.

I would not have been alone in that. Most people have an ongoing internal dialogue. But most people are not aware of what they are saying to themselves.

When I lived in London, I lived close to the North Circular Road. And I never noticed the sound of the traffic that was there 24 hours a day. I only noticed it when I moved out of the area and it wasn’t there anymore, because our brains are amazing at tuning out repetitive noise. And that often includes our self talk.

If like I used to,   you tell yourself over and over again that you’re clumsy or stupid, you’ll stop being aware of that very quickly. But just because you’re not aware of it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not harming you.

I was running a training course a few years ago, and set a task for the group. And then a lady who was sitting close by me said, this is going to be really difficult, and asked her why do you think this is going to be really difficult.

And she looked at me and she said, What makes you think that I think it’s going to be difficult? I replied,  because you said it out loud.

Not only was she not aware that she’d said it out loud, she wasn’t even aware that she was thinking it.

Most thoughts that most people have happen below the level of conscious awareness and that’s when they become dangerous.

A child does not develop low self esteem if they are told once that they are stupid. children develop low self esteem when they told over and over again that they’re stupid. And it’s the same with our self talk, we can get away with talking to ourselves in a less than positive way if it’s occasionally. But when it’s a pattern, it’s a very different story.

So my message today is very simple. Become more aware of yourself talk. What are you saying to yourself over and over again? And is it helping you? Or is it keeping you in stuck in a place that you don’t want to be?

The first thing that needs to happen is you have to train yourself to hear that little voice in your head because it’s likely to be very quiet. And that means you’ll have to listen very hard. But as soon as you start to pay attention, then hearing that voice becomes second nature very quickly.

Once you can hear it, that’s when you can start to question it and you can play this little game with yourself. Imagine that whatever words you’re saying to yourself that you’re saying them to a small child, and then whatever you say to that child becomes its future, and ask yourself, Is this what I would wish for that child?

If you tell it that it’s clumsy will become clumsy? If you tell it that is stupid, it will become stupid. If you tell it that it made a great catch. When it rescues a jar of jalapenos from being smashed on the floor. It will become confident its own abilities and it will be able to learn from its mistakes.

But this is not about a child this is about you. And as Lao Tzu said:

Be careful of your thoughts because your thoughts become your words.

Be careful of your words because your words become your actions.

Be careful of your actions because your actions become your habits.

Be careful of your habits because you habits become your character.

Be careful of your character because your character becomes your destiny.

The Persian poet Halfiz said, “What we speak becomes the house that we live in.”

Choose your words carefully, even the ones that you say to yourself