How you talk to yourself isn’t just the key to succeess, it’s the key to doing (or not doing) anything.

Mike Birbiglia is a standup comic and filmmaker who has a great quote from an episode of This American Life regarding doing comedy:

“…I think that if it weren’t for denial, I wouldn’t be a comedian because to be a comedian you have to go on stage those first few years and bomb. And then walk off stage and think, that went great. Because otherwise you’d never get on stage the next night. You would just think, human beings don’t like me.”

And he’s absolutely correct, even if that is an extreme case where delusion is very beneficial. Still the application is important. We could all use a little bit of delusion in our lives if we can wield it productively.


Laugh it up, sure, but this guy is doing great these days. As it turns out, people really do like him.

If you talk to anyone dealing with anxiety or depression, you will hear a lot of people expressing it as negative self talk, the brain trying to “trick” you into feeling like you are terrible and not worthy. Not a lot of attention is given to people who’s brains naturally pump them up.

So can you learn to pump yourself up? I think so. Here are three tricks I am trying to use this year to quell feelings of impostor syndrome, general low energy, with a dash of grumpiness that I seem to always be carrying along with me.

  1. Start observing your feelings and not taking them so seriously. The brain is not a thing to be trusted, and changing it takes time and effort. Part of retraining the neurons that are firing away to fire some different, more positive way, is to not just live in those feelings, but to take note of what you are feeling, observe it passing over you (PLEASE NOTE: Don’t tell others that you aren’t taking your feelings seriously, or they won’t take your feelings seriously. You need others to treat your emotions with respect, this is just something for you to try to do for yourself).
  2. Check in with yourself repeatedly throughout the day. Before you can get to a point where you are fully able to observe a negative feeling pass your way, you might need to set up some alerts on your phone throughout the day.

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At some point during this process you will start catching your feelings as they happen, recognizing and observing them. But in the beginning you will need to remind yourself to do it. When an alarm goes off, pull back from what you are doing right then and check your gut. Are you stressed out? Down on yourself? Take a deep breath and attempt to observe what that feels like.

Then if you have to,

3. Lie To Yourself. No, seriously. Do it out loud, even. You’ve heard the term “Fake it till you make it”? This is just another way to phrase it. You may feel anxious about moving forward with that big project. You may feel generalized anxiety that keeps you from moving forward. Maybe you’re suffering from imposter syndrome or generally low self esteem.

You may also be uncomfortable with the idea of lying, even to yourself. I get it. But I also know that successful people are delusional. They have to be. How else can you fail, and fail, and fail – pick themselves back up, and try again?

This is all a cheeky way of approaching Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Your brain has a lifetime of neurons firing a particular way, and it’s incredibly hard to change. Instead of simply thinking “I should really chill out” or “I need to be happier”,  just stop the thought train entirely and take a look at where the train is headed, then force yourself to point it in a different direction.