The What, Why and How of Self-Communication

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These past few months, I have noticed a pattern in the advertisement section. Barely a day goes by without an advertisement of some form of seminar or workshop on communication skills. The massive amounts of aids, lectures, tips and tricks to effective communication has been evident both online and offline. Having enrolled in the year long certificate program for communication skills, I must confess that I am one of the many who make use of these programmes vying to improve my communication skills.

One of the less discussed aspects of communication is actually the one that has the greatest impact not only on your relationships with others but your own mental health. This is self-communication.

Self-communication, or intrapersonal communication is defined by McLean as, “communication with one’s self that may include self-talk, acts of imagination and visualization and even recall and memory.”

Effect of Self-communication:

Self Concept:

It is one of the most important part of a human’s life to be aware of who they are and how they define oneself. This notion of one’s own being shapes the lens through which we view the world. An effective self-communication allows you to have a healthy self-concept and positive outlook towards life. If this goes unbalanced, it may lead to either a life filled with pessimism and guilt of the many things one is unable to control, or narcissism and arrogance of being the cause of every good thing around.

Self Presentation:

Continuing on the same vein, we come to the idea of self-presentation. This is how we present ourselves to the world. But it is not that simple. Self-presentation is the act of projecting our desired self to others. Focus on the word “desired” – something along the lines of “When in Rome…”. Generally, we do this by applying three processes:

  1. Collaborative – where we present ourselves depending on the views of others.
  2. Multiplicity – where a person manages multiple identities
  3. Complex – where there are competing goals and they take precedence on how we will behave in the presence of others – which goal is more worthy of what behavior.

The way we communicate with ourself affects our decision on how we will present ourself giving importance to one aspect of our life and goals to the other. 

Self-Esteem:

While not completely dependent on our self-communication, self-esteem depends largely on it. It is not surprising considering how we interpret the compliments and criticism is reliant on how we communicate with oneself. So, our perceived worth is also communicated to us. Self-esteem can be an independent topic on its own, so it would suffice to say that a healthy self-esteem is very important for your mental health and effective functioning. 

Effective Intrapersonal Communication

The question that arises is that how can one stop the various automatic thoughts that come to our mind? Just like communication with some other person, oftentimes, we are not in control of the things we say to ourselves. Maybe it is looking in the mirror and criticising our own appearance, or perhaps, taking someone’s well-meant remark on one’s person as a scathing criticism. We know, at some level, how these ineffective ways to communicate with ourself are affecting us. We know, at times, they make us arrogant and other times feel like a victim of a great conspiracy. But how to stop it?

Ask Seven Questions

Even before motivation comes in the picture, there is the need to acknowledge that something is wrong. So, first you need to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of our intrapersonal communication skills. Let’s see it this way: when I ask you to describe yourself in one word, four words and ten words, which one will you find the hardest? Chances are; describing yourself in one word will be the hardest. This is because we are complex beings, and one word would not suffice to explain the depths and dimensions of our personality. But how aware are you of your own shortcomings, of your own self-concept?

Ask yourself:

  1. How do I seem myself?
  2. Do I like what I see?
  3. How do I wish to see myself?
  4. How do I act around different people?
  5. How do others describe me?
  6. What do I think others say about me?
  7. How does this affect me?

Once you recognize yourself via these questions, you will have a basic idea of what you like, dislike and want to change. 

Identify Eight Contributors

We discussed our sense of self, but what exactly contributes to this definition of self that we have? After asking yourself relevant seven questions the next step is to actually recognize the process that lead to these answers. 

  1. Your ideal self: Who do you wish you were? Your hopes, dreams, wishes, goals, desires, aspirations all come under the ideal self. 
  2. Your moods and feelings: Just like interpersonal communication, your present state of moods and feelings affect your intrapersonal communication. Humor can be more forgiving than anger, contentment will let many things slide that usually discomfort won’t. Recognize your emotions and how they affect you/ 
  3. Your appearance and psychological condition: It is necessary to acknowledge that a bad mental health is correlated with bad self-communication. Your healthy state of mind is also related with your physical appearance both of which affect your self-communication. For example, when you’re dressed smartly, made up for a meeting you will feel more confident than you do in your pajamas and old shirt. 
  4. Your intellectual capacity: your logic, reflection, studiousness, etc. 
  5. Talent you possess: Artistic, athletic, writing, speaking, etc. 
  6. Your social roles: Are you a parent? Teacher? Family provider? Community leader? Professional person?
  7. Your social traits: Are you outgoing, assertive, introverted, warm – all these contribute a lot to how you view yourself. 
  8. Your strong beliefs: Lastly, your religious beliefs, your beliefs about success, failure, patriotic beliefs, educational beliefs all contribute to yourself. 

What you say, what you think, what you are and how you behave is defined by the elements of these eight areas. You need to recognize your strengths and weaknesses in these factions and then handle each area one by one. 

Five Applications

Self-communication is a very powerful influence. You use it to:

  1. Think things through – actually converse with yourself and recognize the pattern of thoughts. Don’t just go by rules of thumb and blurt things to yourself and others. 
  2. Interpret events – your own head is your safe space, so interpret the events and how you feel about them, how you perceive them and how you contribute to them. 
  3. Interpret messages from others – take the cues that other people give to you and interpret them, add to your own perceptions with this new knowledge. Also, remember not to give weight to these cues or just your personal interpretations, find a balance. 
  4. Respond to your experiences – take time to respond to the things you go through and evaluate it. 
  5. Respond to your interactions with others –  evaluate how you deal with other people, how it affects you and them. 

Thus, it is important to acknowledge all the processes and use them to form effective communication skills.

One Golden Rule

The rule is pretty simple and oft-repeated. No Negative Thoughts 

There is a reason why this rule is so important; research has shown that positive self-talk increases focus, concentration and performance. It improves mental health and our interaction with others. If you believe you cannot do something, your brain will tell your body and shut down. This will lead to a series of negative processes. When you stay encouraged and positive, your body will also respond in a positive way and make you energetic. 


In conclusion, it is important to acknowledge that what goes in your mind affects your behavior and overall mental and physical health. Just saying that you need to think positive will not make a great difference and yes, there’s not a switch to turn off negative emotions and self-concepts, but just like physical exercise, consistent mental exercise can train your brain to be positive and healthy. 

May Allah grant us all health and khayr. Aameen.

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