Beauty and the Borderline

A Journey towards Integration

Talking in the Third Person Lowers Anxiety

Do you ever do this?  I must admit, I do it all the time.  Almost every time I look at myself in the mirror, I criticize myself — the way I look, the way I feel, etc.  Walk into any women’s washroom, and I bet you’ll find other women doing the same.  It’s a really bad habit.

Louise Hay advocates talking to oneself in a mirror, as if you were talking to your most beloved friend.  I don’t do THAT nearly enough, but since my Prince turned out to be a toad, I’m trying to learn to be my own best friend.  And part of that is talking gently and encouragingly to myself, to my “inner child” as if I love her deeply, however loony it may sound!

Talking to oneself in the second- or third-person isn’t a DBT skill that I can find, but it dovetails nicely with Mindfulness: Describe and I.M.P.R.O.V.E. the Moment.  Researchers in this study note that using this technique helps to regulate emotion because it creates a little mental distance from your feelings and the situation.

So, the next time I’m nervous or scared, I can say to myself, “Beauty is scared, and that’s okay, that’s normal.  Just take a deep breath, Beauty.  You’re going to be great!”  The next time I look in the mirror, I can say, “You’re wonderful, and I love you!”

Talking in the third person lowers anxiety: Study

You talk about yourself in your head by name, you’ve got a psychological edge that could help you perform better and be less anxious.

The man in the red tie can do it. Yes he can. He's going to nail that presentation.

By:  Living Reporter, Published on Tue Feb 04 2014

If you talk about yourself out loud by name, people think you’re a little loony.

But if you talk about yourself in your head by name, you’ve got a psychological edge that could help you perform better and be less anxious.

In times of social stress, the small language shift from “I” to “you” or to your name as you think about the situation can enhance your ability to regulate thoughts and feelings, according to a study in the February issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

To think about yourself as if you were another person provides psychological space, which helps people exert self-control, says lead author Ethan Kross, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.

It’s sort of a way to tap into your inner coach. “Think of a friend who comes to you for advice with a problem that she’s super anxious about,” explains Kross. “You’re not in the situation so it’s relatively easy for you to see the bigger picture, to not get hung up on the details. That’s what we’re doing here, using language that almost automatically gets you to think about yourself as if you were another.”

Kross and other researchers set up socially stressful situations, instructing some participants to prepare psychologically using “I” and others to use “you” or their names.

In one experiment, participants had to make a favourable first impression. In another, they had to give a public speech about why they were ideally suited to their dream job. They had only five minutes to think about the speech and were not allowed to take notes. “That’s a powerful induction of anxiety,” says Kross.

Their performances in both situations were rated by judges unaware of how the participants had been divided. In both experiments, those who used “you” or their names in self-talk performed significantly better and displayed less stress than those in the first-person group.

“I think that’s a consequential finding,” says Kross. “People who give a better speech are more likely to land the job they’re interviewing for.”

They also brooded less afterwards about their performance. “We often stew in misery,” says Kross. “That’s not good for psychological or physical health.”

Other experiments looked at how the forms of self-talk affected the way people thought about events that provoked social anxiety. Those who talked to themselves with “you” or a name tended to see future stressors more as a challenge and less as a threat.

Researchers analyzing the data found that highly-anxious participants – those with levels high enough to be rated as “social phobic” – benefitted similarly to those with low anxiety by using non-first-person introspection.

So should people start using this self-talk technique?

“There’s the caveat, of course, that lots more research is needed. But there’s no reason to believe it’s harmful,” says Kross. “But it should be done internally not externally. To talk to yourself out loud in the third person violates all sorts of social norms.”

Original article at:

Study abstract at:


One comment on “Talking in the Third Person Lowers Anxiety

  1. tlohuis
    February 17, 2014

    I do this all the time whenever I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I am getting ready to start DBT in March, when the new session begins and I was told it lasts for 6 months, during this time I will continue to see my 2 other therapists. I have one that helps me with all my pain, the physical pain that is, and the other helps me with everything else and that’s quite a long list of things and emotions caused by several invisible chronic illnesses and pain, depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, and now this BPD. Good thing I’m disabled and unable to work because this therapy is a full time job, going 3 days a week. It keeps me out of the hospital, which is a place that does nothing, but keep you safe from yourself and that’s about all they do. Yes, they send you to “group” all day long, but what good is that doing for only a few short days? That’s why I do extensive outpatient therapy. I hope to never be hospitalized for any of these mental illnesses ever again and I am really looking forward to starting DBT. I really have no clue as to what all that entails. Could you please give me a little insight as to what I can look forward to with DBT? Would greatly be appreciated, if you have the time. Thanks for sharing this post. I really enjoyed reading it and knowing that I’m not the only one that does this.. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and I’ll be following you to keep up with your progress and to learn from your experience. Take care and have a “great” day.


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This entry was posted on February 17, 2014 by in DBT, Mindfulness and tagged , , , , , , .
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