Margaret Nelson: View From the River – Who do you think you are?

  • Margaret Nelson COURTESY PHOTO

Published: 9/14/2023 11:06:23 AM

I am going out on a limb here, but I think that all of us have a little conversation going on in our head. I hear others muttering to themselves – guessing they are talking to themselves. I know I have a lot of self-talk going on in my head.

I am thinking these conversations with ourselves can be helpful, or they can be harmful, encouraging or discouraging, positive or negative.

Here’s a question we can ask ourselves that can be either positive or negative -- Who do you think you are? How did you read that question? Did you read it with an accusatory tone or a curious tone? In our self-talk, are we condemning ourselves or encouraging ourselves?

Who do you think you are? We ask ourselves this when we think we are out of line somehow. Do you say it in a way that you berate yourself – really, you think you are Wonder Woman? You can’t fix that situation – who do you think you are?

Or, who do you think you are? This question, when directed at yourself with a gentle, compassionate voice, can be very encouraging. Do I think I am competent, reliable, understanding, compassionate, friendly? Do I think I can figure out this problem that I am facing? Sure, I can do this. I am a problem-solver.

I get in trouble when the accusatory voice in my head is louder than the encouraging voice. My self-talk can lead me to self-doubt, which can stop me from taking that needed step forward. I convince myself that I really don’t know what I am doing, I will surely fail, I should just give up and stop trying. Whew!

Nisa told me about going for her motorcycle safety course. She got to the class and soon recognized that she and another student were surely at the bottom of the skill level in the group. The next day, the other student had dropped out. Her self-talk was fully engaged in telling herself that she was going to flunk the class, why was she there, she was going to humiliate herself, etc, etc.

Then, she remembered what a friend had told her. She reminded her that she signed up for the class for fun, to have an adventure, so why not relax, learn what she can and enjoy the process? If she didn’t pass, she could take the class again.

Remembering her friend’s advice changed her perspective from negative to positive. She was there for fun. She was having an adventure. She could do this -- and she did!

Having others around us to give us that helpful input is so important. I think most of us are pretty quick to list all the reasons why we can’t do something. Others can help us see the many reasons why we can tackle that project, meet that challenge, push that boundary.

The River Center has many opportunities this fall to encourage you along your way. Whether you are in the midst of parenting challenges, looking for fun things to do with your preschooler, hope to better understand your finances or want help accessing assistance programs, The River Center is here to help.

Let’s set ourselves up for success. Quiet the negative self-talk. Listen to the encouraging words from others and allow ourselves to join in. So, who do you think you are? You are someone who can do it – I can do it! Let’s encourage each other.

For more information on The River Center’s fall programs or to register, go to

Margaret Nelson is executive director of The River Center Family and Community Resource Center.

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