The Power of Self-Talk

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD
Image Credit: Pixabay


“We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” ~Dalai Lama XIV

Like a faithful shadow on a sunny afternoon, we are accompanied throughout our lives by a constant inner monologue. This voice has been with us since childhood and reflects both conscious thoughts and unconscious beliefs. It may be positive, neutral or negative. Although difficult to study because inner speech is an internal process, there are two major theories as to how this internal monologue, also referred to as self-talk, is developed. Both are briefly discussed here.

According to Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist, a child’s internal monologue is a form of self-talk that is egocentric and a reflection of the child’s inability to communicate with others. The child is not able to take on another’s point of view and this is reflected in their speech. As a child matures and notices the world does not revolve around them, their self-talk will begin to recede and their speech will begin to include the point of view of others.

Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky, a Russian developmental psychologist, proposed a different theory for internal monologue. He referred to this monologue as private speech. Vygotsky believed that we begin to utilize inner speech around the age of three as we learn to combine thoughts and language. Children in this stage will often talk out loud to themselves when faced with a difficult cognitive task. Vygotsky proposed that as children mature, this kind of private speech is internalized. This evolution from private speech, which is mainly auditory, to inner speech, that is language taking place without any outward manifestation of verbal speech, appears to be part of the normal human development. Thus, our voice which soothed and accompanied us in our childhood is still present as inner speech.

Regardless of the theory, it is vital to develop awareness of what our inner voice is consciously and unconsciously communicating to us. This inner monologue has the power to affect all aspects of our lives; including relationships, the perception of the world, physical and mental health and most importantly how we perceive ourselves.

I believe that initially, our internal voice is a positive guiding force, but with time and exposure to the world, it may take on a more negative and critical perspective. As children, this voice kept us company and helped us make sense of the world. It provided us with emotional support when needed and was a constant presence in our life. As a child, this inner voice propelled us to believe that anything was possible. The world was a place to be explored and discovered.

Take a moment and think back to when you were a child. Do you recall when your inner voice first pointed out that you were not good enough or that you didn’t matter? For most, the negative internal voice was non-existent during early childhood. You believed that you could achieve anything and everything. The majority of us develop the critical inner voice as we get older and are exposed to others being overly critical towards us. As adults, this critical inner voice will hold us back by convincing us that the world is predominately dangerous and unkind. It may constantly remind us about past failures and our perceived ineptness. 

I am not suggesting that we should view the world as an unduly cheerful and safe place. I realize the world is far from the happiest place on earth. Nor am I suggesting that it is possible to live a life without criticism. I believe that to develop a healthy consciousness, we must learn how to best utilize this inner voice. It would be a mistake to treat our inner voice as simple background noise to our life. We must learn to actively engage with this voice in order to keep it positive and avoid letting the negative self-talk or negative core beliefs infiltrate our life.

It helps to identify your inner voice as that of your inner child. Much like a child, it needs to be taught rules and manners. It must be trained to be comfortable with silence in order to avoid constant unnecessary chatter. When your inner voice throws a tantrum and begins to tell you all the things that are wrong with you and your life, it must be met with kindness and compassion. Be mindful and validate what you are feeling but use your logic to do away with what is unnecessary and unproven criticism. For example, if your inner voice is telling you that you will never be able to get a job because you are a failure, acknowledge the origin of this thought. Perhaps it is coming from a place of fear or an old script from someone telling you this in your life. It is important to counter this thought logically. By thinking of the times when you did not feel like a failure you can make a strong argument that you are indeed not a failure.

The world is a difficult enough place without having an internal enemy who is always willing and ready to discuss your shortcomings. By taming your inner voice to focus on the good in your life and on your positive attributes, you can gain an ally in yourself. The one constant in your life is you. Learn to live peacefully with yourself by being kind and compassionate in your self-talk. With discipline and practice, this will become second nature and self-doubt and self-criticism will become something of the past. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.

Kindly,
Dr. Perry


CREDENTIALS
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology


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140 responses to The Power of Self-Talk

    • Little Lu says:

      You are an incredible writer and I have to say that all of your writing is relevant in my life. My husband turned Psychotic and I have dated 2 narcissists. Thank you very much for the wonderful work that you are doing!

      Liked by 4 people

  1. Maria says:

    I love how you compare our inner voice to a child. Its so true. Sometimes I don’t even notice when I am talking down to myself. It’s like second nature. I am trying to be more aware and actually combat it by saying stop outloud. It helps!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Karen says:

    My inner voice certainly stems from negativity in childhood, however now I understand the origins of its dialogue of criticism and self-blame I am better able to see that it’s wrong.
    EMDR was the key to this understanding and has turned my life around in a way I never though possible.
    Thank you for another fabulous post.
    Karen x

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Thank you for yet again another beautifully worded post. Through recovery my inner monologue has completely changed. Not all the time and not always perfectly but the contrast to what it used to be like is huge. As a result I have found my life less dictated by fear and resentment.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. Dr. Perry,
    Thanks for this post. It is a good reminder that we have some control over that inner voice. We don’t have to just listen to it and believe it’s criticism. I love how you said it must be taught rules and manners. This erases blame and makes it easier to deal with the negative voice. Great post!

    Liked by 6 people

  5. A high school gym teacher criticized me in front of my classmates saying, “I’m going to nickname you “Sheila ‘I can’t’ Meador” because I was afraid to turn a flip. In my 30’s, my husband said, “What are you thinking? You can’t go to college. You’re hearing impaired.” That was a turning point for me, and I revolted against that insecure, inner voice. It made a world of positive difference for me! Change your thoughts, change your life. Thank you for this blog post.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. jandvig says:

    “The one constant in your life is you”
    Says it all.
    If we could recognize that’s where it all comes from! The conditioned relationship we have with Self, only we can change that – for better or worse.
    Thanks for your writing, always thought provoking and inspiring messages.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Very interesting, I always wondered about the inner voice. I suppose it’s a little odd but I seem to have two inner voices. One is calm and does most of the thinking and reads in my head while the other says all those things that need to be treated with cbt. They both sound the same but have different orientation in my head coming from the left or right respectively. The second seemed to disappear and become my external voices while in psychosis. But when I’m not in psychosis it says mostly things to drive my anxiety. I truly wish there were more known about dealing with inner voices. I think they are at the basis of a lot of mental illness and yet we rarely discuss them. Anyway great article, thanks so much for publishing.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Mrs. Colton says:

    Thank you for another excellent post. Your blog always give me something to think about. Thank you for your contribution to the blogging community.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. S.M. says:

    Wonderful and helpful post. This is something I struggle with and I am working on it. Thank you so much for the reminder.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. YES, I am finally learning how to correct the negative thought patterns that came from childhood experiences. It’s taken me thirty-four years to learn how to turn that inner voice around but it’s SO important!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Marly says:

    Interesting post :). I call my inner voice as my higher self, we tend to not listen to it when we get so many distractions around us. That is why i enjoy taking some time alone in silence both morning and evening, to listen to this inner voice and be able to follow my intuition when i have to make decisions.Thank you for sharing. ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Michael says:

    I really like the way you describe our inner voice. You are absolutely right. We need to train it and teach it how to maintain a level of positivity. Thank you for all you do.

    Liked by 5 people

  13. I’ve had a negative voice undermining me most of my adult life. I thought it was speaking my truth, but it’s massively distorted my reality to the point I became stuck. I’ve only recently been working on changing it. I’ve noticed a similar tendency in my teenage nephew and have made my sister aware of it.

    Anyway, good post, Dr. Perry.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      I’m happy to hear you are working towards changing your inner. Also, it’s wonderful that you are sharing your awareness with your sister. Thank you for your comment✨

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Flor says:

    This one hit me.I remember when i was a kid till Teenager age. I was bullied. Being bullied has a different perspective (Specially the inner thought- was really hard to ignore).But I am lucky enough with my parents. They help me become more stronger.❤ . And I always get involve of doing outreach.. that way it helps me a lot to look the other side of my inner thought. Always reading your post Doctor Thank you so much!! Please regards me of Brando😀 How’s he doing..💕💕💕

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Hi Flor, thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Brando is doing well. Still exploring the world with his teeth! Have a great day.

      Liked by 3 people

  15. Very interesting post. I like the analogy with the inner child. My inner voice changed around 9 or 10, changed again around 16 affecting my outside world (grades and relationships changed), took a nose dive around 23 (turned to drugs for numbing). 32 years clean and I am still trying to change from the scared ‘big’ child to the positive, anything is possible child inner voice.

    Anyway, great article with good timing!

    Liked by 6 people

  16. C. B. says:

    I think my inner voice changed after I found myself in an abusive relationship. I am still working on my self talk and self worth. This post reminds me I am on the right path. I have to work on my insides to be ok on the outside. Thank you Dr. Perry.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. mindsoul11 says:

    The inner voice is important even if it reminds us unpleasant things. If it emerges we need to purge it out by evaluating and letting it go. We should learn and grow from them. Loved your article Dr. Perry.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you very much. I am happy you liked it. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Really love this post! I’ve tried thinking back to try to remember just when that internal monologue began. That’s a tough one. My earliest childhood memories go back to when I was about 6 months old and all I remember then was playing in my highchair – no inner voice. Probably about the time I was 2 or 3, my parents had one of my brothers and myself stay at a daycare center. I remember that because the experience was very intimidating and my brother stepped in to protect me from another kid. I’m pretty sure I had that inner voice by then, and it’s amazing how we turn it into one of self-judgment, over-thinking, self-blaming. Now I can stop that voice in midstream and ask it what’s it’s up to 🙂 Where and why are you saying this? That takes discipline though.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you Harold! I think it’s pretty amazing we wrote about the same topic this week. We are in sync. I recommend that others go read your post✨

      Liked by 3 people

  19. The quote sums it up well.

    As children we are fearless and then life happens, the many on slaughts of life that we even forget how to be free from worry.

    For me meditation and journaling create the space to cultivate the right type of self talk and courage to change.

    Your post are always so thorough and useful, raising good points to contemplate.

    Liked by 7 people

  20. I wish we could recall each time our inner voice changed. This post is such an important message. To recognize self judgment and turn it into encouragement seem to be one of the keys to happiness. I really enjoyed reading.

    Liked by 4 people

  21. imghostlypale says:

    I can’t tell when exactly negative self talk began for me, but I was very young. I’ve been arguing with my inner voice lately, it’s getting annoying and holds me back in life. I think meditation is helping.
    Interesting how we become our biggest enemy.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. Deborah says:

    I call that the Soundtrack of my life”. I had to do battle with it face to face. It was tedious and painful, but well worth the work. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  23. Lilly P. says:

    Insightful post. I battle with this on almost a daily basis. I do believe that it is my mothers voice I am hearing. She was extremely critical throughout my life and I believe I have internalized her voice. I am working on this and this post helps a lot. Thank you Dr Perry

    Liked by 5 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      I am happy to hear this post was helpful. Thank you for reading and commenting. I wish you well✨

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      That’s wonderful. You inner voice can be your ally as long as it’s a healthy conversation. Thank you for reading and commenting✨

      Liked by 3 people

  24. This is an interesting topic. I could say a lot on the subject, but I’ll keep it short. I would say my inner voice helps me to get going when I feel like giving up and helps me to make the decisions to do things I need to do for myself when I don’t. When I don’t they have caused me some real problems in my life. It’s been harder for me in the last year so because I live with someone who is always saying negative things about themselves and I’m not sure why that is, but because of this topic, I am going to start asking why this person talks like this and find out the root cause. Will it help I don’t know, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to find out. Thanks Dr. Perry.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. ken says:

    Beautifully written. It’s so true about our inner voice being our constant companion. It took a while but I have tamed mine to be my best friend. Thank you

    Liked by 4 people

  26. Yes, great post. It would be wonderful if we could learn to recognize and stop the negative self-talk as children. It would be interesting to see the difference in their self-esteem and confidence if children were taught to recognize this and how to change their inner dialogue

    Liked by 5 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Research on this topic would be fascinating✨

      Liked by 2 people

  27. Dainelle A. says:

    Dr. Perry, this post is life-changing. And I mean that in the least dramatic way possible. It is incredibly insightful and fascinating, and personally, something I struggle with a lot. I look forward to reading more.

    Liked by 5 people

  28. thedewdiary says:

    I like the term you used “self talk” and the suggestions you made: to acknowledge my self talk and circumstances and voices that moulded it, as well as positively mold it and correct it to be more positive. Instead of allowing negative self talk and false viewpoints shape or prevent me from reaching my destiny, or fear of failure and not believing i can do something holding me back right now from so so many opportunities and from improving my talents and abilities…

    Very insightful piece as always thanks Dr Perry

    Liked by 4 people

  29. A great post, Dr. Perry. I have consciously developed a self talk since 4 years ago when I started writing daily journals. It helps me to know my own feelings and my own self.

    Liked by 6 people

  30. beyondimagination25 says:

    This so inspiring. Many a times I talk to myself about my problems and situations. People find it weird but I don’t care about it.

    As rightly said by The Great Swami Vivekanad “Talk to yourself at least once in a day otherwise you will miss the meeting with an excellent person in the world”.

    Liked by 7 people

  31. Tandi Tales says:

    Great article Dr. Perry.
    I was talking to someone about controlling my negative inner voice the other day and he assured me that it’s not normal to have an inner voice at all! He nearly convinced me that I’m schizophrenic. I’m glad I’m not alone.

    Liked by 5 people

  32. NoWineImFine says:

    Hello Dr. Perry,
    Today I discovered your blog, via your connection to my post about how the Christchurch terrorist attacks have affected our country (NZ). Thank you for connecting, your writing really hits home. I look forward to following your blog and understanding more of your insights.
    Sending peace from New Zealand 🇳🇿🕊✨

    Liked by 5 people

  33. Liz says:

    Thank you for this post! It validates certain things I was thinking. I tend to be my own worse enemy. I am trying to be super aware of how I think so I can be a better friend to myself.

    Liked by 6 people

  34. I’ve always used self-talk and not always internally–oops. Very embarrassing! Was lucky I had a boss that got used to me talking to myself aloud. I find it very important in figuring things out. Try and not let the negative talk join in. Keep it positive.

    Liked by 6 people

  35. ‘Be kind and companionate to yourself’ so very true, we ourselves can do more self destruction than anyone else. This is a great reminder to how to treat ourselves.

    Liked by 4 people

  36. Sharon says:

    A great read as always Dr Perry!!! I honestly can’t remember when my inner voice changed from the innocent child who believed in fairytales, to the voice that became permeated with negativity and self-hate. It was rather young- I do know that. I do like the idea that the inner voice can be retrained to a realm of self belief, though I’m finding that the first step to that is certainly difficult!! You sound like you would be a great therapist to work with!!

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Thank you for your kind words and I am happy this post resonated with you Sharon!✨

      Liked by 3 people

  37. I ❤️ You says:

    I have been using the guided imagery that you have on your website. It is very helpful. Half way through I fall asleep. Thank you.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      I am happy to hear you found it and that it has been helpful. Esteem is a long time favorite of mine✨

      Liked by 4 people

  38. This is so important. People refuse to use their logic for so many reasons.

    “When your inner voice throws a tantrum and begins to tell you all the things that are wrong with you and your life, it must be met with kindness and compassion. Be mindful and validate what you are feeling but use your logic to do away with what is unnecessary and unproven criticism.”

    Liked by 4 people

  39. Moning_to_ya says:

    I love this post and will read more carefully later. I totally have this inner dialogue.

    Liked by 4 people

  40. What a tremendous post. I also feel that the comments left behind are equally as impressive. The truth and honesty is a comfort to anyone who reads them. There are so many insights and well-defined issues and ideas. I myself have found power in self-talking and determined that as it may seem strange at first it is the first step to self-help and awareness because for me it put the infinity on my anxiety to a scale I can visualize once I said it out loud.

    Liked by 5 people

  41. Well, I quite frequently have to talk to myself, however, I always have done that. Due to things I do, I am lots of times alone, but never lonely.
    I think, at some point, we all talk to ourselves. And the famous Beatles song: Everyday chemistry “Talking to myself …” Well, I love using art instruction for brain fitness. I’ve done that for more than 4 decades and have always observed great results. Research involves talking to myself, too.

    Liked by 4 people

  42. locksley2010 says:

    ” When your inner voice throws a tantrum and begins to tell you all the things that are wrong with you and your life, it must be met with kindness and compassion. ”

    As someone who has a very loud internal monologue and can even become disoriented with it, thank you. I shall try this.

    Liked by 3 people

  43. I really enjoyed this post. I was talking to someone today about writing a blog and the effect it’s had on my mental health. I discussed how, regardless of whether anyone reads it, it’s given my mind a focus. I used to have times when critical self talk was almost overwhelming, but, having that focus, i usually find myself thinking about what I can write about, chewing on ideas rather than the negative thoughts; and the sense of achievement helps too. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  44. People often don’t realize the power of self talk.It helps us connect with our inner side and the outer one automatically changes..people should be aware of these things..

    Liked by 4 people

  45. Amy H. says:

    Very informative! Thank you for sharing 🙂 I definitely agree with the importance self-talk has on each of us. I remember when I did CBT, it made me realise how much it actually mattered and what effect it can have on people. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  46. evach1988 says:

    I remember as a kid (quite little one 5-6) to observe outside world and analyse behaviour of others and how they react to me and then I’d assume that if I am certain way it would prevent conflicts etc. And since then have always had that ‘critic’ there what you’re talking about but as well something else almost judging and analysing whats the best outcome would be in greater good and what’s the best for me in order feeling good…but always sort of finding middle way in between this 2 voices…I found it sometimes tiring

    Liked by 3 people

  47. 5amt3n says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post. As a practicing Buddhist of nineteen years, I often see what my mind is doing when it goes into the negative self talk. I have created and worked with a mantra that, for me, is positive and through which I see more clearly. LSAG. That is the acronym for my mantra. When I start to, or go in the direction of replaying the negative self talk that I have embodied from the abuse I suffered in the past, not infrequently now, my mantra comes into my awareness. L is for love. I am loved. As I look at all of the beauty in nature, it becomes obvious to me that I am loved by creator or the universe or whatever one calls it and I am loved by my husband and family. S is for safe. I live in a country that is safe, a country where I am free to express my ideas and inclinations. I am no longer with my abusive ex-husband. My current husband is a gentle and kind man. A is for alive. I am alive to appreciate that I am loved and safe and to bear witness to all of the beauty out there, especially, for me, as expressed through nature. G is for grateful. I am so grateful for the largess that is my life. What a gift. LSAG: Loved. Safe. Alive. Grateful. When this mantra, this learned positive self talk, happens I feel much peace. Maureen C.

    Liked by 3 people

  48. claoclao says:

    I learned something today. Though, my inner voice still talks outloud. That’s mostly because, I like the sound of my own voice.

    I get what you are saying though. I keep my inner voice in check. So it’s mostly positive. Thanks for the words and the education to all of us. This is some serious food for thought.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Dr. Perry says:

      Your comment has been marked as spam by one of Dr. Perry’s blog moderators – Referance# 132224, 07/02/2019-1

      Liked by 2 people

  49. Nikki Babie says:

    I find thoughts have to be noticed. Catch the thought before you let it in.- assess it and decide if you want it or not. Thoughts can make or break a moment/ day. I’ve watched thoughts create and destroy. Life is full of choices. Balance is key. Love reading your work. 🙏

    Liked by 7 people

  50. I enjoyed this post very much! As an Atheist I have often been challenged on this subject having that voice be represented as “spiritual consciousness” or the voice of the “Holy Spirit” However, as you accurately point out here, this voice is one that WE can mold, something that changes as we grow, and is a reflection of our environment. Yes. Self-Actualization IS perhaps one of the most frequently overlooked areas that may contribute to sound mental health. It is important, subsequently, to be “in tune” with ourselves on every level, but it is also equally important who we choose to surround ourselves with as they will surely share in molding this voice. Fantastic read!

    Liked by 6 people

  51. This was a really well written article and helped me acknowledge the importance of our inner voice .I liked the interesting insights you had to provide and I needed it . Thank you

    Liked by 5 people

  52. Sir, this post is incredible! I have been through some tough times as a child and still wrestle with the mindset these circumstances created into my early 30s. I have gotten much better at self talk over the past few years and with that have created a very enjoyable life for myself and my family. I still have the old thoughts but as you say it is how you react to them. Excellent article, I am glad to have found your blog. Cheers

    Liked by 7 people

  53. soberat30 says:

    This is completely relatable, and you have written it in such a succinct way. Thank you – I look forward to reading through your other posts!

    Liked by 3 people

  54. WordVibes says:

    Wonderful post! When I was reading it, I felt like it’s my thoughts! Seriously, society is meant to uplift us, but it ends up other way always. Great Article and I hope it reaches to everyone so that we can calm that negative voice in our head and at the least, start to understand ourselves.
    Bdw happy to connect 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  55. This is great and such an important topic to discuss.
    “You are never as good or as bad as they say you are.” Lou holtz.
    Similar to self talk. It is never accurate and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Liked by 3 people

  56. Sometimes when self doubt comes around for another visit, I have to wait for emotion to stop spinning first, and then I can write in my journal about how I am feeling at the moment. I also try to end my journal entry with something positive about myself in order to start moving back into a more level emotion.

    Liked by 3 people

  57. Thanks for this post. I have been witnessing this in my four year old granddaughter. It is amazing. My inner voice reminds me all the time of how “By taming your inner voice to focus on the good in your life and on your positive attributes, you can gain an ally in yourself.” Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. shar33jc says:

    Teaching young children I hear negative self-talk often sadly. I think critical self-talk is more common in youth than we think. It’s great there is education and awareness writing more recently; thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. jamason123 says:

    Wonderful post! Gosh I could go on and on, so much info packed in it. I like tapping into that childhood romance of life. When I touch it it makes me very emotional, in a good way. It’s like I can actually taste my dreams but there is also the critic in there telling me all the things wrong with such a way/idea/thought.

    The practice of meditation has greatly helped me tame the wild horse.

    Liked by 1 person

  60. Just what I needed to hear today … 🙂 🙂 🙂
    Thank you so much, Dr. Perry!
    Wishing you a shiny weekend, full of positive thoughts and dialogue! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  61. LovingSummer says:

    I’m just right at the beginning of this journey and didn’t realise I am so derogatory about myself until it was pointed out to me by my therapist!
    One thing I find hard is to replace the negative self talk, it has to be real of I don’t accept it, and deciding what’s real or not is taking time. I like the fact you talk about using logic for this, though not entirely sure how to decide what’s the most logical though, especially when it’s possible to see everyone’s point of view! 😱
    However, you end with hope that given time and practice, the inner (child) thoughts can be tamed to make it easier to live with yourself. Funny because I thought of that inner dialogue as being very much adult, especially when it was critical, to to think of it as a child turns it all upside down a bit!
    As I said at the beginning, I’m at the start of this journey, so am optimistic after reading your article.

    Liked by 1 person

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