How To Notice, and Change, the Negative Self-Talk We All Fall Into

There’s an inner critic in all of us. Everyone experiences that little voice in their heads questioning or criticizing decisions they make. We call this “negative self-talk”. 


That inner voice isn’t always bad. Sometimes it can keep us accountable or motivated, or act as our conscience. However, when negativity creeps in, that inner voice begins to feel more harmful than helpful. 


When negative self-talk gets out of control, it can cause damage to our bodies, our minds, and our relationships with others. The good news? If you can change your mind, the way you think, you can change your life.


What Is Negative Self-Talk?


Negative self-talk is the inner dialogue that tells you that you are not good enough, not strong enough, or perhaps just not enough.


Negative self-talk can take a lot of different forms. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar to you?


  • “I always mess things up”


  • “I’m not good enough”


  • “I can’t handle this”


  • “I should just give up”


What Are The Effects of Negative Self-Talk?

Henry Ford once famously said, “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” The things we tell ourselves become our reality. Limited thinking creates actual limitations in our lives. The more you tell yourself you can’t do something, the higher likelihood that you’ll eventually believe it.  


Studies have shown that negative self-talk also often goes hand-in-hand with mental health struggles and personal relationship problems. Focusing on negative self-talk can lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression. And when we’re depressed, our inner dialogue can become more negative, creating a vicious cycle. Additionally, that inner critic can quickly turn into a more vocal critic, pushing others away.


Negative self-talk also lends itself to perfectionism, the idea that a job well done is not as good as a job done perfectly, despite the fact that perfection is simply not an attainable goal. It’s also important to note that those who simply try their best, not aiming for perfection, tend to perform better than their perfectionist counterparts. 


How To Stop Negative Self-Talk

The first step is learning how to manage your inner critic effectively. Here are some techniques that you can try yourself:


Catch yourself when you’re thinking negative thoughts. 

The act of noticing that you’re thinking something negative takes away some of the power of that thought. Stop yourself, pause, and take note of negative thoughts. Be mindful that you’re doing it.


Talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend.

Would you tell your best friend that they’re incapable or not good enough? You would not. You might tell them they are good enough, that things can be hard, and they just need to keep going, and that you believe in them. Think of your inner dialog as you talking to someone you care for, or a child who needs encouragement to learn something new.


Replace your negative thoughts with positive (or even neutral) ones. 

One very powerful technique is taking your negative statement and replacing it with a positive or neutral statement in its place. “I am terrible at my job” would become “I am great at my job,” or simply, “I am doing my best at my job.” Every time that thought pops up in the future, swap it with something more positive.Or as we say “Stop, Pause, and Swap.”


Shift Your Perspective

It can be easy to become overwhelmed or disillusioned with different situations in life. Try to shift your perspective. Ask yourself if a particular circumstance will matter in a year. In 5 years. In 10 years, and so on. Often, the answer is no, helping to put the situation in perspective. Life happens, all the time. Situations happen, they aren’t good or bad, they simply are. But changing your perspective can change the way you think about a situation.


Be careful what you tell yourself, you’re always listening

And we’re always talking to ourselves. Self-talk doesn’t have to be harmful or be negative. Try the tips above and let us know how it goes. If you’d like help changing negative self-talk into positive, counseling can help. 


We can help. Contact us here to learn more.