Did you know humans have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day? Wow! At times, I must be on the 70,000 range because my monkey mind bounced through what it seems like 500 thoughts in the car to work this morning. But less about me and more about you. Your thoughts, beliefs and self-talk shape your life and your reality. It’s true. So if that is the case then none of us have room in our life for negative self talk!
Take a minute and think about these famous quotes:
- “We become what we think.” (Earl Nightingale)
- “Where attention goes…energy flows.” (James Redfield)
Sit on that for a minute. What do you think about? Where is your attention? What are your thoughts? Are your thoughts positive or negative?
Now let’s take that a step further.
What is Self Talk?
Self Talk is the running inner dialogue that takes place in your mind. It notices, corrects, and redirects your thoughts in a certain direction. It can also be known as the “monkey mind”. Monkey mind is a Buddhist term meaning “restless”, “confused” or “indecisive”. Self-talk can be mindless and automatic. Your unconscious mind is always on and listening but until you tune into it, you just don’t notice.
When Can Self-Talk Work?
The Power of Positive Self-Talk
Did you know that one of the biggest predictors of success is actually positive self-talk? Positive self-talk has numerous benefits including lower grades of depression and anxiety, stronger immunity, better psychological well-being, better coping skills when things are hard or stressful, higher relationship satisfaction, stronger connected relationships that have more longevity, and even living longer.
Self-Talk can be positive when you congratulate yourself and are proud of yourself for things you did well. Positive Self-Talk accepts your vulnerabilities and incorporates the growth mindset. Your inner voice can also be a fantastic tool for problem-solving.
What is Negative Self-Talk?
If self-talk is what you say to and about yourself inside your head, then negative self-talk is the inner dialogue that makes you feel less than who you really are. It can be like having a “24 hour complainer” inside of you continuously running. Sometimes it screams at you. Sometimes it’s a whisper. It seems to always want to remind you that you are going to fail.
Your inner critic is trying to protect you and keep you from harm. It’s telling you, you’re not good enough and protects you from someone else talking to you that way first. The inner critic can also be from a place of shame which means when you don’t feel worthy and feel self-conscious. The job of the inner critic is to shame us first so we don’t feel the sting from other people calling us out.
Furthermore, the inner critic can also rear it’s ugly head in relationships. The inner critic and negative self talk leads you to become needy or insecure. You want others to “have your back” like your significant other or friends but in reality, you don’t have YOUR OWN back and you want them to prove they have your back because you don’t feel worthy.
According to Quinn Kelly, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, there are several types of negative thinking patterns that are not based on fact or reality. These patterns are Cognitive Distortions.
Black and White Thinking
One type is called, Black and White Thinking or Polarized Thinking. This means that you think in absolutes and extremes without considering all of the possible facts. When you use words like “always, never” “Why I can’t I ever…”, you are in the Black and White Thinking Zone. These words come up because they are driven by fear of failure At times you may have a false sense of self and you beat yourself up day after day, over and over again. Small beliefs cause us to think inside a box.” (Paul Colaianni)
For example, you may think that if you don’t make an A, you are a failure. Instead, remember that things don’t have to be perfect to be good. You can be a work in progress. Undoubtedly, you will begin to be a lot nicer to yourself and the voices in your head become much more peaceful and kind if your thinking is not polarized.
Another cognitive distortion is Mental Filtering. In this case, you discount the positives. Mental filtering is only focusing on the negative of a situation and ignoring all the positives If you focus on the negative, you begin to live in a negative world. When you focus on the positive, you begin to see more positive around you.
Personalization Thinking, my personal favorite, is the thinking that you are to blame for a situation even though you had little or nothing to do with it. If you are a mother, you may be personalizing the challenges your children have. If your child is struggling in school or with friends, you believe it is solely your fault. Feeling responsible for other people’s happiness or feeling guilt about situations out of your circle of control, is Personalization Thinking. Stop and think, “Am I solely responsible for this situation?”
Finally, the last type of Cognitive Distortion is Catastrophizing. In this type of thinking, you take one small scenario and blow it out of proportion. You made a mistake at work, now you are going to lose your job. Unkind words were said to someone, now you believe they don’t love you any longer and will leave you. You are fixated on the worst possible outcome and think the situation is much worse than it is. Your mind twists information into an imagined scenario.
Taming the Negative Self Talk
Coach and speaker, Rob Dial, asks, “How can you talk negatively in your head AND STILL have the beautiful life you have always dreamed of? He continues, “It is impossible to plant strawberry seeds and think tomatoes are going to grow.” Which is the same as thinking you can plant negative seeds inside your head and expect somehow you are going to have a positive life.”
Most of the time the talk you are talking to yourself and about yourself isn’t even true. The voice talking to you inside your head is your voice from the past. It may also be a combination of voices like your dad, a sibling, a coach, a teacher, or even a stranger that said something to you that stuck. That voice is NOT you.
Patterns of negative self-talk really start in childhood but we are not aware of during that time period. There may have been times when you didn’t feel accepted by your parents, siblings, or friends. These feelings start the shame cycle – why are you not being accepted? I think I better change or I won’t be loved.
Shame is destructive- it not only comes for you but it separates you from others. Instead, rewording your inner dialogue can be helpful. For example, you could say, “It’s not true that my husband never has my back. There have been many times when he… Another one, “I can never do anything right.” Instead think, “I messed that up but sometimes I’m on and sometimes I’m off. What can I do to be more “on” tomorrow?”
Action Steps to Break the Cycle of Negative Self-Talk
Here are some ways to quiet your inner critic and change your internal dialogue
1. Boost self-worth and self-esteem.
This will help you avoid negative self-talk. Be loving and kind to yourself. Practice loving and kindness meditation. Take a few minutes of quiet time in the morning for yourself.
2. Say a positive affirmation.
Have these words be your truth. Example: “I am strong. I am brilliant. I am beautiful and I am worthy.” Validate yourself through your words.
3. Go check in with someone.
Visit a trusted friend or family member and ask how they see you. Listen, really listen to their response. Friends and family can keep you accountable, challenge you and speak truth into you.
4. Read a book about high vibrational thinking.
There are some really powerful books available by Gabby Bernstein, Abraham Hicks, Eckard Tolle, or Paulo Coelho – just to name a few.
5. Create space.
Sometimes you have to create space through exercise, eating well, or taking a walk. Reducing the heart rate can help. When you breathe out you are looking to fight or flight. The body needs energy for that. For energy you need oxygen. Which means you need to get the heart pumping.
6. Be selective about what you are exposing yourself to on a daily basis.
Are you listening to shock jocks on your morning ride to work? Do you hang out on social media reading all the negative comments? Are you part of the gossipy mean girl group? The things you fill your mind with are likely to come back at you through your thinking.
7. Use the SOS Technique.
Vanessa Cutting from the Wellnessa Podcast shared the SOS Technique. She urges us to Stop, Observe, and Shift your perspective. First, stop and take pause. Then ask yourself these questions in the OBSERVE stage – Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Finally, shift your perspective and thinking.
8. Try the Abra (Cadabra) Technique.
Abra Cadabra means “I create as I speak.” Jim Kwik created this technique to include: A- Acknowledge and don’t resist. B-breathe which can promote feelings of calm and relaxation. R- release what you do not want (the hurt, the helplessness). A- align to what your really want- use your imagination.
9. Self-distance by responding from a detached perspective.
Being a witness of your thoughts. When you talk about it in the first person style, it is so easy to get caught up in the pain and panic. Replace the word “I” with your pronoun or your name. Instead, when you are talking about yourself, try using your own name or your pronoun. Here’s an example: “Why was Tricia so confident at school, but now she feels like she can’t do the work at her job? Why does she think that all of her years of persevering and always being able to figure it out can not work now?”
In addition, you can kid with your inner critic and give it a name like “the diva” making it as funny as possible. This is another way to distance yourself from your thoughts and to diminish their power. You become more rational and get clarity when you separate yourself.
10. Talk to yourself like your talking to your best friend.
Would you say the things you say to yourself to someone else? Chances are you wouldn’t. So talk to yourself like you would a friend. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.
11. Replace negative self with positive self-talk.
Dr. Margaret Rutherford suggesting trying a mantra like “I know I did my best and it’s ok my best isn’t always perfect.” The great news is the brain has Neural Plasticity which means the brain can be changed. You have the control and power to change it by what you think about because brains are flexible.
Also using more accurate language can calm you down. The easiest ones to change are the “never ever” words. For example, instead of saying “I never know what to say” replace ‘never’ with a more accurate word. Use language like “it’s true, I have been having difficulty talking more in meetings but I do it really well at home. I’m going to have to figure out how to transform transfer those skills over”. When you are more accurate you calm down. Breakingdown catastrophe statements to more accurate statements gives the inner critic no power because there is room for growth or change.
12. Create a positive state of mind in your head.
How do I want to support myself in my own growth? What do you want to say to yourself? Put affirmations and mantras on your mirror, screen saver, and phone background. By having them around you, you will read them often and they will slowly become a natural part of your thinking. Here are a few of my favorites: “I trust myself and the decisions I make.”, “I can do it.”, “The past does not define me.” and “I let go of anything not for my highest good.”
13. Use a Growth Mindset
Add the word “yet” to the end of the sentence. “I haven’t figured it out yet”. The word yet offers hope, possibility and problem-solving. (Carol Dweck) When you were problem-solving you are not beating yourself up for not being perfect.
14. Practice and Repeat.
Treat yourself with kindness and compassion over and over again
Journal Questions for Reflection
- What do I commonly say to myself?
- How am I speaking about myself IN FRONT OF OTHERS?
- How am I speaking about myself IN FRONT OF MY KIDS?
- What is FALSE about the negative words I say to myself? Are there reoccurring themes?
- When did my self-talk start in life? (Stop and breathe. It may come to you.)
- What am I carrying with me?
- How much does my negative self-talk affect my day?
- How do I want to build myself up?
- Deep down inside, what do I need to hear?
Important Quotes About Self-Talk
“By changing your beliefs, you change your internal dialogue, you change your self-talk. By changing your self-talk, you change how you feel, you change the consequences of your actions and ultimately change your life.” – Brian Pennie
”Distinguish between what we have control over and what we do not. Once the thought is activated then we have enormous control. We can open up our toolbox at that time and we can push that thought around to amplify it, minimize it, transform it, or replace it with other thoughts” – Ethan Kross
“You are not your thoughts, you are the observer of your thoughts.” – Amit Ray
To sum it up, become aware of self-talk so you master it, instead of it mastering you. “Awareness is the catalyst for change.” (Brian Pennie) The Inner Critic can be destructive and does not motivate you, in fact, negative self-talk can link to higher levels of stress and depression. This can drive your insecurities, fears, and worries.
Sometimes your negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies and begin to show up. It is so important to have a language and a narrative that serves you. Thinking more objectively will help find solutions and make sense of life challenges.
You can actually change the story you’re living by changing the story you’re telling yourselves. You want to feel empowered – not limited. Your inner critic needs to become your inner champion. With the action steps listed above to quiet your inner critic and change your internal dialogue, you can be on your way to living a self-loving life. You’ve got this!
Resources to Explore
Renew You with Quinn Kelly Episode 3 How to Go From Negative Self Talk to a Mind Filled with Trust October 11, 2022 (podcast)
The Happiness Lab with Dr Laurie Santos How do I Stop Negative Self-Talk with Ethan Kross July 25, 2022 (podcast)
The Mindset Mentor with Rob Dial Episode How to Destroy Negative Self Talk October 27, 2021 (podcast)
Wellnessa Podcast Negative Self Talk September 1, 2020 with Vanessa Cutting (podcast)
Kwik Brain Episode 30 End Negative Self-Talk Like Magic August 21, 2017 with Jim Kwik (podcast)
The Overwhelmed Brain Paul Colaianni Reducing Negative Self-Talk January 2015 (podcast)
Bringing a fresh loving and supportive perspective, I can help you set goals, create healthy routines, or help you become the most loving and confident woman you have always dreamed of being.