Negative Self-talk: Strategies for Stopping It

Negative self-talk is a challenge that people sometimes can’t overcome. However, it should not bring you down. We’ve highlighted ways for countering negative talk. 

Dealing with Negative Self-Talk
We all experience moments when the voice in our heads dwells on our mistakes or replays challenging moments in our lives. These thoughts make us our own worst critics regarding various aspects of our lives, such as appearance, work, relationships, or personality. 

What is negative self talk? The self-conversations we have in our heads are what we call self-talk. Self-talk is negative when it is counterproductive and has a demotivating effect on a person. In addition, it causes self-esteem issues and even contributes to other mental health challenges that one might be dealing with. 

Fortunately, there are strategies to feel better and embrace positivity, including reframing your thoughts, thinking more positively, and online therapy

Give the Voice a Name
It might seem a little weird but challenging the voice in your head is easier when you view it as a separate part of you. It’s like how we say “we are not our thoughts,” and hence giving it a name prevents you from identifying yourself with it. Even though we can’t choose our thoughts, we can create a distance between ourselves and the thoughts of self-defeat. 

Identify Your Native Thoughts and Negative Thought Patterns
Our native thoughts are the first things we think about when something happens. For example, your boss says, “Let’s talk in my office.” Do you immediately think you’re getting fired, or do you think it is just work-related or something positive like a raise?

Most of the thoughts are automatic and will pop into our heads without any effort. However, you can identify your irrational, unproductive, and unrealistic thoughts by taking a step back and analyzing them.

The common negative self talk and thought patterns to watch out for include: 

  • Overgeneralization, when you see every negative thing as a defeat pattern in your life
  • All-or-nothing mind when if you fall short of perfect, you’re a total failure
  • Mental filtering through singling out failures and dwelling on them
  • Disqualifying positives by finding reasons to make them not count
  • Jumping to conclusions through negative interpretation of events without evidence or facts 
  • Motivating yourself with “should” or “must” statements 
  • Emotional reasoning by thinking that your negative emotions reflect the reality or truth 
  • Blaming yourself for things that have nothing to do with you 
  • Attaching negative labels to yourself which are emotionally loaded
  • Exaggerating the importance of things or minimizing them 

Identifying any of these tendencies in yourself will go a long way in stopping negative self talk and having a more positive perspective on life. 

Find Evidence to Support that Your Thoughts are True or Not True
Sometimes, thoughts are misleading, and not everything you think is true. Therefore, you should treat thoughts like opinions instead of facts. Sometimes you will entertain negative thoughts that bring you down and demotivate you. To cope with this, find facts to support the thoughts.

In the boss example, thinking that you might be fired just because the boss called you for a talk is negative. So, ask yourself, where is the evidence that it might happen? Then, create lists of evidence to support any negative thoughts, and you will realize most of them have no real foundation. 

Reframe Your Thoughts
An excellent way to counter negative thoughts/self-talk is to replace them with milder words. Think of this example: when you are at the hospital, nurses will often replace the word “pain” with “discomfort.” It is because the pain seems more extreme for mild cases, and thus the word sounds a bit scarier for a patient. 

So, take the negative thoughts and start transforming them into neutral or positive statements. You can also do it for negative statements such as “I can’t do this” or “This is not possible.” Instead, switch it to a positive question like, “How do I do this?” and “How is this possible?”

Reframing your thoughts might take time, and some people can’t do it on their own. That’s where one should consider seeking professional help, for example, through online therapy

Keep a Journal
Journals are great for helping people get things off their chest. It is also a great way of becoming more aware of your feelings and thoughts. In many cases, it’s difficult to challenge our negative thoughts simply because we can’t identify them. Writing in your journal will help you with tracing and changing negative self-talk into positive statements. 

A good place to start would be to have two columns, one for the criticisms of your day and on the other, reframe them into positives. A journal is a useful tool for building a new perspective on life. But for it to work, you should be consistent in your writing. 

Focus on Thinking More Positively
Encouraging yourself to think more positively is a process that takes practice and time. View it like creating a new habit, something that requires consistency and commitment.

Here are some steps:

  • Identify the areas you need to change or the areas of your life that foster negative thoughts 
  • Check-in with yourself daily, evaluate your thoughts, and put a positive spin on them
  • Embrace humor. Find reasons to smile or laugh even during tough times
  • Adopt a healthier lifestyle such as eating healthy and exercising
  • Surround yourself with supporting people in life and reduce or cut off ties with negative people
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t say negative things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to dear people

Practicing positivity takes time, especially if you’re used to having a negative look on life. But with commitment, you’ll change your self-talk gradually to lean towards the positive or at least neutral. 

Consider Seeking Professional Help
The above tips on how to stop negative self-talk are useful, but sometimes a person might need the help from a licensed therapist. Changing your mindset to be more positive is challenging. While some people do it on their own, others have underlying issues that can’t be solved with journals and positive thinking alone. 

These are issues such as anxiety, depression, stress, self-esteem issues, or other mental health problems. They require a more professional approach and support from a therapist. Calmerry is among the reliable solutions for finding qualified online counselors during this time of social distancing. 

A therapist helps you explore yourself and find effective ways to improve your relationship with yourself. Also, they’ll help you get to the root of some of these issues and guide you towards working through them and living a more fulfilling life.

Final Thoughts
Negative self talk stems from the expectations we have of ourselves. While it is okay to be ambitious and have great expectations, we should also accept the possibility that things might not go as planned. There is no perfect person, and we need to find ways to embrace ourselves. That’s where we need to learn self-love and self-compassion.

Jennifer Walter

Jennifer Walter is a psychology professor, an independent researcher, writer, and contributor. She is the guru to hundreds of students, the author of hundreds of analysis studies, and the voice behind most liked articles on content creation and strategy at .

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