Your mental and emotional state is massively dependent on the way you talk to yourself in your own mind. There is always an inner voice. A critic who has an opinion on anything and everything.
And why won’t it talk?
That voice got familiar with you ever since you started thinking intelligently. In your every good and bad decision it took a role of both a consultant and a judge.
At times that voice became helpful and motivated you towards accomplishing your goals—like when it stopped you from unhealthy eating or when it negated a bad decision that would have ended you up in a huge loss.
However, it is not sunshine all the time, especially if mismanaged, your inner voice can turn into negative self-talk.
A very harmful voice indeed. A voice that can put you off-guard and surrender your mental health to many psychological issues.
In this blog, you will get to know what negative self-talk is and how you can get over it to achieve your maximum potential.
What Is Negative Self-Talk?
In general, negative self-talk is an inner voice or dialogue within yourself that may limit your ability to believe in yourself. It hampers the true potential of a person and diminishes the ability to bring positive changes in life. Also, it can damage self-confidence and self-esteem.
Types of Negative Self -Talk and Solutions
The tricky thing about negative self-talk is that it can occur in many forms. According to the Mayo Clinic, negative self-talk has 4 types:
“It’s not you, it’s me”. Personalizing is basically blaming yourself for everything that happens.
Even if something doesn’t happen, people going through this situation imagine that they have done something wrong.
For instance, if you text a friend and don’t get a reply within 30 minutes, you start thinking to yourself that maybe you have texted something wrong. And the person receiving your message is probably mad at you.
When in fact, your friend is busy and haven’t checked their phone.
In such a situation take a deep breath, step back and think logically at the situation from the outside. Answer these two questions to yourself:
- Is there any evidence to support your thought?
- Is the thought factual or is it just my interpretation of it?
You will definitely come up with something positive.
As the name suggests, in such a situation negative self-talker filters out the positives and focus only on the negatives—totally neglecting the little gains they achieved in the process.
For example, you had a goal of losing weight to certain kilos or pounds, but you couldn’t achieve it.
Now one way of looking at this situation is that you failed to achieve your goal but the truth is you still did an effort and made some progress.
No matter how far you fell behind your target, the truth is you gained something out of it.
Your situation is like “the glass is half full or half empty”, either you think you made an achievement or you totally neglect it.
The best solution here is to admire your small signs of progress, you made an effort so think good about it. Don’t totally neglect the little progress you made while targeting a big goal.
Success mostly happens in bits and pieces.
It means anticipating the worst.
For example: On the way to work, the traffic stopped and you immediately assumed you’ll be stuck for hours.
In this situation, it is better to consider other outcomes. How often running traffic stop? what happens mostly when running traffic stops? EXACTLY, it starts moving again within minutes or seconds.
Consider all the outcomes, and distinguish between uncomfortable vs. catastrophic.
Even if the traffic stays stuck for hours, wouldn’t you still be ‘OK’ at the end?
In polarizing you look at things as either totally good or totally bad, there is no middle ground.
For example, you’ve been working out 4 days a week for ages, suddenly a week came where you couldn’t achieve this goal.
Now you might be grinding yourself for being a lazy or weak person.
But it’s totally “OK”, you are a human, your energy levels will go up and down with time.
Think of all the good weeks you had with your workouts, how many times you pushed yourself to stay into that fitness regime?
Brush off the bad experience and continue from where things fell short.
I did a poll on Linkedin to see what kind of negative self-talk people are usually indulging in. And the results are pretty close but most people i.e. 31% of them say Personalizing is their biggest negative self-talk struggle.
Below is a screenshot and link to our negative self-talk poll:
Other Forms of Negative Self-Talk:
The 4 mentioned above are the general types of negative self-talk. There are many other forms of negative self-talk.
Like the “grounded sound”.
As mentioned above, we all have a sound in our minds ever since we are born. And we start interacting with it more intelligently when we are grown up.
Take an example of this intersection with your mind: “I’m not good enough to do this, better I should avoid attempting or it can harm my personal safety,”.
At one stage or another, we all go through this thought.
And what it often means is that “I’m giving up on this!” or “I’m not good enough to do this”.
It may sound like a realistic approach but in most cases, we are training our minds to give up and even develop thinking around a fear-based fantasy (“I’m no good for it, I will never be able to do this”).
The grounded sounds need to be tamed early.
Always take your grounded voices seriously and think critically whether you should have a try or not.
As a child, you were not able to walk properly and took many stumbles but you never stopped trying.
Why? Because you needed to walk. There is no other option.
The same should be the approach for the rest of your life. You have to take some harsh decisions. Things won’t always come easily to you and you have to take that leap of faith, no matter how many times you stumble and no matter how many voices consult you and judge you to avoid taking a risk, you have to take those steps.
The irony and the harsh truth is that if encouraged, those murmurs of the inner critic can convert into cognitive distortions: overcome them before they overtake you.
Other Consequences of Negative Self-Talk and Grounded Sounds:
Negative self-talk can:
- damage your health and peace of mind
- it can lead to poor self-esteem and feelings of helplessness
- can cause depression
- and can create a situation where the person starts thinking only about failure
Your brain consumes more energy than any other organ in your body.
It is seen that people who indulge in negative self-talk are usually stressed out most of the time. And the reason for it is their brain consuming too much of their energy.
Some solutions for Negative Self-Talk:
In most cases, there is always a solution. If the grounded sound is bothering you a lot. Try these tips:
1. Think like talking to a Friend
When your inner critic is at top of his voice, it may sound like an uncontrollable bully.
Often we say things in our mind that we’d never say to a friend.
Let’s reverse this scenario and—when you find yourself thinking negatively—create an image of saying it to a dear friend.
If you know you can’t say it to him, or converse on it with a friend, think of how you can allow it to be said to yourself?
This is the right way of shifting your self-talk in general.
2. Shift Your Perspective
If a negative thought is crossing your mind, think of how it will impact you in a long run?
Sometimes looking at things, in the long run, can help you realize that maybe you are placing a lot of emphasis on something.
For example, if you are upset about something, ask yourself will it matter in five years or even one?
Another good way of shifting your perspective is to imagine that you are feeling pain and looking at your problems from a large distance. Like thinking of the world as a giant and yourself as a tiny matter in it.
You have a whole world to focus on but you are consumed in the tiny self.
This technique can minimize your negativity, fear, and urgency in negative self-talk.
3. Say It Aloud
Sometimes, if you realize that your brain is indulged in negative self-talk, just say out your thoughts aloud.
Even saying it to a trusted friend works.
What you were thinking will often lead to a good laugh and put some light on how ridiculous those thoughts sound.
Other times, you will get support and help from a different and positive perspective of your friend.
If you can’t say them a lot, even under your breath is workable and can remind you how unrealistic and unreasonable these thoughts sound.
4. Stop The Negative Self-Talks
If caught in the beginning, negative self-talks are stoppable.
The more you are aware of and delay them from stopping, the harder they become to control.
This “thought-stopping” technique can do wonders and requires a lot of command on visualization to a stop sign, or simply changing your thought to something else when a negative one enters your mind.
These visualizations are helpful against repetitive and extremely critical thoughts like, “I’m not good enough for this,” or, “I won’t be able to do this,”.
5. Replace the Bad with Something Good
It mostly works. If you have detected some negative self-talk, combat it by replacing it with something good like a few tips Illustrated in this video:
There is no better route than replacing the negative with positive.
You are changing a negative thought, not into some neutral ground but above it gaining something out of it.
Practice this technique until you find yourself not needing to do it anymore.
With a strong will, it even works well with most bad habits: for example replacing unhealthy food with healthy food or going from fat to fit by moving around and working out more often.
Replacing the bad with the good is a great way to develop positivity and self-esteem.
Will you practice these tips? Tell us in the comments section what you learned from reading this?
Abria Joseph gave a very good Tedx talk on Removing the Negative Self Talk from your mind. Do check it out in the video below: