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How to Break Free from Negative Self-Talk

Self-talk is what we say to ourselves and how we say it. And you can control the conversation.

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Image source: Unsplash
Image source: Unsplash

Think breaking free from negative self-talk is impossible? 

Well, that might be your negative self-talk speaking up again.

Your self-talk is a reflection of past experiences and evaluations of yourself you believe to be true (even if they aren’t).

If your self-talk is optimistic, you’re likely to have a half-glass-full view of yourself.

But giving in to negative self-talk encourages just the opposite: a half-glass-empty version of you.

So how can you banish negative self-talk for good?

Catch Your Negative Thoughts in Action

To stop a negative thought in its tracks, you need to be able to recognize when it’s taking place. Since many of our thoughts are habitual and automatic, this may require practice.

Psychologists refer to this practice as thought catching, and it’s a technique that’s used in cognitive behavioral therapy to target automatic thoughts and re-evaluate underlying beliefs and assumptions that fuel them.

To gauge the quality of your self-talk, keep an eye out for red flags that are indicators your self-talk is taking a nosedive into the negative.

Look for red flags like these: 

  • Statements that start with “I always…” or “I never…” are usually oversimplified statements that don’t realistically portray yourself in a fair light.
  • Catastrophic thinking or overgeneralizations that predict a grim outlook of your future. An example of this might be eating three cookies and then catastrophizing that you’re never going to be able to lose weight.

Learn Your Triggers

Do you know what triggers your negative self-talk? Negative self-talk can be triggered by stressors at home, in the workplace, or something a family member said in passing.

Try to pin down what’s feeding your negative self-talk so you can learn what triggers it in the first place.

Insecurities, or perceived shortcomings, about ourselves can allow negative self-talk to take root and grow over time.

As you become more aware of the self-limiting beliefs that are allowing your negative thoughts to prosper, you can begin to challenge them.

Recognize It’s a Choice

Although negative self-talk can seem like an involuntary reflex, it does require your permission for it to continue taking place unhindered.

You can choose to let the negative self-talk continue on autopilot, or you can choose to challenge the narrative.

Rewiring your thought patterns takes time, but it is possible.

Rather than attempting to eliminate all of your negative thoughts at once, try shifting your attention to positive thoughts that make you feel good. 

Let’s say, you missed a deadline, and it feels like the end of the world.

Acknowledge any negative thoughts that are present. Then, try remembering all the deadlines you’ve met in the past, and think about all the deadlines you’re going to ace in the future.

Allow any negative thoughts to melt into positive thoughts about your past successes and all the successes you’ll have in the future.

Practice Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations are self-affirming statements that help you challenge negative thoughts and overcome self-limiting beliefs.

Researchers have found that positive self-affirmations help you redirect your focus to what you value about yourself on a broader level

There’s plenty of great already-written-for-you self-affirmations out there to check out.

To make your positive affirmations more effective, however, they should highly specific to you and challenge your most common negative self-beliefs. 

Here’s how to write a positive self-affirmation: 

Write down what you believe are your most negative qualities. For each negative self-belief, counter it with a positive statement that speaks more broadly about your value.

A positive affirmation to counter your fear of failure could be something along the lines of: 

“To be successful in life, I welcome that I’ll have failures that often precede my success. I’m strong, capable, and hardworking, and these qualities will promote success throughout my life.”

To get the most out of your self-affirmations, make them a part of your daily routine. Try saying them out loud every morning and every night. 

Have Self Compassion

Having self-compassion is all about learning to love yourself and accept yourself. 

Self-compassion allows you to acknowledge the present difficulties you’re having and encourages you to be self-forgiving. People who practice self-compassion are better equipped to deal with negative feelings and move past setbacks. 

And while some might believe that self-compassion makes you weak, researchers show it does just the opposite. It can help moderate the effects of low-esteem and allow for more resiliency. 

Takeaways

Listen to how you talk to yourself and what you have to say. Are you assuming the worst and punishing yourself with self-defeating thoughts?

The next time you notice your slipping into negative self-talk, acknowledge it and then shift into another thought that’s more positive and reframes the conversation.

Although rewiring your brain to think more positively about yourself is not an overnight process, it’s one worth pursuing. If negative self-talk has been holding you back for years, imagine what’s possible when you start to break free.

Want to share your strategies for breaking free from negative self-talk? Let me know in the comments below!

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