Combating Negative Self-Talk

“I’ll never get that promotion.” “I just can’t do it.” “I’m not good enough.” These are just a few examples of negative self-talk women often engage in, and chances are you’ve said things like that to yourself countless times.

Negative self-talk refers to the automatic script your brain over defaults to when dealing with difficult situations. And wow, we’ve all dealt with some tough situations lately. Along with the global pandemic – Covid-19 – we’ve all been challenged by fear, uncertainty, and distractions. Finding balance and dealing with decisions became even tougher in the past couple months.

But if you let your brain choose that automatic script of negative self-talk, it has a way of making you feel small and derailing you from achieving your goals. Failing to stop negative self-talk can quickly leave you spiraling downward, particularly in times like these when the pandemic exacerbates our challenges and many of us face heightened anxiety and difficult choices.

What is Negative Self-Talk?

What exactly is negative self-talk? It’s essentially inner dialogue you have with yourself that could be keeping you from make positive changes, affecting your confidence, or limiting your ability to believe in yourself or reach your true potential. Several forms of negative self-talk include:

  • Personalizing – Automatically blaming yourself when bad things happen.
  • Filtering – Filtering out positive parts of a situation and focusing or even magnifying the negative ones.
  • Polarizing – Seeing things as either bad or good with no middle ground. Either you’re perfect, or you think you’re a failure.
  • Catastrophizing – Anticipating the worst.

Negative Self-Talk – The Consequences

Negative self-talk doesn’t just stress you out. It actually has the potential to stunt your success and affect you in damaging ways. Focusing on negative thoughts can decrease your motivation and result in feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. One study showed that self-blame and rumination over negative events is linked to a higher risk of mental health issues. Critical inner dialogue is even linked to depression. Additional consequences may include:

  • Failure to See Opportunities – You may not see the opportunities in front of you and you could be less likely to capitalize on them.
  • Perfectionism – You start thinking that a “great job” just isn’t as good as being “perfect.”
  • Limited Thinking – When you tell yourself you can’t do things, you’ll believe it.
  • Relationship Difficulties – Constantly criticizing yourself may make you seen insecure or needy.
  • Feeling Depressed – Negative self-talk is shown to make feelings of depression worse.

Tips for Combatting Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk comes with serious consequences, and it’s essential that we learn how to combat it effectively as women. Here are a few tips you can adopt to interrupt negative-self talk and strengthen your resilience so you’re primed for success.

  • Tip #1 – Become More Aware of How You Speak to Yourself – The first step to changing the way you speak to yourself is to become more aware of what you’re doing. Consider writing down the things you say to yourself. Write down what triggers you to say negative things. Increased self-awareness will allow you to catch what you’re doing so you can begin making changes.
  • Tip #2 – Give it the Reality Test – Do you have evidence for what you’re saying? Is that inner dialogue factual, or are you jumping to negative conclusions with your self-talk?
  • Tip #3 – Use Your Own Name When Speaking to Yourself – Start using your own name when you speak to yourself. It changes the narrative and makes you take a step back from the situation. Instead of saying, “How will I be able to do this,” you may say “Sarah, you can get this done, you’ve done it before!” By getting some distance, you’ll be able to be less emotional and more rational.
  • Tip #4 – Treat Yourself Like a Friend – Would you ever say the things you say to yourself to your best friend? Probably not. Don’t have a double standard. Treat yourself the way you treat others.
  • Tip #5 – Turn to Goal-Directed Self-Talk – When you’re engaging in inner dialogue, ask yourself, “Is this going to help me achieve my goals? Will it help push me towards success?” If not, stop. Turn around what you’re saying to be more positive and goal-directed. For example, instead of saying, “This is too complicated for me,” change it to “I’ll tack this from a new angle and get it done.”

When you begin realizing that negative self-talk is self-defeating, then you’re able to deal with the problem and start engaging in positive dialogue with yourself. It may take time to shift your thinking, but deciding you’re going to make a change in the way you speak to yourself is your first step to improved self-esteem, less stress, and greater success.

Want to learn more? June us on June 10th for a live webinar that will equip you with strategies to help combat negative self-talk.

  1. Olivia Brennan, LCSW

    Given the downward spiral of social media, positive anything is sorely needed. Our leaders are negative and a role model must be established. Thanks for this presentation

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