Everything you say to yourself matters—whether it’s positive or negative.
What you say to yourself in your head is your “self talk” or “mental chatter.”
Negative self talk is the conversation you have in your mind (an inner dialogue) using language that reinforces the belief that something is wrong with you. The result is you don’t respect yourself, you don’t love yourself, and you don’t believe in yourself or your ability to create the life you truly desire.
Negative self talk usually stems from your brain thinking that beating yourself up is useful in some way. But the good news is this isn’t true and you can change it (more on this below). In fact, studies show how self talk can have an everlasting effect on your self confidence and how you think about yourself. More on that here: Effects of Self-Talk.
Here are some examples of negative self talk:
- I’m not doing a good enough job.
- I always mess things up.
- I wish my life was more like hers.
- I’m a bad mom because I yell at my kids.
- I feel like a complete failure.
- I have the worst legs.
- Everything is wrong right now.
- My house is a disaster all the time.
- I’m not successful.
The hardest part about negative self talk is noticing how sneaky it is. Why? Because often, it’s a pattern that’s hard to identify because this is simply the habit you’re in and not something you even realize is happening, let alone harmful.
For example, what do you say to yourself when you make a mistake? If you’re like many of my clients, you likely have some form of perfectionism and tend to beat yourself up when you make mistakes. You’re like the strict parent who tries to control their child instead of the loving and open parent who allows mistakes (expects them) and empowers their child to keep going.
The reason that recognizing your own self talk is so important is because negative self talk degrades the relationship you have with yourself, which means you’ll have lower self confidence.
When you constantly talk negatively to yourself, it’s hard to believe in yourself and have a high level of self confidence. The two rarely coexist. In fact, the more negative self talk you have, the more self doubt and shame you have.
Not to mention all the other side effects of negative self talk, which include anxiety, uncertainty, and really feeling like you never have a clear piece of mind.
- Related: Mental Chatter (podcast)
How To Stop Negative Self Talk
While life is full of circumstances outside of you that are entirely out of your control, one thing that is completely within your control is what goes on inside that head of yours. You have total control over how you talk to yourself (this is great news!).
How you talk to yourself is something you can change. If you have negative self talk now, it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Follow the tips below to start changing your thoughts and practicing loving yourself better.
Tip 1: Bring awareness to your inner critic
Tip 1 is to notice (bring awareness to) your inner critic.
What do you say to yourself when things go wrong? When you make a mistake?
What about when you’re tired or sick?
In my experience in one of these scenarios, you’ll find that inner critic who is not being so nice to you.
Find her. Notice her.
- How To Stop Self Sabotaging Thoughts (blog post)
- Believing New Thoughts (podcast)
- 75 Journal Prompts (freebie)
Tip 2: Write down your negative self talk.
Tip 2 is to write down the thoughts you have in your head that are negative about yourself.
Thoughts are slippery and they slide into other thoughts quickly. Because of this, it’s incredibly important to write down what you’re thinking about yourself.
So, the next time you find yourself with negative self talk, write down at least three sentences of your inner dialogue.
When the negative self talk is written down, you’ll get some authority over it. Some separation. You’ll see that you are not your thoughts, as Eckart Tolle would say, “you are the watcher.”
- How To Manage Anxiety (blog post)
- Processing Negative Emotions (podcast)
- How To Cope With Negative Thoughts As A Mom (free course)
Tip 3: Personify your negative self talk like she’s your sister
Tip 3 is to personify your inner dialogue and pretend she’s your sister. Then reply to her.
For example, to do this, you might say, “I hear you sister. You think I can do better. Your opinion is noted but it’s not the truth. I’m actually doing my best already.”
When you personify the voice in your head as someone who is separate from you, you create even more space between you (as in, your soul) and your mental chatter. Psychologist Ethan Cross did a study on this and had people when speaking about themselves changed the pronoun they used. For example, instead of using “I”, he had them use an actual name. You can also check out his research article here.
I talk more about this in the Mental Chatter podcast episode where I teach you how to handle the “roommate in your head.” Listen here: Mental Chatter Podcast.
Tip 4: Go from negative self talk to neutral
Tip 4 is to go from negative to neutral. This means that instead of trying to pile up positive thoughts on top of negative thoughts, which doesn’t work by the way, you go to neutral.
For example, if your main thought is, “I hate myself for making that mistake” it’s going to be nearly impossible to jump to the belief, “I love myself for making that mistake.” Your brain won’t believe it. Your brain is so smart that it knows better. It also knows that’s a lie. But it will believe you if you go to the Next Believable Thought.
The Next Believable Thought (a life coaching concept I teach in Grow You) means you go from where you are now with your beliefs to the next thought that’s believable. In a sense, it’s going from negative to neutral.
In the example above, your Next Believable Thought might be, “I made a mistake” or another one might be, “I made a mistake and it’s possible that that’s okay.” Notice how this is more neutral. It’s not positive, but it’s much better than hating yourself, which is very negative.
- How To Create A Personal Growth Plan (blog post)
- Body Neglect (podcast)
- Thursday Inspo Email (free weekly motivational email)
Tip 5: Practice your new self talk
Tip 5 is to practice your new self talk.
Here are the examples from above:
- I hate myself for making that mistake. (Negative)
- I made a mistake. (Neutral)
- I made a mistake and it’s possible that that’s okay. (Neutral/positive)
- I love myself for making that mistake. (Positive)
This is how you transition from your current negative self talk to positive self talk—you move from where you are now to where you want to go, using the Next Believable Thought.
The key, though, is to PRACTICE your new thought once you decide what it will be.
Write it down.
Put it on your phone.
Use reminders or alarms.
Put sticky notes around your house.
Whatever it takes, practice your new mental self talk.
This is the only way to shift your negative thoughts to positive self talk long term.
- How To Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind (blog post)
- Your Relationship With The World (podcast)
- Grow You (virtual life coaching)
A Final Note!
Negative self talk means nothing about you—in fact, if anything, it means you’re normal and have a normal human brain.
That said, you don’t have to continue with the default thinking of your default brain. You can also upgrade your brain and trade in your negative mental chatter for positive mental chatter.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. It’s worth it because you end up loving yourself so much more authentically. You love all of your life—the good and the bad. You decrease your stress levels, you have more inner peace, and then you increase your self confidence.
How you talk to yourself matters. Stopping negative self talk is something I can help you with in Grow You. I’ll teach you how to coach yourself, too, so you can practice this daily as a life long, long term solution to that chatty brain of yours. Join me today in Grow You Virtual Life Coaching.