Challenging Negative Self-Talk
“Ugh, that was so embarrassing, I’m so awkward.” “I can’t believe I messed that up, I’m so stupid.” “There’s no way I’m good enough to get that promotion, I don’t deserve this.”
Do these statements sound familiar? It can be very easy for us to slip into negative self-talk, even though these thoughts are things we would never say to another person or allow someone else to say to us. Frequently, we are our own worst critics, and negative self-talk, although it may come to us very naturally and easily, can be extremely damaging to our self-esteem, confidence, and sense of self-worth. The more we repeat these notions to ourselves, the more internalized they become; we start to believe they are true. All of us are prone to saying things without thinking, tripping while walking, or acting in an arguably embarrassing manner; we are humans, after all. Many of us will justify our negative self-talk as being a way to prepare ourselves for future rejection, be honest with ourselves, because we believe it is accurate, to stop ourselves from becoming narcissistic or arrogant, or simply by insisting that we deserve being talked to in that manner. Whatever the reason for engaging in negative self-talk, the truth is that we do not deserve it, it is not an accurate reflection of who we are as people, and we are not at risk of becoming narcissists by simply complimenting ourselves or even just taking a neutral stance about our behaviors. Giving ourselves grace and permitting ourselves to make mistakes is a helpful way to improve self-esteem and allow us to simply be human.
If you find yourself consistently talking badly or harshly to yourself, here are some ways to try to catch yourself before becoming inundated by your negative thoughts and how to incorporate more positive self-talk.
Recognize the thought
Recognizing a negative thought when it pops up can enable you to stop the thought before it becomes too deeply ingrained. If you can identify a thought and call it what it is—just a thought, not necessarily a truth—this can help decrease the power the thought holds.
Challenge the thought
Once you have recognized the negative thought, you can also challenge it sentiment behind it. How do you know that this thought is true? What evidence do you have to back it up? This can help to dismantle the implications of the thought and allow you to see that these negative thoughts are not necessarily based in reality.
Replace the thought
Begin using positive self-talk! Instead of allowing the negative thought to stake its claim in your mind and heart, replace that negative self-statement with a positive one. For example, if you are thinking, “I’ll never understand this, I’m not smart enough,” try to replace it with something like, “I am trying my best, I am capable of doing this with more practice or guidance.”
Ask for help
Implementing the above tools can be quite difficult, especially if they have been heavily relied on throughout your life. Even for those who are able to recognize, challenge, and replace negative self-talk, it can still be quite difficult to feel truly aligned with the positive self-statements. Asking for help from a trusted family member, friend, partner, or mental health professional can allow you to hear from someone outside of yourself and receive the positive feedback and reassurance that may be hard to come by on your own.
Switch the situation
Another helpful technique in battling negative self-talk is to imagine a friend comes to you and says they believe that thought about themselves. How would you respond to them? Oftentimes we are much easier on our friends and loved ones than on ourselves, and we rarely let them talk about themselves the way we talk about ourselves. Giving yourself the same advice that you would afford to a friend is a way to be nicer to yourself, give yourself grace, and use positive self-talk to replace the negative.
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