A Beginner’s Guide to Negative Self-Talk

Written by Audrey

“I am never good enough.” 

Does that sentence sound familiar to you? Many of us come up with that phrase easily, but is it actually harmless? 

Definition of Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is when we accept and proclaim pessimistic thoughts about ourselves. Every person has inner-dialogues with themselves, but how much of our inner-dialogues are filled with negativity? Coming up with harsh critiques or worst-case scenarios inside our brain does not take that much effort. Some of us do not even realize that we constantly do negative self-talk because we do it all the time, unaware of the dangers it might bring.

Examples of Negative Self-Talk 

One simple example, when we have practiced countless times for a presentation, but we ended up forgetting everything or stuttered through the presentation. We might blame ourselves and depict ourselves as an utmost failure. We might say things like, “I will never succeed at public speaking,” “I am the worst student in this class,” or “I should have just given up.” Those thoughts might seem harmless. 

Until you cannot differentiate which thoughts are just mere opinions, which are facts. 

Until you start believing it. 

Until you hate yourself.

Possible Dangers of Negative Self-Talk

If we do not stop the never-ending cycle of negative self-talk, the dangers could be fatal. It will prevent us from believing in ourselves, yet success is unattainable when we do not even trust that we have the abilities to achieve great things in life. For instance, if we do not believe that we could pass an examination, we probably would not even consider studying for it. Over time, we might lose the motivation to strive and succeed at anything in life. Slowly but surely, we will also lose confidence and might start to look for validation at all the wrong places. Negative self-talk might lead to other serious, detrimental, mental problems. However, the real culprit is not negative self-talk, it is how we deal with it.

Tips for Dealing with Negative Self-Talk

When there is a will, there is a way. Although the aforementioned effects of negative self-talk might seem depressive and stressful, worry not! Here are simple steps that you can follow to break the habit of overly criticizing yourself. Change those negative thoughts to neutral thoughts. Easier said than done right? But let’s break it down. 

  1. Start by being self-aware. When you pay extra attention to your inner-thoughts, you will be more conscious of what you tell yourself. 
  2. If you start to notice that you are having negative thoughts and that it is spiraling downwards, take a deep breath and acknowledge it. 
  3. Next, list it down. Writing those thoughts down will help you process them more carefully and thoroughly. You might even realize that some of your thoughts are just ‘what-ifs’. When you list those negative thoughts, you are confronting them — not letting them control you. 
  4. You will be able to picture your problems and finding the solutions might be more attainable. 

Indeed, it might be easier said than done, but it takes time and practice. Remember, there is no shortcut to anything! Research shows that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so those small steps you take will eventually make a big difference. There are also many other solutions to stop negative self-talk, one of them is by watching TED talks! Many TED talks are very relatable and it made me feel as if I was receiving advice from a close friend. Listening to inspirational speeches might change the way you think, and hopefully, turn your negative thoughts to neutral ones — positive ones even! 

It is natural for human beings to fall into the routine of negative self-talk, but remember that we should not let it become a habit. We should not give power to those pessimistic and self-degrading thoughts. Having bad days is also completely normal and we do not have to stay positive 24/7! Stop beating yourself up and be easy to forgive. 

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