Updated: Aug 30, 2020
It's time to talk about negative self-talk. We all do it. Most of the time, we don't even realize we are doing it. Sometimes we know we do it, but everyone does it. Other times we recognize we do it and know it's not a good choice, but how do you stop it? Do we even need to stop it? I mean, it seems harmless enough, right? Wrong. It is bleeding into all sorts of places in your life and mucking them up. Honest! It is.
By definition, negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities and to reach your full potential. It is any thought that diminishes your ability to make positive changes in your life or build the confidence in yourself to do so.
What does it sound like? See, that's the thing. It's a sneaky little bugger. Perhaps you may be old enough to remember The Gremlins movie, or you have really cool parents who made sure you watched it. In the movie, there were these adorable little creatures that looked cuddly and they had endearing little voices. But when exposed to water, or bright light, or ate after midnight they turned into scaly, reptile-like monsters which wreaked havoc and and chaos and turned very mean and nasty.
I would describe negative self-talk as a your gremlin. It starts out as something all innocent and cute and then turns into a hard to control monster.
Once, I went all the way to Wal-Mart and forgot my debit card. Immediately I thought and maybe even said aloud, "Oh, I'm so dumb." I am definitely not really dumb. I am actually quite intelligent most of the time. It was something anyone could do, yet my first instinct was to belittle myself.
What's so wrong with a little self-criticism? Absolutely nothing, if that criticism turns us toward something positive and constructive! However, when it becomes a habit and then I start believing it, I may suddenly decide I can't accomplish certain things in my life because I don't believe I am bright enough.
I once tried on a pair of pants I thought would fit me, and when they didn't, what did I say? "Ugh, I am so fat." Now, could I stand to lose a few pounds? Yes, actually I could stand to lose quite a few pounds and by some standards I probably am fat. But here is the thing, if I tell myself I am fat, I feel fat, and I act fat, and I think like a fat girl, and I eat like a fat girl, and now I have just sabotaged myself and ruined any hopes I have to become thinner. One of my best friends once told me that she used to think to herself when walking into a room that everyone was thinking and perhaps even saying, "Here comes the fat girl." Now, I can tell you for an absolute fact that I was saying, "Here comes my friend!" I never once thought, "Here comes my fat friend." We just talked recently about how she told herself that story for a very long time. We also discussed how long after other people stopped calling her fat, she called herself fat over and over in her mind and that thinking didn't help her to become the skinny girl she is now one bit.
Sometimes it is much more subtle, and we don't even realize what we are doing.
I once bought a scratch-off lottery ticket. I didn't win. What did I say? "I never win" or "If it weren't for bad luck, I would have no luck at all" or "I am so unlucky." I might even call myself a jinx. How about this super-subtle one I hear from someone almost every day when something goes wrong, "Well, that's just my luck."
We believe what we tell ourselves.
Once I wasn't invited to some event, and my feelings were really hurt. What did I tell myself? "They must not like me" and "There must be something wrong with me" and "What is wrong with me?" and "What can I do to be different or better so they will like me?"
Have you ever said those things? Do any of the following statements sound like something you have ever said to yourself?
"I am so ugly."
"I am not good enough."
"I would fail."
"I need to change."
"I need to be different."
"I need to be better."
"I wouldn't be able to do that"
"I'm not smart enough."
"I don't know how."
"I am unforgivable."
"I am not worth it."
"I hate myself."
These are lies you are telling yourself.
Remember those Gremlins? Negative self-talk becomes a monster and starts eating everything. It starts eating away at you, and it starts eating away at your dreams and devouring any opportunities. Soon you are giving up on your goals, squashing your passion, and throwing away the chance to experience real joy. You allow it to muck up your vision and cloud any chances to become what you were meant to be.
Sometimes we even take the one little statement and create a whole story around the lie.
So how do we throw water on the Gremlin and stop the habit of negative self-talk?
That's the real reason we are here. We must recognize and realize when we do it, pause, and do a mindset shift into something positive. We need to tell ourselves a new story.
Here are six fun little pause and shift strategies which may to help you begin.
Stop the Monster Call yourself lucky and only use "That's just my luck" if something good happens to you. You can use this tactic on any of they negative things you tell yourself on a regular basis.
Choose Kindness. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your child, or if you don't have children, how you would talk to someone else's child. If you can't relate to this. talk to yourself as you would your best friend, sister, mother, grandma.
Focus on your purpose. Ask yourself if what you are saying to yourself is moving you toward your goals and serving your purpose. Does it help you to say "I'll never be good enough?" No but it might help to say "I am going to achieve great things."
Be a believer. If you don't believe in manifesting, pretend or choose to believe that whatever you tell yourself will become your reality. What's the harm in believing? None and there is great power in believing in yourself and good things coming your direction.
Choose gratitude. Be grateful for all the things you love about yourself on a regular basis. Start today.
Opposite Actions. Replace one negative statement you say to yourself often with a positive one. "I don't know how" may be replaced with "I can learn how to do that."
I would love to leave you with a new list of statements to tell yourself.
Everything will work out.
Things will get better.
I am important, kind and good.
I am worthy of great things.
I am lovable.
I can be or do anything I set my mind to and am willing to work for.
The best is yet to come.
Something good comes from everything.
I am strong.
I can do great things.
I am meant for more.
I can achieve anything I can believe I can achieve.
There are plenty of people in this world who will put you down, mock your dreams, and challenge who you are, don't let that be you.
We develop this negative self-talk and get into the habit of being more and more judgmental and critical of ourselves and soon we are doing the same thing to everyone around us. It can also work in the opposite direction my friends. You start out being critical and judgy of others and soon you are doing the same thing to yourself. A kind, healthy person does not speak ill of others, least of all themselves. I promise you it will not build you up, make you feel or look better, or diminish your shortcomings or weaknesses.
Why do I think this is so important? We believe what we tell ourselves. We become what we believe. Let's choose our words wisely.