Are You A Negative Self-Talker? Talk Yourself Out Of The Bad Habit!
Do you constantly tell yourself "No," "You can't do it," or "That's way too hard?" You might be a a negative self-talker without you knowing it
That little voice inside your head can be pretty mean sometimes, can't it?
But the thing is, that little voice is actually you having an inner discussion with yourself, which only means one thing. In truth, it's you being hard on yourself, bringing you down, and chipping away at your own happiness. Negative self-talk is real, and it's much more damaging to ourselves than we realize!
Officially, self-talk is defined as the assumptions, beliefs, and perceptions we hold about a situation, and how we interpret them via the inner monologue we have in our minds. Self-talk can be either positive or negative.
Positive self-talk is encouraging and uplifting. Here, you'll find that little mental voice telling you that things are or will be okay, that you are capable of achieving a task, that a situation is much more manageable than it looks. You're basically your own tireless cheerleader when it comes to positive self-talk.
On the other hand, negative-self talk is damaging and hurtful. You'll find yourself hearing your own mind convincing you that you're unworthy, that you've failed miserably and can never recover, or that nothing good can ever come of your efforts, no matter how hard you try. Negative self-talk turns you into your own worst critic that wants nothing more than to see you suffer.
Pause and think of what kind of self-talker you are.
If you're currently a negative self-talker, worry not, as we come bearing good news. Just as the habit was formed, it can be extinguished, too. Negative self-talk can be corrected and furthermore, replaced with healthier self-talk habits.
To get you started on the process, we put together a list of how negative self-talk often comes up in own minds and how to help yourself break free from the habit.
It's as exactly as it sounds. When faced with a variety of situations, some of which could have been bad and some good or even great, we filter out the better parts of the picture and focus on only the stressful things.
Example: You're at work and it's been an overall bad day. Your supervisor is unhappy about your month's performance, you spill your coffee on your pants, and you totally forgot about the new rules at parking lot which leaves you shocked to learn that your car has been towed. But when you get home, you discover that the project you helped your child with earned them an A+ and the dinner you made is getting equally high marks from your spouse. Rather than be glad that not everything turned out to be awful, you're concentrating on what happened at the office and continuing to think of how clumsy/incapable/disorganized you are and that that weighs more than all the good experiences and praise that came afterwards.
Catastrophizing, a.k.a. you always anticipating worse things will undoubtedly follow a negative event.
Example: You're off to start a full day's worth of errands and as you're walking to your first destination, you trip on a crack on the sidewalk. You scrape your knee, crumple the documents you're holding onto, and feel embarrassed about the whole thing. Instead of attributing the unfortunate event to just that—you tripping—you expect it to foreshadow similar events to happen next and allow it "set the tone" for the rest of your day. It leaves you irritable, feeling defeated, impatient, and believing that things are worse than actually are, when in reality, things could be going just fine.
There's so much weight in the saying, "Don't take things personally." It's true! Personalizing is a form of negative self-talk and it's essentially the tendency to blame yourself for the outcome of things (when there are other more plausible causes to consider).
Example: In the mall, you spot a college buddy you haven't seen in ages. You haven't spoken in some time, which leaves you feeling a little shy about going up to them to say hello. As they get closer and closer to you, you muster up the courage to wave, albeit subtly, but they don't notice—they don't even look at you or see you—and they just walk by. You believe that it's because they purposely ignored. Going one step further, you think that they purposely wanted you out of their lives and that you were never really friends after all when in fact, they could've just not noticed your greeting or recognized an old friend after all these years!
This is when you categorize things as only good or bad and leave no room for gray areas.
Example: Last week, you made your significant other's birthday extra special by pulling all the right stops. You got them the gift they wanted and made reservations at their favorite restaurant, and they were incredibly happy and thankful for it. But today, you said something that upset them and it caused a fight. Because of the argument, you now think that you're a good-for-nothing person and undeserving to be in a relationship.
There are more ways that negative self-talk can insidiously creep into our lives, but these four are definitely some of the most common forms it takes. Most of us will have had these thoughts and thought these things to ourselves so often that we likely didn't realize that we'd become serial negative self-talkers!
Fortunately, there are ways to catch ourselves in the act and better yet, correct the thought pattern and save ourselves from taking a mental and emotional beating from, well, ourselves. The best way to do that is to know what questions to ask.
Challenge negative self-talk when it rears its ugly head with these questions:
1. Questions that test reality
- Are my reactions from my emotions, or am I thinking logically?
- What proof do I have for reaching this conclusion?
2. Questions that put things into perspective
- Is the situation as bad as I'm making it out to be, or is it just the way I'm seeing things?
- What's the worst-case scenario? How likely is it to happen?
- Will this matter in a week's, month's, or even a year's time?
3. Questions that seek alternatives
- If it were a friend feeling bad about my situation, what would I tell them?
- Are there any other ways to interpret this situation?
- What would a positive person say about the position I'm in?
4. Questions that encourage goal-directed behavior
- Is what I'm thinking or doing helping me achieve my goal?
- What needs to be done so I can complete my task?
- Am I helping myself right now? If I'm not, what can I do to do so?
And with this, we hope that you begin the process of eradicating negative self-talk in your day to day. It's not an easy thing to do, but everyone has to begin somewhere and getting your negative self-talk—and learning challenging negative self-talk 101—is definitely a good place to start!
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