How to Stop Your Negative Self-Talk [in 4 Easy Steps]

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negative self-talk

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We are pretty mean to ourselves.

Our self-talk is the way we talk to ourselves in our minds.

Let’s figure out how to beat negative self-talk.

But what is negative self-talk?

Almost everybody uses some self-talk. People consider ideas, make decisions, and react to events by talking about them in their heads. Some people don’t even realize that they talk to themselves. I didn’t know that. I wanted to know how my friend talks to himself and asked about his self-talk.

He answered, “No, sir! I don’t talk to myself!”

I threw me off a bit, and I asked how do you think? What happens when you think? He considered that for a moment and said, “Oh! It seems that I do talk to myself, after all.”

Becoming aware of how you use self-talk or the internal monologue in different situations will help you understand what you really want and improve your entire life.

Of course, the first step is to become aware of your self-talk.

Then you can do something about it.

negative thoughts

Willpower challenge: Every time a negative thought enters your mind, think 3 positive ones. Train yourself to flip the script.

What is negative self talk?

Negative self-talk happens when something goes wrong.

Our inner critic will nag about what happened. It can be either you blaming yourself for what happened or telling yourself that you deserved this negative outcome. In the first case, you are downplaying your abilities, and in the other, you question your worth as a human being.

Criticizing yourself constantly is not the way to improve your life. Don’t beat yourself up every time something doesn’t go the way you intended or expected.

I once read that if our boss would talk to us as we speak to ourselves, then we would quit immediately. So, don’t beat yourself up, there’s nobody to stand up for you. Encouragement and positive reinforcement are a much better way to go about it if you want to achieve results.

Find out how to build the skill of self-confidence in this video from Dr. Ivan Joseph.

How to stop negative self-talk?

The rule is that you can talk to your self only the way you would talk to your friend or superior. Don’t ask “why me,” ask how can I fix it or avoid it in the future. Your self-talk should be about encouragement and self-improvement so that you can learn something from every experience.

Now, let’s take a look at how to change negative self-talk to positive step-by-step using the following negative self-talk exercises:

1. Pay attention to your self-talk

First, start to take note of how you talk to yourself.

Notice both positive and negative self-talk and understand which happens in what kind of situations. Try to be neutral and just appreciate what goes on in your head.

Next step: For the next seven days, focus on your internal monologue or dialogue and notice the tone and emotional content. Just be mindful and observe.

2. Start modifying your self-talk

Think about ways you can replace your negative self-talk with positive thinking.

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If you stumble on a pebble, don’t tell yourself how clumsy you are, take note of the event and remind yourself to be more careful on uneven terrain.

Research shows (Hatzigeorgiadis et al.) that positive self-talk against the negative self-talk reduces anxiety and increases concentration and self-confidence. Another study found that negative self-talk was associated with worse performances.

Next step: from day 7 to 14 remind yourself every time you notice negativity towards yourself and think about the ways you would replace that with self-encouragement.

3. Replace negativity with positive thoughts

You will have to replace negative self-talk with positive every time it happens.

You will always have the inner voice in your head. You just have to replace the attitude.

When changing negative self-talk, you may find that in some cases, negativity may even be appropriate. But most of the time, positive reinforcement is better and negativity.

Now, gradually replace negative self-talk with positive.

When you make mistakes, don’t yell in your head “Stupid!” or “Idiot!” consider what happened and what you can learn from it (you either win some or learn some).

Decide how to be better next time. If something bad happens to you, don’t start the endless “Why me?” cycle. We, humans, are smart and we’ll always find an answer to “why me” question and it will not make our day better.

Think about what you can learn from the experience and understand that this was just a statistical probability catching up with you, not a deep flaw in your character.

Next step: from day 14 to 21 remind yourself every time you notice negativity towards yourself and think about the ways you would replace that with something positive.

4. Building a positive self-talk habit

It takes a lot of time to change the way we think. Research suggests that it takes on average 66 days for a habit to stick.

Make a habit out of positive self-talk.

Become excellent at catching yourself when you slip into negativity and your days will be a lot lighter. Don’t forget to give yourself some credit every now and then.

van Gogh self-talk

If you hear a voice within you saying, You are not a painter, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. ~~Vincent van Gogh

Next step: Now this is the hard part. From day 22 to 66, notice and correct all your negative self-talk. Use some memory aid to make sure that you don’t forget. I suggest you use a wristband. The rubber one. Every time you catch yourself at negativity snap the band against your wrist and switch it to the other hand. Do it for the next 44 days.

Use the second or third person in your self-talk

Research has shown that you will get better results when you replace I, me, or my in your self-talk. Use you, he/she, your first or last name instead. These studies show that third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of self-control. For example:

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First-person self-talk: “I should not eat that cookie!”

Replace it with: “You should not eat that cookie!” or “John, don’t eat that cookie!” or better yet give yourself a reason “John, think how much better you would feel about yourself if you don’t eat that cookie.”

Action item: Use the following format for your self-talk <Your name>, <value you will get> when <acting in a certain way>.

Example of third-person self-talk

Don’t use: Stupid me, I didn’t go to the gym again because I’m so lazy.

Use: Paul, you will improve a lot faster when you exercise every day.

Take a look at how to improve your life with self-affirmations that are part of your self-talk.

Watch this negative self-talk video and get a better understanding how important it is to be nice to yourself.

How to replace negativity in your thoughts?

And then there are the dark days when you just can’t shake the onslaught of negative emotions.

Force yourself to smile; science says it helps.

Prepare a list of good things about yourself. Read that list when you are down.

Sometimes I find my kid in a “why me” or “I’m too stupid to do this” loop. I ask him to apologize to himself and list the reasons why the things he said are not true. You can try this yourself, or with your kids, so they get the right mindset early on how to avoid negative self-talk.

You can replace every “why” with “how.” How’s are mentally taxing, and you need to focus. Every time you think you are not worthy, consider the things you are good at. Walking, breathing, coming up with horrible things to say about yourself, and other activities you have mastered.

Next step: Take on the no negative self-talk challenge for the next 66 days. Take note of how you talk to yourself and treat yourself with the respect you deserve.

Negative self-talk quotes

negative self-talk quotes Ziglar

Your self-talk has a direct bearing on your performance. ― Zig Ziglar

negative self-talk quotes Mbiaka

Positive self-talk is to emotional pain as pain pill is to physical pain. ― Edmond Mbiaka

negative self-talk quotes

Be vigilant; guard your mind against negative thoughts. ― Anonymous


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Priit Kallas

Founder of I created FixWillpower to help you reach your goals. I have struggled my entire life to be consistent and avoid procrastination. The goal is to have a good life, do the things you love and get your results with minimum effort. FixWillpower website is about how I create motivation and productivity in my life. I write about the tools and techniques, best books, scientific research, and everything else that helps you move faster and stay on track. Minimum effort doesn’t mean slacking off. Minimum effort is about effectiveness and productivity. If there is a way to reach a goal in a shorter time or with less exertion, then you should use that. I will help you be smarter and reach goals faster. About FixWillpower

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  1. […] Improve Your Life #10: Change Negative Self Talk […]

  2. […] self talk. Change negative self talk. There are enough people beating us up. Get away from the people who tear you down. Focus on […]

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