What is Wrong with Me? Stop Negative Self-Talk [in 4 Easy Steps]

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We are often 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.

“What is wrong with me?” is not a good question. Find out what is negative self-talk and how do you change it?

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!”

It 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 I talk to myself, after all.”

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

Of course, the first step is to notice 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.

Important note: some people do not have self-talk

We learn all the time. Some time ago I found out that some people do not have self-talk. Here’s the video where I first found out about the other type of thinking.

I have to say that I don’t even begin to understand what that means or how it feels. But I believe those people think. So, so they have positive self-think and negative self-think.

Even if they don’t self-talk, the avoid negative self-think still applies.

If you are a person who doesn’t use self-talk, let me know in the comments, if this applies to you at all. Or you can email me directly.

How to stop negative self-talk?

Follow this rule: You can talk to yourself 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 you can learn something from every experience.

Now, let’s look at how to change negative self-talk to positive step-by-step using the following negative self-talk exercises or to frame it correctly positive self-talk exercises:

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1. Pay attention to your self-talk

First, pay attention to how you talk to yourself.

Notice both positive and negative self-talk, understand which happens in what 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 changing your self-talk

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

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

Research shows (Hatzigeorgiadis et al.) that positive self-talk as opposed to 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 self-talk every time it happens.

You will always have the inner voice in your head. When a negative thought enters your mind, you just have to replace the attitude.

When changing negative self-talk, you may find that sometimes negativity can 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 improve our day.

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 memory aids to make sure 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 be 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.”

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.

Science says talking to yourself is a good thing

The impact of verbal instructions on goal-directed behavior: The experiments show that relevant verbal instructions boost sustained concentration on task goals when maintaining multiple tasks.

Self-Directed Speech Affects Visual Search Performance: People searched for common objects and were sometimes asked to speak the target’s name aloud. Speaking helped search, particularly when there was a strong association between the name and the visual target.

Mechanisms underlying the self-talk–performance relationship: Self-talk can enhance self-confidence and reduce cognitive anxiety. Increase in self-confidence may explain the effects self-talk has on performance.

Self-Talk and Sports Performance: Self-talk interventions were more effective for tasks involving relatively fine motor demands, and for novel tasks. Instructional self-talk was more effective for fine tasks than was motivational self-talk. The results of the study encourage the use of self-talk to aid learning and enhance performance.

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

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. Notice how you talk to yourself and treat yourself with the respect you deserve.

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Priit Kallas

Founder of FixWillpower.com. 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