Change Your Negative Self-Talk

Priit Kallas
Oct 24, 2018 · 5 min read
negative self-talk
negative self-talk

Self-talk is the way we talk to ourselves in our mind .

Originally published at FixWillpower

Everybody uses some kind of self-talk to consider ideas, make decisions and react to events. Becoming aware of how you use self-talk in different situations will help you understand what you really want and improve your entire life.

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.”

Of course, the first step is to become aware of your self-talk. Then you can do something about it.

negative thoughts
negative thoughts

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

Negative self-talk happens when something goes wrong. 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. But this 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 talk 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.

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.

You win some, or you learn some.

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

1. Pay attention to your selt-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 understand 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. 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.

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 something positive.

3. Replace all negativity with positive thoughts

You will never replace all the negative self-talk with positive. In some cases, it may even be inappropriate. 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 out day better. Think what you can learn from the experience and understand that this was just 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.

van gogh self-talk
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

Make a habit out of positive self-talk. Get really good 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.

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 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:

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.”

How to replace negativity in your thoughts?

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.

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 really 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” cycle. 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.

You can replace every “why” with “how.” How’s are mentally taxing and you need to focus.

Now, take on the no negative self-talk challenge, for the next 66 days take note how you talk to yourself and treat yourself with the respect you deserve.

Priit Kallas

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Ideas and tactics on how to improve your willpower. Willpower is the key to the results you want. More willpower will lead you to a healthier and happier life.