If you’re looking for tips to help you learn how to stop negative self-talk, we’re sharing 8 simple and effective tools you can start using today to shut down your inner critic. Learn how to be mindful of the way you talk to yourself, and find out how positive affirmations and mantras can change your distorted thinking and boost your self-confidence!
What is Negative Self-Talk?
We engage in a lot of self-talk each day as we experience and interpret the world around us. It’s kind of like our own running monologue, and whether we realize it or not, these thoughts and beliefs have a significant impact on our emotions.
In some instances, our internal dialogue can be very helpful. For example, this morning I felt groggy and wanted to skip my morning run, but my inner voice reminded me how terrible I feel when I don’t workout in the morning. Experience has taught me time and again that I feel more energized, accomplished, and motivated when I start my day with a good sweat sesh, and my internal dialogue reminds me of this daily.
Unfortunately, most of our self-talk isn’t as productive. Our inner critic tends to skew towards the negative, making unrealistic generalizations about ourselves that squash our self-confidence and limit our ability to reach our full potential. We filter out the positives, engage in black and white thinking, and always anticipate the worst.
‘I can’t do it’, ‘I’ll never follow through’, ‘I’m too lazy’, ‘someone else will do this better’, ‘no one likes me’, and ‘bad things always happen to me’ are all examples of negative self-talk.
What Are the Effects of Negative Self-Talk?
1) Causes physical symptoms
While it’s not surprising that negative self-talk can decrease your confidence and feelings of self-worth, did you know it can cause physical symptoms as well? From digestive issues, to a lack of energy and difficulty sleeping, to feelings of anxiety and depression, negative self-talk can take a toll on your physical and emotional health.
2) Zaps you of motivation
When you’re caught up in an endless negative feedback loop, it can be really difficult to feel inspired and motivated. The more you tell yourself you can’t do – or aren’t worthy – of something, the more you start to believe it and the harder it is to do much of anything.
3) Limits your growth
If you are constantly doubting yourself and your abilities, you may also find it difficult to take risks and try new things, which can severely limit your personal and professional growth.
4) Relationship struggles
In order for a relationship to be genuine and happy, each party should be comfortable being him- or herself, and feel safe and supportive of one another. If you feel insecure about yourself, you may become co-dependent on others and/or shut them out completely, neither of which is healthy.
5) Feelings of depression
Research suggests a link between negative self-talk and depression, making it more important than ever for you to learn how to stop negative self-talk!
How to Stop Negative Self-Talk
1) Make a list
Over the course of a few days or a week, make it a point to write down all of the negative things you say to yourself as you go about your day. You’ll probably notice a common theme along the way, and the idea is to identify the one overarching negative statement you believe about yourself (i.e. ‘I’m not capable’, ‘no one likes me’, ‘bad things always happen to me’, etc.). Once you’ve identified the area you struggle with most, spend some time writing out an affirmation that is the exact opposite. Remember to use factual, positive, and present-tense words (this list of confidence affirmations for women might inspire you!), and repeat this affirmation each time your inner critic starts playing mind games with you.
2) Challenge your thoughts
Another great strategy for those who want to know how to stop negative self-talk is to get into the habit of challenging self-deprecating thoughts as soon as they occur. Of course, this can be difficult to do in the moment, but if you’ve already taken the time to record your negative thought processes over several days as recommended in point 1 above, you can use this as practice. If you challenge yourself to reframe each of the negative thoughts in your list you will become more comfortable and familiar with the process, making you better equipped to refute negative thoughts as they occur in the future.
3) Would you say it to a friend?
Each time you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk, ask yourself if you would say the same things to a friend. If the answer is no, ask yourself why you think it’s acceptable to say it to yourself?! This is a great way to check-in and determine if you’re treating yourself with kindness.
4) Embrace imperfection and persevere through challenges
There are so many cliches floating around social media aimed at reminding us that perfection doesn’t exist. You’ve probably seen memes with quotes like, ‘Progress not perfection!’, ‘Focus on the journey not the destination!’, ‘Imperfection is beautiful!’, and ‘Perfectly imperfect!’, on your Instagram feed, and while the logical part of our brains know all of these sentiments are 100% true, it’s a mindset shift many of us struggle with. And that’s such a shame.
The problem with striving for perfection is that it holds us back from taking risks, and when we do put ourselves out there and fail, it does nothing but perpetuate our negative self-talk. Instead, you must train your brain to view setbacks as learning opportunities that help you grow, develop, and move forward. And when roadblocks get in your way, stop saying, ‘I can’t’ and start saying, ‘I can’t…YET.’
5) Write down 3 positive things about yourself each morning
Another great tip to try if you want to know how to stop negative self-talk is to get into the habit of writing down 3 things you like about yourself each morning to help train your brain to focus on your positive qualities and features. This can seem silly and even a bit tedious, but it can have a profound impact on your internal dialogue. Make sure you write these thoughts out on paper – or store them in the notes app on your smartphone – so they stick.
6) Surround yourself with confident people
I’m a firm believer that our lives are a direct result of the people we surround ourselves with, and if you struggle with negative self-talk, try to avoid interactions that are likely to perpetuate those feelings. Does this mean you need to cut the people you love out of your life forever? Absolutely not! Just be mindful about how these people make you feel and make a concerted effort not to allow their negative energy to take residence in your mind and spirit.
I find it helpful to engage in something positive after interacting with negative people, like going for a walk with some upbeat tunes, watching my favorite TV show, spending time connecting with my husband and daughter, or writing out a list of 5 things I’m grateful for. Once those initial emotions have simmered down, I spend some time brainstorming WHY someone I love and care for tried to tear me down. More often than not, it’s because they feel insecure about themselves, and while that doesn’t excuse their hurtful comments and behavior, it helps remind me that their negativity has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them so I can move forward.
7) Try ‘The Rubber Band Technique’
Have you heard of The Rubber Band Technique? The idea is pretty simple: you wear a rubber band around your wrist, and whenever a negative thought runs through your head, you snap the rubber band and say (or think) the word ‘STOP’. You can follow this up with deep breaths or a sip of water, or you can find ways to replace the negative thought with a positive one – whatever works for you. Give it a try – it’s surprisingly effective! And if you don’t want to wear an actual rubber band around your wrist, these motivational wristbands are a great alternative!
8) Develop a mantra to shut down negative thoughts
This is sort of a variation of The Rubber Band Technique, but many people prefer this option as you can make it a little more personal. A mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated frequently to keep your mind focused. Mantras are typically used in meditation, but they are also a fabulous tool for those looking to improve their internal dialogue. Pick a word or phrase with meaning to you and your specific challenges, and each time you find yourself in a negative mindset, repeat your mantra over and over until your thoughts begin to shift.
Some people find it helpful to display their mantra somewhere prominent in their home and/or office, and others go so far as to have their mantra tattooed on their body. The sky really is the limit!
If you have troubling silencing your inner critic and want tips and tools to teach you how to stop negative self-talk, I hope the ideas in this post give you the inspiration and motivation you need. Remember to embrace imperfection, surround yourself with the right people, and to challenge negativity with positivity. And give The Rubber Band Technique a try – it works!
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