Self talk is that inner voice that often chatters to us about all types of things. Unfortunately, it is often negative. Negative self talk impairs our ability to cope with life’s ups and downs. Buddhists refer to this inner chatting as “monkey mind” because monkeys are always chattering about something. And while most human self talk is quiet on the outside, we may even find ourselves talking out loud. Take a minute and think about your inner and outer self talk; is it positive, negative, or both?
Self Talk Habits Form In Childhood
To see where negative self talk comes from, we have to trace its origins. Ask yourself these questions:
- Did we start saying negative things to ourselves after others, such as parents and teachers, said negative things about us?
- Were we raised in a household that valued perfectionism?
- When we weren’t perfect, were highly criticized, and then internalized this negativity?
- Did our teachers compare us negatively to our siblings?
- Did our religious institution shame us for our beliefs (or lack of beliefs)?
However we learned, negative self talk is highly problematic for living a healthy life. It becomes a tape in our mind which plays over and over. Then we constantly punish ourselves for the negativity of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. However, there are many things we can do to grow out of this habit.
First Annihilate Negative Self Talk
Listen to your self talk and hear what it is saying. Most of the time, you don’t even realized the awful things you are say to yourself. When you hear negative self talk, use one or more of the following to challenge the untrue thought:
- Turn down the volume of this negative talk and eventually, turn it off. Visualize this as well.
- Let go of the negative. Here, examine your self talk and if you see it is negative, focus on letting it go by accentuating the positive.
- Reframe the negative as a the positive. For example, if you hear that voice tell you that you are stupid, tell yourself, “I am intelligent.” Make this a mantra that you repeat over and over.
- When something bad happens, examine this and do not catastrophize, for most bad things are manageable. Break down the negative thoughts into small, manageable parts.
Examine whether there is any proof that you are a terrible, awful, stupid, ugly, etc., human being. Sometimes you’ll make an unhealthy choice; sometimes you will actually be wrong.
A positive reaction to an unhealthy choice is to make apologies or amends, but shame, that inner voice that tells you that you are bad to the core, must be silenced, for no one is bad to the core.
Throughout the day, practice saying positive things (affirmations) about yourself. By doing so, these positive affirmations become habit and take over from the negatives. Sometimes, even tell these things out loud to yourself in order to better hear and affirm the positive. Remember that positive and negative are the ying/yang of life; you will experience both but you don’t have to wallow in the negative.
Second Cultivate Positive Self Talk
Make a list of your positives and look at them daily. Speak them out loud. Focus on the positives and rejoice in them. Switch gears when you get into a negative focus. Do something positive such as:
- Walking your dog
- Playing on the computer
- Watching the clouds in the sky
- Singing aloud
- Focusing on relaxation exercises
- Getting positive feedback from a friend or family member
- Visualize a happy situation such as being at the beach
Embrace Your Humanity
Laugh at your foibles – we all have them. Try to decrease or, better yet, eliminate your stress. Then, you can then focus more on the positives in life. Prioritize. Athletes use visualization and positive self talk to help them reach their highest potentials. We can do the same. Just like an athlete, we must practice, practice, and practice.
In summary, if you’ve done the negative self talk for years, you can see how effective this negativity keeps you trapped. Fortunately, positive self talk is a stronger force, that can be more effective in healing your life. You are worth it, and you'll find yourself enjoying life more.
Negative self talk can be a sign of depression or anxiety, which can be treated. Find physicians, therapists, recovery programs, and support groups near you at Recovery Guidance.