A little self-criticism never hurt no one, but it can become a real problem when your negative self talk affects your life in a negative way. There’s a difference between ‘’I need to work out more’’ and ‘’I’m disgusting’’.
Excessive negative self talk tends to backfire and will make it even harder for you to focus on the future and here and now. Instead, it will make you feel bad about yourself and with that, less motivated. Studies have shown that in the long run, negative self talk is associated with higher stress levels, anxiety and depression. In this article, we will go through some easy tips that can help you make that negative voice a bit more positive.
Giving your inner critic a name
This might sound silly, but giving your inner critic a name can really help you identify when your negative voice comes up. For example, when you call your inner critic ‘the nag’ and every time you hear ‘the nag’ in your head, it becomes easier to discard it. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work calls her negative voice ‘The Gremlin’. “Naming it something goofy adds a bit of levity, “she says, “which helps break through the emotional hold that anxiety has on you. Over time, this short circuits the whole anxious cycle.”
Ask yourself: would I talk like this to someone else?
The answer is probably no. It’s a quick way to puncture negative self talk without putting yourself down further. Something else you can ask yourself is: what would my best friend say about this situation?
For example, if you accidentally spilled your coffee in a meeting, your best friend would probably say it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was. ‘’Oh come on, that happens to the best of us!’’
Try possible thinking – it’s really powerful
“We feel a lot of pressure to turn it all around and make it positive,” Brown says. “But research has found that when you’re down and out and force yourself to say positive things to yourself, you end up feeling worse.” That’s because internally, you know it’s not a genuine feeling.
The professor suggests a technique called possible thinking, which involves searching for neutral thoughts about the situation, instead of trying to be positive. “I’m a fat cow” becomes “I’d like to lose 10 pounds. I know how to do it.” This gives you a lot more things to hold onto, and will also curb negative self-talk
Play out the worst-case scenario in your head
After something happens that makes you feel self-conscious and makes you want to talk down to yourself, play out a much worse scenario in your head to put things in perspective. This also makes it easier to solve the problems. An example: if you have worries about money, imagine yourself crying over a pile of bills on your desk. What would you do? Would you cry all day, or pick up the most urgent bill and pay it off? By really fleshing it out, you can step out of the situation a bit and put it in perspective.
Put an end to black and white thinking
When you’re talking down to yourself, pay attention to the words you use. Negative self-talk is often very black and white: you’ll ‘’never’’ be able to do that thing. You’ll ‘’always’’ be that way. Stop talking in absolutes, and instead, focus on the times it did go well. ‘’I always ruin my workouts’’ becomes ‘’I had a great three-mile run last week’’.
Other resources to overcome negative self talk:
Practice: How to stop being An A**Hole to yourself