Have you ever noticed there’s a voice inside of your head that never seems to stop talking? All day long, this voice is narrating what’s going on around you, how you’re feeling and vocalizing an opinion about everything and everyone in your life.
This is called self-talk and it’s natural; all of us experience it all of the time. Self-talk is an internal dialogue that stems almost entirely from your subconscious thoughts and beliefs, as well as the situations, conversations and criticisms you’ve experienced in your lifetime.
When this self-talk takes a negative turn, though, it begins to tear us down, lower our self-esteem, affect our ability to live up to our potential — and it becomes our responsibility to challenge and overcome it.
What is negative self-talk?
The easiest way to understand negative self-talk is to think of it as trash-talking yourself, on autopilot. It isn’t helpful or constructive, and most of the time, it’s exaggerating and not fully telling the truth (if any truth at all).
Most of us aren’t sure exactly when our inner voice mutated into an inner critic, it’s just something we live with on a daily basis. It might have started off small, like picking out little things we dislike about our appearance in the mirror; and then before you knew what had happened, it was ruling your life with its incessant self-bullying and negative commentary.
By now, you might be so used to living with feeling badly about yourself that you don’t even realize just how often this voice is influencing you — let alone how damaging it is.
Here’s how you can transform that inner critic into your biggest fan and overcome negative self-talk for good.
Practice self-awareness with your thoughts
The first step to overcoming negative self-talk is to become aware of when it happens and identify if there are specific areas of your life where negative self-talk is especially prevalent.
One of the ways you can begin developing this self-awareness is by jotting down any negative thoughts you have throughout the day on a notepad and becoming aware of any patterns.
Another way is to take a few minutes at the end of each day to reflect on your thought processes that occurred throughout the day, or freestyle journaling in the evening.
Put your thoughts in perspective
Thoughts are powerful. What we think dictates how we perceive ourselves and the world around us; our perceptions and thoughts influence how we feel; how we feel affects the way we act. When you think about something regularly enough, you’ll start to believe it, even if it isn’t true.
And just because your inner voice says something, doesn’t mean it’s true. In fact, most of the time, it’s probably not, which is why it’s important to challenge negative thinking patterns.
Take a step back from the thought and ask yourself:
Is this thought representing the facts, or is it an inaccurate emotional reaction?
Am I exaggerating the situation, or assuming there is no positive alternative?
Will this thought be helpful in the long-run, or just tearing me down in the present?
Am I assuming I am powerless to improve my situation?
If someone I love said this about themselves, what would I say to them?
When you distance yourself from the voice and challenge its negativity, you’ll be surprised at how much your inner voice talks without actually being helpful or even honest.
Reframe negative thoughts with truthful counters
It takes a high level of self-awareness to recognize a negative thought, mentally pause, and consciously challenge its validity — when you start to create that habit, it’s an incredible sign of growth, and you should celebrate yourself for that. Don’t let your negative inner voice convince you that it’s not worthy of recognition or celebration either; these are the moments that matter.
To begin actively shifting your negative mindset into a positive one, though, you have to reframe the negative thought with a truthful one in the moment while you’re still emotionally invested.
Come up with an alternative thought to the one your inner voice generated; a thought that is positive, or at the very least, factual. Repeat it to yourself in the moment, jot it down 100 times on a piece of paper, or write it on a sticky note and put it up on your mirror.
Practice positive self-talk daily
In addition to challenging and actively reframing negative thinking patterns, it’s just as important to begin establishing the habit of positive self-talk. This means whenever you start to notice yourself gravitating towards a negative thought, stop it and choose a positive thought instead.
This might feel a little unnatural at first, but this repetitive positive reinforcement is what’s going to seriously boost your efforts at ditching negative self-talk.
There are a variety of ways you can practice positive self-talk, some of which might be practicing self-compassion when you experience disappointment; expressing self-love in the mirror; counting your blessings instead of complaining.
Reach out for additional support
Your inner voice might be negative right now, but you have the power to change it. You can shift its negative, critical, even depressing default to be one that’s positive, uplifting, and happiness- and gratitude-oriented.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with where to go from here, our team at Pyramid is here to help.