When it comes to our inner consciousness, we can be our biggest fan and our biggest critic all at once. At times, our inner critic can actually be helpful and keep us motivated toward goals – like when this critic reminds us that what we’re about to eat isn’t healthy or what we’re about to do may not be wise. However, this little voice can often be more harmful than helpful, particularly when it gets into the realm of excessive negativity. This is known as negative self-talk, and it can really bring us down.
Negative self-talk is something that most of us experience from time to time, and it comes in many forms. It also creates significant stress, not only to us but to those around us if we’re not careful. Here’s what you need to know about negative self-talk and its effects on your body, your mind, your life, and your loved ones.
What is Negative Self Talk?
Negative self talk is essentially your internal dialogue in response to an external stimulus. Think you don’t talk to yourself? THINK AGAIN! Negative self-talk can take many forms. It can sound grounded (“I’m not good at this, so I should avoid attempting it for my own personal safety,” for example) or it can sound downright mean (“I can never do anything right!”). It may take on the feel of being a realistic appraisal of a situation (“I just got a “C” on this test. I guess I’m not good at math.”), only to devolve into a fear-based fantasy (I’ll probably fail this class and never be able to go to a good college.”).
Your inner critic may sound a lot like a critical parent or friend from your past. It can also follow the path of typical cognitive distortions: catastrophizing, blaming, and the like. Basically, negative self-talk in any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities, and reach your potential. It is any thought that diminishes you and your ability to make positive changes in your life or your confidence in your ability to do so. Because of this, negative se;f-talk can not only be stressful, but it can really stunt your success.
The Toll of Negative Self-Talk
Negative self-talk can affect us in some pretty damaging ways. Studies have linked negative self-talk with higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-esteem. This can lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness. This type of critical inner dialogue has been linked to depression, so it’s definitely something to fix.
Those who find themselves frequently engaging in negative self-talk tend to be more stressed. This is in large part due to the fact that their reality is altered to create an experience where they don;t have the ability to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves. This is both due to a lowered ability to see opportunities around them as well as a decreased tendency to capitalize on these opportunities. This means that the heightened perception of stress is due both to mere perception and the changes in behavior that come from them. The following are more negative consequences of negative self-talk.
- Limited Thinking. You tell yourself you can’t do something, and the more you hear it, the more you believe it.
- You begin to really believe that “great” isn’t as good as “perfect,” and that perfection is actually attainable. In contrast, mere high achievers tend to do better than their perfectionist counterparts because they are generally less stressed and are happy with a job well-done rather than picking it apart and zeroing in on what could have been better.
- Feelings of Depression. Some research has shown that negative self-talk can lead to an exacerbation of feelings of depression. If left unchecked, this could be quite damaging.
- Relationship challenges. Whether the constant self-criticism makes you seem needy and insecure or you turn your negative self-talk into more general negative habits that bother others, a lack of communication and even a “playful” amount of criticism can take a toll.
How to Minimize Negative Self-Talk
There are different ways to reduce the self-talk in your daily life.
- Catch Your Critic
- Learn to notice when you’re being self-critical so you can begin to stop. For example, notice when you say things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a good friend or a child.
- Remember That Thoughts and Feelings Aren’t Always Reality
- Thinking negative things about yourself may feel like astute observations, but your thoughts and feelings about yourself can definitely not be considered accurate information. Your thoughts can be skewed like everyone else’s, subject to biases and the influence of your moods.
- Contain Your Negativity
- If you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, it helps to contain the damage that a critical inner voice can cause by only allowing it to criticize certain things in your life, or be negative for only an hour in your day. This puts a limit on how much negativity can come from the situation.
- Change Negativity to Neutrality
- When engaging in negative self-talk, you may be able to catch yourself, but it can sometimes be difficult to force yourself to stop a train of thought in its tracks. It’s often far easier to change the intensity of your language. When your self-talk uses more gentle language, much of its negative power is muted as well.
- Shift Your Perspective
- Sometimes looking at things in the long term can help you to realize that you may be placing too great an emphasis on something. For example, you may ask yourself if something you’re upset by will really matter in five years or ten. Another way to shift perspective is to imagine that you are panning out and looking at your problems from a great distance. Even thinking of the world as a globe and yourself as a tiny, tiny person on this globe can remind you that most of your worries aren’t as big as they seem. This can often minimize the negativity, fear, and urgency in negative self-talk.
My challenge to you is for a FULL WEEK, I would like for you to write down FIVE positive affirmations about yourself each day. This will begin to fill your head with POSITIVE self-talk versus NEGATIVE self-talk. By putting these positive words into your mind, your perspective will transform.
Sending Love and Light,