Combating negative self-talk

We do it everyday. “I’m so stupid to do X” “This sucks …” but have you ever stopped to think that maybe using the negative language makes it worse? I mean, facts are facts – deadlines are insane and weather is not pleasant. But sometimes I think we fall into the negative too easily and without realising it, it brings us further down.

A friend of mine is 2 months into a break-up. The first month I accepted that everything was going to suck, the ex was automatically an asshole, even if I didn’t think he was, and life was terrible. I let her rant and vent and I listened and I sympathised. I tried pointing out that life was not so terrible, that things would look up and that she would get through it, but I realised that she needed to rant and just be listened to.

Now, I’m not sure if that’s the best thing. Everything she writes in her emails is about how things are messed up and life sucks and she’s still reading into every line of every email he sends (they’re sorting out money stuff) about how he’s doing this to her. And I wonder if changing the way she spoke about it would change the way she felt. I know it sounds hokey, but hear me out.

Using a work analogy, we have some insane deadlines coming up. From past experience, I know that our team pulls together and what seems to be crazy and impossible, gets done in the end. By remembering that and focusing on the fact that the deadlines are a challenge but it will get done, we’re able to take each day as it comes and not get overwhelmed. Because, while it’s stressful, we know it will get done.

If we look at things as completely impossible, we’re likely to get discouraged and less motivated to be productive, which makes each challenge more of an obstacle and therefore more impossible. As morale drops, so does productivity and therefore the deadlines become even more impossible. How does the negative help us there?

The same thing happens with losing weight and being healthy. As soon as we introduce things like “I’m so bad …” or “I screwed up so there’s no point”, we create a cycle of negativity and therefore encourage negative patterns. I know it sounds basic, but sometimes just changing your language can influence your brain and therefore break the negative cycle.

Try it on a small scale. The next time you hear yourself being negative, stop mid-sentence. Rephrase it. Make obstacles into challenges and banish the word “bad” from your personal vocabulary. Replace the negative with something positive – even if it’s saying a very similar thing. See if it makes any difference.

I’m trying to get my friend to try it but for her, this is a lifetime to change so I’m going with babysteps.


2 thoughts on “Combating negative self-talk

  1. I used to be the Queen of this. I would say really awful things to myself until I realized that it wasn’t doing any good. So I really focused on being kind to myself and talking to myself the way I would talk to a friend, and now when those negative voices start showing up, I’m pretty good at shutting them up. It makes everything so much easier when you can say ,”well, that didn’t do so well, but that’s okay. I’ll try something different next time”.

    • It’s funny how something so simple can make such a difference. I hate the idea so many people have about positive self-talk being so soppy and cliched – “I love myself and I deserve to be loved” type stuff.

      In my mind, it’s more about acknowledging mistakes or missteps and changing the way to respond. “I’ll try something different next time” is key!

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