When you strive to do something and fail, make a mistake, or have an accident, what do you tell yourself? If you are like me—and a lot of other people—you begin a tirade of negative self-talk.
“You’re a loser.” “You’re so stupid.” “You never did that before, so why would you believe you could do it this time?” “What were you even thinking?” “You shouldn’t even bother…” “You’re such an idiot.”
Sometimes the negative self-talk can sound like a parent speaking to a child. “You’re not good at that, so maybe you shouldn’t try. You’ll just fail.” Or “Be careful! If you do that, you could get hurt.”
Our brains are wired to push us to do better and be better. So when we fail or don’t do something as well as we would like, our minds become filled with thoughts meant to push us to change. Or they direct us away from potentially difficult or disappointing situations.
We tend to use negative language rather than positive language in these situations. However, those negative words do nothing at all to inspire us to a new level of success. Instead, they stop us from succeeding.
Negative Self-Talk Holds You Back
Negative self-talk doesn’t merely make you feel bad. It can affect you in some harmful 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 also has been linked to depression.
Plus, the more negatively you speak to yourself, the more likely it is that you will limit yourself or get stuck in perfectionism. That means you won’t take action toward your goals, or, if you do, you won’t say you are “done.”
Stop Talking to Yourself that Way!
Learning to speak to yourself positively, therefore, offers a powerful way to improve your level of success. Change that internal dialogue to one that is kind and supportive.
How do you that without shouting “Shut up!” at yourself every 10 minutes (or more)? First, become conscious of the negative dialogue going on in your head. Once you are more aware of it, you can begin to change what you tell yourself.
Yes, you might have to say something, like “Stop that!” to yourself when you notice the negative-self talk happening. I suggest, though, that you choose a more positive trigger, like “Be nice.”
Here are three other strategies you can try when you find yourself speaking negatively to yourself:
Change Your Story
More often than not, we tell ourselves stories that are not true. We’ve made them up based on an event or circumstance from the past. Our perception of something becomes our reality—but that reality isn’t based on any type of fact.
We then interpret all similar events through our belief in the validity of that story. So, if you did something you judged (or someone else judged) as “stupid” in the past, when you do something similar, you tell yourself the same thing–“You’re stupid.”
To get out of that story, look at what really happened–someone said “X” or did “Y.” Then determine how you have decided to understand that event. What meaning did you give it? Then drop that… entirely. Stick only to the facts. Without your interpretation, you’ll have a stripped-down story.
You can then respond to your original negative self-talk (“You’re stupid.”) in a new and more positive way, like “You aren’t stupid! You are smart and can figure this out or do it a new way. Take a deep breath. Start again. I know you can do it!”
After a while, you’ll be able to speak to yourself kindly and encouragingly without having to bear the negative self-talk first.
Use Kind or Positive Words
We mistakenly believe that if we aren’t hard on ourselves, we won’t strive for more success. But the negativity and harshness only deter us from trying or doing better.
Try speaking to yourself with kindness and positivity. Try something like this: “That’s really too bad that your efforts didn’t yield the results you wanted. But I know you can do it if you try again.” Or “Bummer. That’s disappointing. How could you do it differently? Let’s give it a go!”
You’ll soon find that encouragement and kindness go a lot farther toward helping you succeed than discouragement and harshness.
The Golden Rule for Self-Talk
I like to think about changing negative self-talk to positive self-talk in terms of The Golden Rule. You might remember that this rule says “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.” In less biblical parlance, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Apply this to how you speak to yourself. Would you want someone to say to you “You’re such an idiot! What made you think you could do that? You’ve failed at it how many times before?”
Of course, you wouldn’t. So, don’t say it to yourself.
Speak to yourself the way you would want someone else to speak to you. Then watch as you flourish and succeed.
How do you stop your negative self-talk? Tell me in a comment below.
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