Everyone I have met in my life wants unlimited opportunities, better relationships, a healthy body, a forgiving heart, a sharp mind, amazing skills, and financial security. If we all want these things, why can’t we accomplish them? The answer is simple: negative self talk.
The reason why many of us can’t get there is because we have a critical inner voice inside our head that tends to be negative and convincing.
Our inner voice is trying to convince us that we are not smart enough, strong enough, or good enough to do what we want to do in life. This invisible enemy inhibits us from pursuing the life we deserve, leading to anxiety, depression, and a higher stress level.
If we want to reach our potential and improve our mental health, we have to take control of this inner voice and learn how to tame it and transform it into a positive force.
It is important for us to learn more about this negative self talk before we can tame it to become a helpful positive force. Let’s start with the 4 different types of negative self-talk.
Types of Negative Self Talk
Studies show that there are four main types of negative self talk:Filtering Personalizing Catastrophizing Polarizing
Let’s go through these one-by-one.
You magnify the negative aspect of every situation. For example, you gained three pounds this week. You focus on this, and you ignore that you have lost 20 pounds this month.
You always blame yourself for everything. For example, you hear that your soccer practice got canceled, and you assume that it is canceled because no one wanted to be around you.
You always expect the worst. For example, you have a flat tire in the morning, and you automatically assume the rest of your day will be horrible.
You either see things as perfect or horrible. For example, you got mad at your son and lost your temper; therefore, you are a horrible parent.
Next time you catch yourself talking negatively to yourself, ask yourself:Am I filtering the positive out of this issue? Am I blaming myself for something that I have no control over? Am I expecting the worst of this? Am I seeing things as black and white?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, take a step back and consider what you can do to turn your thinking from negative to positive.
It is important to take control of these thoughts before they become beliefs. A belief is something that you are certain about. The sooner you address these negative thoughts, the sooner you can move your life and business forward.
3 Steps to End Negative Self Talk
It is clear that negative self talk hinders your progress and prevents you from living the life that you deserve. Here are three methods you can use daily to overcome this innate habit.
1. Respond to Your Inner Voice
In a recent HBR article, Erica Ariel Fox stated that the toughest conversations any of us can have are the ones that we have with ourselves.
She mentions a story about Dominique, a high performing executive who has great self-confidence but a critical inner voice. Dominique commands everyone’s attention and respect, but not her own.
Dominique has a serious problem when she talks to her captivated audience. She has an inner voice in her head saying, “Why should they listen to you?” I’m a fraud. I can’t do this.”
Dominique’s inner voice will impact her performance if she does not learn how to turn it to positive self talk.
It is clear that Dominique is filtering out all of her positive abilities and polarizing the situation. She has a lot of good things to offer, and she is not a fraud. So, the author gives her one enormous piece of advice:
“Do not ignore your inner voice, respond to it.”
Many executives do not shy away from having hard conversations with others, but they avoid having difficult conversations with themselves.
She advises people not to ignore their negative self-talk, but to respond to it. If your inner voice says, “That was terrible parenting,” you can respond with, “I’m not a perfect parent, and I’m okay with it.” This will make you feel awkward at first, but it gets easier with time.
Instead of ignoring your negative self talk, try learning to identify and respond to it kindly. Practice positive self-talk every day. Do not allow negative self-talk to rob you of your potential.
2. Be Kind to Yourself
Do not say anything to yourself that you would not say to your best friend. We often say things to ourselves that are unkind, unfounded, and untrue.
When you are passed over for a promotion, be kind to yourself. When you forget to drop your clothes at the dry cleaner, be kind to yourself. We all make mistakes, we are all imperfect, we all have bad days, but it does not make us bad people.
When Jon Gordon was 29 years old, he was facing a divorce. His wife was tired of his negativity. He made a decision to change. He developed a positive mindset, and he started to drown out negative thoughts with positive words.
This approach saved his marriage and changed his life. He encourages his readers to be kind to themselves and to be positive. Gordon understands that being positive won’t guarantee that you will succeed, but he knows that being negative will guarantee your failure and destroy your relationships.
If your friends cancel a dinner plan, don’t assume that no one wants to be around you. Stop personalizing events, and start framing it correctly. Your friends canceled your planned dinner because they are busy, and it has nothing to do with you.
Always choose to be kind to yourself. If you are having a hard time being kind to yourself, surround yourself with positive, kind people who are willing to support you and provide you with immediate kind feedback when you start having negative thoughts. Extensive research shows that positive people surround themselves with positive friends that help inspire them to be positive.
3. Stop Trying to Be Perfect
If your goal is to be perfect, you will fail. Do not expect perfection.
No one is perfect. Embrace imperfection. The key to a positive mindset is progress and not perfection. If you expect perfection, you will be allowing your negative self-talk to seep back into your mind.
As a perfectionist, you will strive to keep everyone happy, and that is an unrealistic goal. Every time you have an argument with someone, you will keep replaying the conversations in your head over and over. These conversations will be negative in nature. If you want to stop this negative self talk, stop trying to be perfect.
Most perfectionists keep comparing themselves to other people. This habit is an official invitation to your negative self talk to reenter your mind again. Do not compare yourself to anyone. You will always find others who are better off than you.
Instead, focus on being grateful for the great things that you have.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery expressed this in his bestselling book Airman’s Odyssey:
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Be content of what you have, and stop worrying about comparing yourself to others. Always be grateful, and when you catch yourself with negative thoughts, think of all the things you are grateful for.
If you want some inspiration about what to be grateful for every day, here they are: 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life
The Bottom Line
Next time you catch yourself being negative, do not ignore your inner voice. Respond to it kindly, and give up the need to be perfect.
You’ve got this!
More Tips for Living a Positive Life
Featured photo credit: Christopher Campbell via unsplash.com