3 Steps to Overcoming Negative Self-Talk
We are our worst critics. The things we say to ourselves are often far more damaging than what others say to us. I have battled negative self-talk for most of my life, and it affected my mood, energy level, and productivity. Most of us hope that life will be exciting and adventurous, but our inner critic ruins anything good.
That self-criticism brings a “yes, but” mentality to whatever is happening in our lives at the moment. “Yes, it is great that you graduated school, but who is going to give you a job?” “Yeah, you lost ten pounds, but you’re going to gain it again in no time.” Negative self-talk refuses to see the positive in what is happening, constantly focusing on doom and gloom. This does us no favors.
It’s easy to give in to self-criticism. The following steps are ways that I recommend my clients in therapy who are dealing with negativity.
1. ACKNOWLEDGE WHEN YOU’RE ENGAGING IN NEGATIVE SELF-TALK.
Dr. Phil McGraw has a saying: “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” The first step to changing a bad habit is noticing ourselves engaging in the behavior. You might want to journal about it or take a mental note when it is happening.
2. IDENTIFY THE INTENTIONS BEHIND YOUR NEGATIVE SELF-TALK.
When we are not aware, our past frustrations and wounds influence our present behavior. Beneath the negative self-talk lies the intention of avoiding disappointment, hurt, and failure. We need to know why our brain associates the present experience with negativity in order to break the habit.
3. REFRAME YOUR PRESENT EXPERIENCE.
In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), reframing means understanding an experience, event, or idea from a different point of view. If our brains automatically focus on the negative, we need reframing to see the positive side of what is happening.
Think again about my two examples above.
- True, it might take some time to find a job fresh out of school, but this information doesn’t diminish your accomplishment! Graduating is a significant milestone.
- Sure, losing 10 pounds does not guarantee that you will always be physically fit. Still, you cannot discredit the fact that you lost those 10 pounds.
Reframing our faulty perception empowers us to have a realistic view of what is happening. It also saves us from the emotional rollercoaster that we experience on a daily basis.
START AT THE BEGINNING
My encouragement to you for today is to pause and pay attention to what kind of things you say to yourself. Then use the three-step technique to reframe those negative thoughts with positive ones.