According to conflictcenter.org, mental chatter or self-talk is something we naturally do all day long. We talk to ourselves, either silently or out loud, and often don’t even realize we are doing it. Evidence has shown that the conversations we have in our heads can have a big impact on our emotions, our view of ourselves, and our actions. People that use more positive self-talk are more likely to feel better about themselves and those that engage in negative self-talk are more likely to have negative self-image.
Positive self-talk is when you use affirming and supportive phrasing within your thoughts. In contrast, negative self-talk involves using judgmental and blaming phrasing in your thoughts. Take a moment to reflect on your inner dialogue: Are you critical of yourself? Are you supportive of yourself? Do you say things like, “I am doing the best I can” or like “Everyone must think I am stupid”?
How to Minimize Negative Self-Talk
- Language matters (healthline.com)
Researchers have found that it’s not just about what you say to yourself, it’s also the language that you use to say it. When practicing self-talk, don’t refer to yourself in the first person, such as “I” or “me.” Instead, refer to yourself in the third person, using “he” or “she,” or refer to yourself by name. Using the third person in self-talk can help you step back and think more objectively about your response and emotions, whether you’re thinking about a past event or looking into the future. It can also help you reduce stress and anxiety.
Elizabeth Scott (2020) also has suggestions:
- 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 cannot be considered accurate information. Your thoughts can be skewed like everyone else's, subject to biases and the influence of your moods.
- Give Your Inner Critic a Nickname
There was once a "Saturday Night Live" character known as Debbie Downer. She would find the negative in any situation. If your inner critic has this dubious skill as well, you can tell yourself, "Debbie Downer is doing her thing again."
When you think of your inner critic as a force outside of yourself and even give it a goofy nickname, it's not only easier to realize that you don't have to agree, but it becomes less threatening and easier to see how ridiculous some of your critical thoughts can be.
- 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. "I can't stand this" becomes, "This is challenging." "I hate..." becomes, "I don't like..." and even, "I don't prefer..." When your self-talk uses more gentle language, much of its negative power is muted as well.
- Cross-Examine Your Inner Critic
One of the damaging aspects of negative self-talk is that it often goes unchallenged. After all, if it's going on in your head, others may not be aware of what you're saying and thus can't tell you how wrong you are.
It's far better to catch your negative self-talk and ask yourself how true it is. Most of the negative self-talk is an exaggeration and calling yourself on this can help to take away its damaging influence.
Think Like a Friend
When our inner critic is at its worst, it can sound like our worst enemy. Often, we'll say things to ourselves in our heads that we'd never say to a friend. Why not reverse this and—when you catch yourself speaking negatively in your head—make it a point to imagine yourself saying this to a treasured friend.
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 even one.
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 of 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.
Stop That Thought
For some, simply stopping negative thoughts in their tracks can be helpful. This is known as "thought-stopping" and can take the form of snapping a rubber band on your wrist, visualizing a stop sign, or simply changing to another thought when a negative one enters your mind. This can be helpful with repetitive or extremely critical thoughts like, "I'm no good," or "I'll never be able to do this," for example.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.