The Harmful Effects of Negative Self-Talk & How to Stop It

how to stop negative self talk
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Alexandra_Koch

Self-talk follows us around all day and has the potential to really alter our moods. Luckily, you are in charge of your inner monologue and you can learn how to stop negative self-talk.

Negative self-talk comes from our inner critic. Many people have an internal monologue which helps them hear their own thoughts throughout the day. This helps to regulate emotions, think critically and make decisions. Some people speak their monologue out loud to help focus. Generally, self-talk is a normal and healthy thing that helps people think. Negative self-talk can be productive as well. When your gut tells you not to do something dangerous, or that you haven’t studied enough for your test, this is a type of negative self-talk which can be helpful. 

Negative self-talk becomes more hurtful than helpful when it is overwhelmingly and unnecessarily negative. This may be more common than you think as oftentimes, we are our own biggest critics. Many people use mean and unfair self-talk without even realizing it. This is easy to do as it’s unlikely anybody will read your mind or overhear your mumbling and tell you that you are being cruel to yourself.

Negative self-talk covers any and all topics, from relationships to sports and even cooking skills. Statements like “I wish I wasn’t so dumb,” “nobody likes me” or “I look awful today” are all examples of negativity which can be detrimental to our self-esteem. In order to be happy and fulfilled, it’s important to nip this in the bud and stop negative self-talk.

Toxic Effects of Negative Self-Talk

  1. Increased risk of mental health problems: helplessness, depression, loneliness, and stress are all potential effects of psychological processes like negative self-talk.
  2. Decreased performance: research has shown that tennis players who use negative self-talk perform worse than those who do not. This shows that being hard on yourself is not productive. There is something to be said for believing in yourself instead of tearing yourself down. 
  3. Perfectionism is another possible toxic effect. For those that consistently believe they are not enough, it’s hard to ever be proud or content. If you always think you can be doing better, it’s hard to be happy with yourself.
  4. Lost opportunities because of limited thinking are common amongst those who use negative self-talk. If you constantly have a voice inside your head saying “I’m not good at this so I should just quit” or “everybody will make fun of me so I’m not going to try,” you might miss out on something great.

How to Stop Negative Self-Talk

Follow these tips on stopping the negativity.
Follow these tips on stopping the negativity.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / PhotoMIX-Company)

Because self-talk is directed inward, it’s up to you to stop it. The only way to stop your negative self-talk is to catch yourself in the moment, and work on flipping the switch. There are a few ways in which you can do this. 

  1. Try not to use grandiose statements. Using words like “never,” “always” or “hate” can easily make people spiral. Try not to overwhelm yourself, and stay away from dramatic statements.
  2. Remember that feelings aren’t facts, and question your negative thoughts. Ask yourself if what you are thinking of yourself is truly fair, and you’ll probably find evidence that it’s not.
  3. Speak to yourself like you would to a loved one. When you catch yourself being cruel, be kind to yourself in the same way you are to your loved ones. Many of the things we tell ourselves are statements we would never say to friends and family. Give yourself the same grace you do others. 
  4. Stop the thought and replace it with a positive or neutral thought. You may not think you’re the best at something, but you can still be kind to yourself. Fix your thoughts and change your self-talk to statements like “I am working hard and improving on my dancing” or “I am a good friend who sometimes makes mistakes.” You can even repeat positive affirmations, regardless of whether you fully believe them or not. Telling yourself nice things will make you feel better and help you stop using negative self-talk. 

In the long-term, the best ways to decrease your negative self-talk are to avoid triggers, keep a journal, practice self-love, and talk to a therapist. If you find yourself feeling negatively around certain people or in specific places, we recommend distancing yourself for your own good. Keeping a journal may help stop negative self-talk over time as well, as it allows you to put your thoughts on paper in a productive way. For a more radical approach to blocking out negativity, actively engage in learning self-love. Lastly, if you struggle with self-esteem, it’s always a good idea to speak with a professional therapist.

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