7 Ways To Positively Respond To Negative Self-Talk
Whether you’re giving yourself pep talk to get through a workout, a scolding to put you off that extra cookie, or just trying to figure out what to wear in the morning, sometimes your inner voice can be a little unkind. “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is still golden advice even if you aren’t speaking out loud, and especially if you’re speaking to yourself.
If you’re in the habit of negative thinking and tend to spiral out into the “what if…” mind-set, here are seven ways you can positively respond to negative self-talk.
1. Seek the good, not the bad, in situations
Sometimes it’s easier to talk down to ourselves because we don’t want to get our hopes up. But instead of saying “I’m not going to get this job because I’m bad at interviews,” try saying to yourself “Every interview I go to is good practice, and I can ask for feedback to keep improving.” If you look for the positives, it’s easier to correct yourself when you start thinking negatively about yourself.
2. Acknowledge feelings, not words
If you find yourself having a negative monologue, don’t scold yourself, but ask why. If you can figure out the feelings behind the self-talk – guilt, disappointment, anger – then you can identify what is actually bothering you, and begin to separate the problem from your own self-worth. So “I’m not good enough” could mean your disappointed over an incident, and you can start to address that feeling in a healthy, productive way.
3. Be aware of your negative self-talk
If you think positive, you’ll be positive, so the first step towards changing your mood is acknowledging when you’re being negative about yourself. And berating yourself for “bad thoughts” won’t help; you have to flip the script, and change negatives to positives. So if you find yourself thinking “I can’t do anything right today,” change it to “Today has been tough but I’ve made it through and done my best.”
4. Know that you have to fail to grow
When you stop seeing mistakes as total failures and start seeing them as a necessary part of life and learning, you can change the way you think and talk about yourself. Not every mistake is catastrophic, so find ways to make pitfalls a learning opportunity, so you can think about what went wrong, and combat the thoughts with something positive. So “I didn’t do well on that test” becomes “Maybe I need to try a new way of studying, so I can improve for next time.”
5. Imagine worst case, then be proactive
This is called “defensive pessimism” and can actually help you be more positive, as long as you’re proactive. Begin by imagining the worst case scenario, then come up with ways or actions to avoid that outcome. This way you can try and stop negative self-talk before it even happens by being prepared with positive steps.
6. Use a mantra
This may sound odd, but hear me out. If you know you tend to think negatively about your body, or your work, or your skill set etc., you can come up with a phrase to combat this self-talk and change the way you think about yourself. Find or create a mantra that works to combat your thoughts, and repeat it back to yourself whenever the negative thoughts creep up on you. For example: “I am in charge of how I feel and today I choose happiness.”
7. Use the word “…yet”
This is a simple but effective way to change the dialogue in your head from negative to hopeful and proactive. None of us are perfect, and once we embrace that fact we become much happier. “I don’t get it”, “I can’t do it” and “This doesn’t work” have a whole new meaning when you add the word “yet” to the end of the phrase.