Stop negative self-talk — and achieve your dreams

We all have habits: we wake up, brush our teeth, exercise, shower and so on. Just as we all have these physical habits, we also have mental habits. Mental habits are the ways that we tend to react to things — take road rage, for example. Or for a positive example, the way we take a compliment is a mental habit. 

Do you say “Thank you” and give a genuine compliment in return? Or do you insist you don’t deserve the compliment, maybe even thinking in your head, “That’s not true.” This is negative self-talk — an example of an especially damaging mental habit.

The latest research suggests we have about 6,200 thoughts per day — if even one-quarter of those are negative, we are feeding our minds a lot of pessimism. But we can learn how to stop negative self-talk and feed our minds with empowering thoughts instead. Negative self-talk is a habit — and everyone can learn how to build better habits.

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What is negative self-talk?

Negative self-talk is a mental habit in which we react to outside circumstances and events by internalizing them and blaming ourselves. One of the most obvious forms is called labeling: This is when you get a C on an exam and think, “You’re so stupid,” or come in second place and tell yourself, “You’re a loser.” You exaggerate one experience and convince yourself it’s a reflection of your overall worth. Labeling is common in perfectionists and controlling personalities.

Many of us engage in other forms of negative self-talk that are more subtle. To learn how to stop negative self-talk, you must be able to identify it. Do you recognize any of these?

✓ Minimization: When we’re dismissive of our strengths, think we have no positive qualities and don’t believe in ourselves.

✓ Magnification: When we overexaggerate our weaknesses and flaws, or take a minor incident and turn it into something major.

✓ Overgeneralization: Taking one experience and generalizing it with words like “always” and “never.” You may have one bad date and tell yourself, “You’ll never find a fulfilling relationship.”

✓ Personalization: Taking too much responsibility for events that are actually outside your control. Remember the only thing you can truly control is yourself.

how to stop negative self-talk

How negative self-talk affects us

negative self talk effects

Your beliefs create your world – and your thoughts create your beliefs. Negative self-talk can therefore cause you to have negative beliefs about yourself and the world – and hold you back from achieving your goals. Studies have found that rumination and self-blame can lead to anxiety and depression. On the other hand, positive self-talk has been shown to improve athletic performance and facilitate learning.

These studies prove that what we focus on, we attract. When we focus on the negative, we attract more negativity to our lives. But when we choose to see the positive, we create a cycle of positive emotions. It’s the law of attraction in action, and you can use it to learn how to stop negative self-talk.

How to overcome negative self-talk

Once you’ve identified how negative self-talk affects us – and the types that you engage in – you can more easily replace these beliefs with positive ones.

1. Identify your limiting beliefs

We often don’t even know we’re engaging in negative self-talk because it is such an ingrained habit. The first step in how to stop negative self-talk is to acknowledge that it’s happening and identify where it comes from. What limiting beliefs do you hold that are causing you to talk down to yourself? Realize that these beliefs were likely created in childhood and are not true. 

2. Change your words

Change your words, and you will change your life. When you catch yourself in negative self-talk, make a conscious effort to replace those words with positive ones. If you find it difficult, keep a journal where you write your negative thoughts, then flip them into something positive. It may feel awkward at first, but it’s key to how to overcome negative self-talk.

3. Treat yourself like a friend

Imagine if a friend came to you saying all these negative things that your inner monologue is saying to you. You would tell them they are absolutely wrong and list out all the things you love about them. So why are we so hard on ourselves? To silence negative self-talk, you must turn your inner critic into a friend.

4. Find the lesson

The ability to look at obstacles as opportunities is a hallmark of great leaders and successful people. When they give a poor presentation, they don’t beat themselves up and think, “I’m a failure.” They take an objective stance: “That didn’t go well. What can I do better next time?” This type of thinking is called a growth mindset and is essential to moving on from negative self-talk.

5. Practice gratitude

To learn how to stop negative self-talk, you must shift your focus to the positive. As Tony says, “When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” There is no room for negative emotions – or self-talk – in a heart that’s filled with gratitude.

Want to learn how to stop negative self-talk?

Discover the top strategies for cultivating a positive mindset and achieving your goals at Unleash the Power Within.