8 Ways to Counteract Negative Self-Talk
By now we have all likely experienced at least one instance of negative self-talk. Perhaps we got a bad grade on a test and we feel stupid. Maybe we spoke improperly in a business meeting and think that we blew the big deal. We may have even feel that we talked ourselves out of a job interview and will surely lose that opportunity. No matter the circumstances, there are ways to negate the negative we’re feeling about ourselves in those moments. Because this is such a wide spread phenomenon, Psych2Go would like to offer a list to counteract that negativity we may have in our heads.
1. Learn how to identify the negative self-talk
You might not even realize that you are sticking yourself with negative self-talk. Many times it is chalked up to regular thinking after there has been a mistake. Thinking “well that was embarrassing” or “well, that was a mistake” are normal thoughts that anyone can have after that type of situation. The issue arises when you start to really go after yourself and feel even worse about the situation. Having thoughts of embarrassment are completely different than thinking that you are the stupidest person in the family or the office. Knowing what constitutes as negative self-talk allows you to be vigilant with your thoughts. Once you identify that the negative self-talk is happening you’ll have a greater chance of changing those thought to be productive rather than destructive.
2. Remember that everyone makes mistakes
Did you accidently misspeak in that meeting or interview? That’s alright! You are not the first one nor will you be the last one to experience something like that. It is natural to worry once we’ve made a blunder but obsessing over that blunder will only make things worse. You may be telling yourself that you’re stupid or unqualified for your position. You may be working yourself up and wondering if you’ll ever be taken seriously again. As long as it wasn’t a fireable offense, and chances are you would have known immediately if it were, you really have nothing to worry about. In fact, I’m sure the interviewer or your boss have made public mistakes in the past. They’ve recovered from them and so can you.
3. Ask yourself if it was really as bad as it seems to you
Did you take note of anyone else’s reaction to your mistake? Did anyone look appalled or run from the room and straight to HR? No? Then chances are you’re just overthinking things and worrying yourself unnecessarily. I also have a secret for you. We are much harder on ourselves than other people are. We have expectations for ourselves that others don’t even know about so when we mess up we notice it much more than someone else would. You can also refer to the first point and remember that everyone makes mistakes. This line of thinking can help you from being too hard on yourself and thinking too many negative thoughts.
4. Look at the situation from another angle
Ask yourself what the situation would look like from a positive perspective. Right now you are worried that you’ve really messed up, but what if you didn’t? Flip that script inside your head and try to glean something positive from it. Instead of thinking “well, that was a huge screw up” you could think “alright, a gained some important information from that.” Take something positive away from the situation and use that in the future. If you were corrected on something you said, use that information to make a better point next time. Look at it as constructive criticism and use that line of thinking to pursue research for the next encounter.
5. Ask yourself how this line of thinking is helping you
Are you achieving your goals with this line of thinking? Aside from negativity, what is it bringing to your life? Chances are, the negative self-talk is only hindering you in your endeavors. You may be allowing your negative self-talk to scare you out of future experiences. Did you slip up on a first date? You may be worrying yourself too much and thus creating anxiety for future dates. If your inner voice isn’t giving you anything good for you then it is time to reexamine it and perhaps do like number four and flip that script.
6. Tell someone what happened
This allows you to get an outside perspective on the situation. It might also bring some levity to the situation, especially if you call a friend who knows how to add humor to anything. Joking about little mishaps is a great way to put them into perspective and remind yourself that, in the long run, they are insignificant. You are also able to see it for the other person’s perspective which will allow you to investigate how it really looks to others. This also allows you to get out of your head for a moment. Your friend might even literally say that you are being too hard on yourself. If someone else sees that then you can too.
7. Give those negative thoughts a name
By naming that inner negative person you are able to have a leg up on them. Instead of falling into a self-shame spiral you can actually tell them to shut up. Disembodied thoughts can run rampant. A name allows you to stand up to them. If someone came up to you and told you that you were stupid would you just let them walk off? Would you just agree with them and hang your head? No, you would want to stand up for yourself. If you know their name you would call them out and tell them to leave you alone. Naming your negative inner thoughts allows you to call them out as well. Telling those thoughts off can give you confidence and push you to think differently in the future.
8. Replace that negative inner voice
Every time you think something negative about yourself turn around and think about something that is positive about you. Over time the positive will drown out the negative and before you know it that negative voice will be very quiet. This also helps you to see things from a different perspective and put a positive spin on things. It might even help to give the positive thoughts a name just like the negative ones. That way, every time you think something positive about yourself you can reinforce it even more.
As you can see, there are many options for counteracting the negative self-talk that seems to worm its way into our minds. Not everything on this list will work for everyone. You just need to try out different tactics and see what sticks with you. Don’t worry about feeling silly, even if giving your negative thoughts a name is what’s best for you. The point of it all is to stop thinking negatively, and thinking you’re silly is a negative experience. Look at this as a way to assert yourself and work on self-care. Who knows, you might just become a more confident you in the process.
Have you found ways to counteract your negative self-talk? Psych2Go would love to hear them! Drop them in the comments below.
Other reading from Psych2Go:
Negative Behavior: 11 Ways to be Less Negative
To Hell Negative Thinking: 11 Easy Tips For Better Thinking
Bratskeir, Kate. “Negative Self-Talk: 9 Ways To Silence Your Inner Critic.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 6 Apr. 2013, www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/06/negative-self-talk-think-positive_n_3009832.html. Retrieved November 7, 2017
Martin, Ben. “Challenging Negative Self-Talk.” Psych Central, Psych Central , 17 July 2016, psychcentral.com/lib/challenging-negative-self-talk/. Retrieved November 7, 2017
Vilhauer, Jennice. “4 Ways to Stop Beating Yourself Up, Once and For All.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 18 Mar. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-forward/201603/4-ways-stop-beating-yourself-once-and-all. Retrieved November 7, 2017
I really love the flow of this article. It is clearly written from a place of empathy and understanding and that shines through.
My favorite part of your article is point #5. There’s a quote that says “When you worry it means you suffer twice”. By continuing to focus on something that might have gone wrong or unexpectedly, you force yourself to relive that moment over and over. It doesn’t help you to move past it.
Do you think negative self talk is a subset of overthinking or would you just count it as a closely related term?
As for your question, I do think that it is a subset of overthinking. They share a lot of the same characteristics and often times you hear people ask if they are just overthinking things. I know that I have done that on more than one occasion when my negative self-talk kicked in. I think I instinctively knew that I was overthinking the whole situation but I was already stuck in the spiral at that point.
What are your thoughts on the whole thing? Could it be that we are just pre-programed to look at things in depth but we sometimes get carried away with ourselves?