Feeling like you constantly make mistakes, receive unfavorable feedback or are invisible can easily lead to negative self-talk. This involves saying things to yourself like “I mess up everything,” “I’m so clueless [or fat or ugly],” or “No one will ever love me.”
This internal criticism can affect your well-being and mental health, and may lead to conditions like anxiety or depression over time. What’s more, it can keep you from discovering your motivations for setting and achieving goals and being comfortable with your weaknesses as well as your strengths — the kinds of processes that help you understand your authentic self.
What are four different forms of negative self-talk?
At times, it may not be so obvious when your inner dialogue takes an unfriendly turn. These four common types of negative self-talk illustrate its subtle side and require you to consciously examine your thoughts to be aware of them:
- Filtering focuses on ignoring the good aspects of your life and spending your energy on what has gone wrong in the past or could go wrong in the future.
- Personalizing involves automatically assuming anything incorrect or bad is somehow your fault, even when it isn’t.
- Catastrophizing means thinking anything that could go wrong will happen.
- Polarizing is seeing situations in one extreme or the other — either good or bad, perfection or failure. There’s no balance in this type of hostile inner dialogue.
If you think your inner voice may be disguising negativity in one of these forms, search your self-conversations to become more aware of it. Track how often each form occurs and watch for patterns or triggers that raise them.
How do you counteract negative self-talk?
Occasional self-doubt and the inner dialogue that goes along with it is a part of life and a normal reaction to being emotionally knocked down. Keep a growth mindset while protecting your mental health by avoiding the influence of such reactions long-term.
A more constructive approach is to acknowledge how the situation made you feel by looking at it honestly, assessing what you did correctly, what mistakes you made, and how you might improve next time. Choose to focus on your accomplishments and improvement plans, and give yourself some grace for any missteps.
How do I fix negative self-talk?
Employ these strategies to address negative self-criticism:
- Just say no to negativity. Realize that you developed your inner critic based on a lifetime of adopting societal norms, listening to others’ opinions, and wanting to meet expectations. As soon as you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, imagine flipping an off-switch or bonking it with a pillow to silence it.
- Transform your inner critic into your inner BFF. If the voice in your head is critiquing you with words you wouldn’t say aloud to someone else, change the timbre of the conversation by phrasing your thoughts in a kind way versus an unkind one.
- Get in touch with the true you. Foster your authentic self daily by practicing self-care and taking time to do things that meet your physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs.
- Keep a self-talk journal. Try writing down a few negative thoughts that enter your mind, then counter each one with a related, positive thought.
- Reach out if you need to talk. If you’re concerned about your negative self-talk, you are not alone. St. Elizabeth Physicians Behavioral Health providers offer services and programs to help.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare Cancer Center created a four-step strategy for building a self-care plan to help manage stress, purge negative thoughts and live as the true you. The information applies to anyone, not only people affected by cancer.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare Behavioral Health offers video resources, downloadable guides and more information about services and programs available to youths and adults.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255 now! Suicide prevention experts are available for you 24/7.