Taming Negative Self Talk

Categories: Anxiety Counseling

By Kacie Mitterando, LMSW

7am: *alarm goes off* “annoying… snooze.”

8am: “I’m going to start the water now so it’s warmed up by the time I’m done brushing my teeth.”

8:30am: “This outfit looks ridiculous, next outfit!”

8:32am: “This one too…”

8:45am: “Great, now I’m going to be late, all because I couldn’t find an outfit.”

9:30am: “Whatever, I’m just going to get a bagel with cream cheese… I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow.”

Each morning when we wake up we follow a routine we have set in our subconscious that we don’t necessarily think about. Most of us don’t have to remind ourselves to do the daily tasks like brush our teeth and get dressed. In the majority of cases, that’s because after spending day after day with this routine, it has now become a habit for us. A habit is a behavior that occurs automatically, because it is something that has been performed frequently in the past (2). If we pay close attention we may realize that the self-talk we’re carrying throughout our day has become habit as well, and something we don’t even always notice is there.

Sometimes our self-talk is reasonable, right? It can tell us good things, like how excited we are for the weekend coming up or remind us to make a to-do list for the work week ahead of us. However, this isn’t always the case, because our self-talk can also remind us of the negative without us being aware of it.

Negative self-talk is defined as the expression of our thoughts and feelings. These negative thoughts and feelings are counter-productive and often times have the effect of demotivating ourselves (1). When we’re self-bullying with this negative talk each day, not only is it a runaway train, but it also opens the door for depression and anxiety to set in. While it may not be easy, there are ways in which we can begin to quiet that bully inside of our heads!

Steps to challenging negative self-talk:

As in many other areas of life, the first step is awareness!

Become aware of the voice inside your head when it is talking to you and focus on what it is saying. If you’re a person who likes to make lists and write, jot some of the self-talk in your head down on a piece of paper or in a notebook. Keep a daily or weekly log of your self-talk! Try and take time out of each and every day to focus on the voice inside your head, the good and bad, and the impact that this voice is having on your feelings.

Visualize this voice

What does this voice in your head look like? Is it a clone of you? Does it look like someone you wish to be or someone you don’t like? Put a face to the negative self-talk and even bring it one step further by giving the voice a name! If we imagine this voice as another person, will we still let it beat us up in the way that it currently is?

Reality Test

Try and think reasonably about the things that the voice inside your head is telling you. Is there hard-core evidence against some of the anxious thoughts in your head, or are these thoughts just your personal interpretation of the situation at hand? What would your best friend/mom/family member tell you about this situation?

Talk Back

Don’t be afraid to talk back to this inner voice! You can tell the voice (that now has a name) it needs to leave, or that you don’t care or believe what it has to say. Give yourself the power back that the negative self-talk has taken away from you.

Interested in learning more?

If you’d like to work together to challenge this negative self-talk, call 347.994.9301

1. Nugent, Pam M.S., "NEGATIVE SELF-TALK," in PsychologyDictionary.org, April 7, 2013, https://psychologydictionary.org/negative-self-talk/

2. E. (n.d.). The Psychology of Habits: How to Form Habits (and Make Them Stick)., from http://routineexcellence.com/psychology-of-habits-form-habits-make-stick/#Understanding_the_Psychology_of_Habits_What_is_a_Habit