If you want to learn how to improve your self-esteem and build your confidence start paying conscious attention to how you think. Knowing if you struggle with negative self-talk is an important factor to consider when it comes to supporting your mental health. The thoughts your mind turns to repeatedly play a significant role in how you feel. It is important to understand if you have an inner dialogue that has beliefs and attitudes that are not serving you.
What is Negative Self Talk?
Negative self-talk is an inner dialogue that involves self-defeating thought processes. These statements are typically self-critical, disempowering, and often contribute to negative emotions. Common areas that are often the attention of negative self-talk include problems with body image, lack of confidence in your abilities, the ability to feel lovable, feeling that you don’t live up to some standard – the list goes on.
Negative self-talk looks like this:
- Putting Yourself Down –statements such as; “I’m not good enough” “I’m not worthy” “I don’t like how I look.”
-Being overly self-critical and judging yourself “I can’t believe I did that” “What’s wrong with me.”
-Thought processes that are fear based - “What If I fail?”, “I shouldn’t even bother getting my hopes up” “Good things never happen to me.”
Negative Self-Talk Hurts Us
There’s a common misconception that being hard on yourself is good. Many people believe that scolding yourself is a way to correct unwanted behavior or to “toughen up.” Research suggests the opposite. When we habitually engage in negative thought patterns, particularly those that are self-critical, disempowering, and guilt-inducing we put ourselves at an increased risk for a myriad of problems including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
I equate negative self-talk to having a pair of glasses with the wrong prescription. Essentially your perception becomes skewed, and you do not see your world clearly. You start to see everything in your world as a reflection of what is going inside your head.
For this reason, it is important to learn how to master your mindset because how you think is the foundation of how you feel and how you relate to yourself.
So What Do You Do?
1. Mindfulness Matters - Take an Honest Inventory of Your Inner Dialogue
Take the time to get to know the way you think. Understand the quality of your thoughts – i.e., are they helpful and empowering or are they critical and self-pejorative?
Self-Reflective Questions to get started:
- What thoughts does your mind turn to repeatedly?
- In what areas of your life do you judge yourself the most?
- In what ways have you failed to accept yourself?
- Are there situations where you automatically anticipate a negative outcome?
- Where does healing need to take place?
Asking yourself these questions can help you to determine whether or not you are dealing with a deeper emotional issue or just fleeting negative thoughts. By understanding what your self-limiting beliefs are you will be in a better position to take control and responsibility for your thoughts. When you are aware, you are more likely to cultivate a new experience.
2. Master Your Mindset
Get in the habit of choosing to consciously replace your negative thoughts with ones that are more compassionate. For instance, instead of criticizing yourself for making a mistake at work “I’m so dumb for doing that” try “How can I prepare better next time” or “Now I know what not to do.”
Ask yourself how you would talk to a friend with the same issue? Start practicing reframing your thoughts to ones that are more compassionate and empowering.
3. Get Curious About Your Thoughts
Getting curious about your thoughts is a more effective and compassionate way to uncover what is driving that “awful” feeling or behavior you are criticizing yourself for. By becoming curious about the thoughts you have, and when you have them, you can begin to gain better insight into your thinking patterns.
For instance “I suck at life” or “What’s wrong with me” become “I wonder where this belief is coming from?” You may learn that your thinking style is influenced by stress or perhaps that you are echoing ways that people have spoken to you in the past.
Become mindful of how you speak to yourself. Learn to become aware of the running commentary in your head. Gently noticing and become aware of those thoughts and making an effort to not buy into them can help reduce them.
4. Focus On Your Strengths
Be open and willing to be kinder to yourself and focus on your strengths. We all have things that we are good at and that come easily and naturally to us. What are your best personal attributes? In what ways have you been helpful, loving, responsible, generous, or kind? What challenges have you overcome in your life? Make an effort to identify your strengths and build from there.
5. Take Good Care of Yourself
Ensuring that your lifestyle embodies habits that are good for your mind, body, and spirit is a great way to counteract negative thoughts before they even start. Learn to identify what you need to feel good, especially when you are going through a tough time. Learn to recognize when you need to a little extra TLC.
Take a moment of pause to ask yourself “What do I need right now” and “How can I support myself through this” - and then do that thing! What is a go-to for you to destress? Just be sure that the way you choose to destress is not just a means numbing yourself by overindulging (i.e., food, alcohol, overspending).
At the end of the day……
It’s normal to have negative self-talk and most of us have an inner critic. However, when negative thoughts run rampant and influence your self-esteem you may want to consider seeking support.
Remember, learning to be kind to yourself is not something that happens overnight. But like any habit the more you practice, the better you get. When it comes to mastering your mindset and changing the way you talk to yourself it may take some time until you begin to notice changes in the way you feel. When we develop a practice, we begin to build our mental muscles. Just like you wouldn’t go to the gym one day and say “hey where’s my six-pack” (although it would be nice) – in the same token you would not try to implement these principles and expect immediate results.
Above all else, give yourself permission to be imperfect.
Be open and willing to have a new relationship with yourself.