Negative self-talk is essentially anything that you think about yourself which is negative. It can come in many forms, such as self-doubt, body negativity and mental illness (please seek professional help for mental illnesses though). Negative self-talk reduces your self-esteem, productivity and happiness. This is because you are viewing yourself – whether it is your abilities or your appearance – poorly. I’m sure we have all experienced some degree of negative self-talk, so I want to address it in detail and some ways to combat it that could work for you.
Become Self-Aware of Negativity:
The best (and hardest) way to start combatting negative self-talk is to, of course, recognise it! You need to find a new level of self-awareness where you are interrogating your thoughts, instead of unquestioningly accepting them as fact. If you practise it enough, you can instantly identify when you are thinking of yourself negatively and follow these other ideas below to deal with it sufficiently. To help do this, you could continue to read about negative self-talk regularly so that it is at the forefront of your mind. You could also get into the habit of reflecting on your recent thoughts.
Plan for all Outcomes:
A great way to deal with negative self-talk is to determine all of the outcomes where the negative thought is true and prepare for them. This is a bit easier as you are giving yourself options to make yourself feel better. You need to make it clear to yourself that you are not accepting the thought as the truth, but are essentially reasoning with yourself to deal with the situation effectively.
For example, you say to yourself “I can’t do my university degree anymore, I’m not smart enough”. Don’t let yourself instantly belief it as the truth, but consider what you would do if the thought had some merit. Maybe you will transfer to another course if you do not get a certain grade at the end of the semester. Or you will create a study plan or get a tutor so that you can work hard to be “smart enough”. Or you could even decide to do the course and barely pass each unit, but you don’t mind because you really enjoy it. This method of dealing with negative self-talk can give you peace of mind with your view of yourself.
Look for Evidence:
Negative self-talk is clearly subjective and biased as it comes from your own perspective, even if it begins from some outside, objective source. This means that you might be able to combat it by focusing on the facts of the situation and bringing in some objectivity to your subjective thoughts. Even if you find evidence to support your negative self-talk, at least you can deal with it better by accepting it or changing something in your life.
A good example of this is if you think “I am terrible at dancing”. Looking for evidence here could include thinking if anyone has ever complemented your dancing, if you have made it onto a dance team by auditioning or won any awards for your dancing skills. Looking for evidence might actually tell you that you need to get some evidence, such as trying out for a dance team. If you find evidence that confirms you are “terrible at dancing”, then you can either learn to accept this or work hard to change it.
Reframe to be More Realistic:
It is helpful to reframe your thought in a more realistic way to reduce the negativity. Often our negative self-talk is exaggerated, so it is important to calm it down with a more realistic thought. Make sure that the way you reframe it addresses the original negative thought though. You want to ensure that you don’t repeat the same negative phrase and emotions that it brings.
Let’s look at the example of you saying to yourself “my thighs are so ugly”. A more realistic thought would be something like “I personally don’t like my thighs and although there is nothing wrong with them health-wise, it is valid for me to want to change them. I can do exercise and other things to help me work towards the thighs I want in a healthy, positive way.” I believe that this works as you are not forcing yourself to completely change your view or avoid the issue. Instead you are keeping a positive mind with a realistic thought.
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