It starts with something seemingly simple, like telling yourself you’re stupid for making a mistake. Or maybe you begin comparing yourself to others because they have a better body, car, job, etc.
These kind of thoughts, called negative self talk, are extremely dangerous when it comes to your self-esteem and self-worth.
I have no problem admitting this is one of my weaknesses. I catch myself saying things like:
Everyone thinks you’re a loser.
You’re a terrible mom.”
Just to name a few.
I do my very best to correct these insults as soon as I think them, so I won’t feel worse about myself, but it’s very difficult some days.
That’s the problem with negative self talk — once it enters your brain, it’s very hard to get them out. And once they’re there, they can burrow in deep, making you not just dissatisfied with yourself but dissatisfied with your life in general. It can take a toll on your confidence, increase shame and limit personal growth, according to Psychology Today.
Your thoughts — negative or positive — turn into actions and that’s why you have to be diligent in stopping negative thoughts in their tracks and fostering healthy, happy thoughts, especially if you have depression.
I know that if I let unhealthy thoughts play out, I’ll enter into a depressive episode and practice unhealthy behaviors.
The best way (for me) to think about it is that I have to do some things on a daily basis to maintain my mood and keep depression at bay. For example, exercising. Interrupting my inner critic is no different — just an exercise my mind must do to be healthy, too.
And for me, it’s not enough that I stop the thoughts in their tracks. I find it more helpful to correct my unruly thinking by saying something positive about myself. Like, “I’m a good writer. My kids love me. I’m a kind, generous person,” etc.
It also helps to name your inner critic — this helps separate the negative voice from your own. And at first, I thought I needed to get rid of my inner critic but my therapist has taught me that the inner critic is a part of me and that I need to love her. I initially named my inner critic Ursula, because I thought of a fat, ugly sea witch, but I know now that inner voice needs nurturing, protecting and loving. It may sound weird and I’m not proposing you embrace the mean things your critic tells you but that voice is there for a reason. Maybe it started off trying to keep you safe before it turned negative, I don’t know. But I renamed my inner critic Ann, my grandmother’s name.
I believe I must come to terms with Ann in order to love myself fully. I’m not an expert, but I do challenge you to do the same.
Another thing that helps me with negative self talk is to phrase things to myself the way I speak to my kids (a best friend works, too) when they need comforting. I would never tell them they’re stupid or say something else ugly — never — so why is it OK for me to talk to myself that way?
If you catch yourself thinking mean and hateful things (and can’t change the negative to positive), I highly recommend trying cognitive behavioral therapy. I love therapy and it has helped me grow so much.
For more ways to stop negative thinking, read this Psychology Today article.
Stay in the light.