We all have a voice inside our heads that seems to narrate our lives. It’s the voice that says “I should go to bed soon,” or “Wow, I need to get started on that essay!” But sometimes this voice can say bad things, too.
This is called negative self-talk and we all experience it.
Although it’s okay to critique ourselves, negative self-talk often goes far beyond regular criticism. Rather than saying “I don’t like how I look in this skirt,” negative self-talk says “I look like a fat blob in this.” After hearing these negative statements over and over again, they can sometimes feel like they are taking over our lives and they can force us to focus on our own failures and insecurities.
By following the tips below, you can work on identifying negative self-talk and eliminating it from your thoughts.
1. Identify the Voice
The first thing you should do when you make a negative comment about yourself is ask “would I say this about my best friend?” Often times, we are far kinder and more forgiving of our close friends than we are of ourselves. You would never tell your best friend that she looks like a fat blob and you would never accept friendship from someone who talked to you that way. Why should you follow different rules when talking to yourself? By using this best friend test, you will be able to identify negative self-talk when it occurs.
2. Change Your Thought
When you hear yourself make a negative comment, take the time to retract the statement. Say, “No, that’s not what I meant. What I meant to say was _______” and fill in the blank with a more constructive statement. For example, after saying, “I’m an idiot because I failed that exam,” say “No, I’m not an idiot. However, I need to start studying earlier next time.”
It’s okay to hear yourself say negative things as long as you go back and correct yourself afterword.
3. For Every Negative, Give Two Positives
It’s easy to tear yourself down, the hard part is building yourself back up. After you recognize and alter your statement, you should follow it up by saying two positive things about yourself. For example, after saying that you need to start studying earlier, you could also say “I think I answered the essay questions well” and “the notes I took in class were really helpful, I’ll make sure to spend more time going over them for the next exam.” Making positive statements will help you focus on your best qualities and help you feel better about yourself.
We are all victims of our own inner voice, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By following these steps, you can work toward eliminating negative self-talk in your life and create positive environment where you are free to make and learn from your mistakes.