Have you ever been haunted by thoughts like “I’ll never be good enough”, “I’m always bad at these things” or “I’m going to fail the HSC?” This might be caused by a little something called ‘negative self talk’.
We all have an inner voice that tells us what we like and don’t like to hear. But if your thoughts take a turn to the dark side all the time, you may be suffering from negative self talk. This can actually become very destructive if it gets out of hand, so here are 3 ways to disrupt your negative thoughts before it becomes too serious.
Let’s dive in!
What is negative self talk?
Negative self-talk is any internal dialogue that cuts down on your confidence in yourself, your own abilities and potential to do great things. To put it simply, it’s basically trash talking yourself.
Let’s not confuse this with self-reflection. Self-reflection is a healthy, motivating and productive way of identifying your weak points in the process of becoming a better person.
Meanwhile, negative self talk is not healthy, motivating or constructive. Instead, it breaks you down by illuminating the bad parts over the good, making you feel worse about yourself.
This pessimistic self talk can come in many forms. It can be very minimal (e.g. “I should have done this better”) to being straight up cruel (e.g. “I can never get anything right!”). It becomes a serious problem when you start thinking that these negative thoughts define you (e.g. “I am an absolute failure!).
Do these sound familiar to you? If yes, it’s very important for you to recognise how these negative ways of thinking can be dangerous and what you can do to overcome it.
3 Ways Negative Self Talk Can Be Dangerous
When negative thoughts spiral out of control, it can lead to a number of dangerous impacts on your mind, body and your relationship with yourself. Some of its ramifications include:
#1: Increased risk of mental health problems
It’s true that if you tell yourself that you’re bad, you’re going to feel bad.
Feelings such as depression, helplessness and decreased motivation are some of the common emotions that intensify with negative self-talk. Research has revealed that routine negative thinking can lead to a higher risk of developing serious mental health problems, especially if left unchecked.
#2: Gearing your brain towards negativity and stress
Yes, literally! Research shows that negative thinking on a daily basis can actually change your brain structure by developing quick and easy neural pathways to reinforce negative thoughts. This can amplify your negative thoughts over time, making you more susceptible to stress and anxiety with an increased risk of stroke.
#3: Distorting your self-perception
Negative thinking can also affect your self-perception too. When you tell yourself that you are not good enough at everything, this can distort your reality! For example, you may think that you are not cut out for the amazing job opportunity that awaits you, but in reality you are highly qualified to ace it.
As such, negative thinking can deny you from getting the ATAR or degree that you’ve been dreaming of getting. So let’s stop negative thinking before it takes control of our future!
3 Ways to Recognise Negative Self Talk
To get rid of negative talk, we must first learn how to recognise it. It can be hard because we don’t consciously think about our thoughts (woah, inception there) but there’s no harm in starting.
Try to recognise these traits of negative thinking:
#1: Saying “always” or “never” a lot
See if you can catch yourself using phrases that include always, never, all the time and more. This can take form as “I always fail at this” or “I’ll never complete this in time.”
#2: Blaming yourself
Whenever things go wrong, you find yourself blaming no one else but you. For example, if you didn’t get the mark you were hoping for in an exam, your first thought is, “I am dumb for not studying more last night.”
#3: Focusing on the bad
You may find yourself fixated on everything that went bad that you don’t see what turned out well.
If you keep focusing on the negative aspects of your life, you may start to think that the worst possible outcome in any situation is inevitable. Even though it’s unlikely that these extreme scenarios might play out, you convince yourself that it’s gonna happen nevertheless.
So, are you engaging in negative self talk?
It may be hard to identify negative self talk at first but try writing in a journal from time to time to keep track of your thoughts. Otherwise, you can also try noting down whenever you make a negative comment about yourself and identify where it’s coming from.
Methods to Disrupt Negative Self Talk
#1: Put it into perspective
Oftentimes, our negative thoughts are not a true representation of reality. Take a step back and remind yourself of what truly happened. By breaking down the facts, you can actually see what could be fixed and work toward improving it.
Remember, problems can be solved. We just need to break it down and take our own time to figure it out.
#2: Stop that thought
‘Thought-stopping’ is a technique used to literally stop an unwanted train of thoughts from continuing. You can do this by imagining a stop sign or switching to another train of thought whenever you find yourself drifting into the negatives once again.
#3: Counteract negative with positive
This may sound silly but try counteracting those negative thoughts by telling yourself the positive things you like about yourself aloud whenever the self-criticism arises. For example, instead of saying “I failed that exam”, switch it up to “I can definitely improve in this aspect of the exam.”
If saying positive affirmations aloud ain’t your thing, you can always write nice, motivational post notes to yourself and stick them to your wall, mirror or any surface you often look at. Research shows that telling yourself positive things even when you aren’t feeling very confident can transform you into the more successful person you tell yourself to be over time.
Here are some positive things you can say to yourself whenever your negative thoughts pops around:
|Negative Phrases||Positive Thoughts|
|I flunked that exam. I’m a complete failure.||I’m proud of my progress.|
|I’ll be bad at it because I’ve never done it before.||This is a great opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience.|
|There’s no way that this will earn me marks.||I can do this. I will give it my all to make it work.|
3 Ways to Prevent Negative Self Talk from Coming Back
#1: Who is your critic?
It can be hard to separate yourself from your negative thoughts, especially when they are coming from you but it’s important to remind yourself that what you think doesn’t define you.
A trick is to craft a persona out of your negative thoughts. Was it Negative Ned or Critic Cindy today? Instead of blaming yourself, you can blame accidents that were out of your control on these imaginary characters. You may also start to see situations that were once stressful as less threatening!
#2: Celebrate the little things
Got an A for a test you’ve studied hard for? Finished your work on time?
Take a break to celebrate these little achievements! You can either go for a walk, eat at your favourite restaurant or visit the friends you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
These small accomplishments can make a big impact on your confidence and self esteem as it plants positive reinforcements that steer away from the negative thoughts. Ultimately, it makes these achievements memorable so you can prove it to Negative Ned why his criticisms are wrong.
#3: Be kind to yourself
When we have big expectations of ourselves, we put ourselves at risk of negative talk. The truth is, nobody is perfect.
So, it’s normal to mess things up from time to time. Remind yourself that these little mistakes are part of being human. Everyone else has probably been in the same boat too.
One way to be kind to yourself is to become your own best friend. We would never be so hard on our best friends to call them stupid, a loser and the like. So, why do we allow us to do that to ourselves? Instead, try to hype yourself up like your best friend would.
And that’s it!
So, that’s our 3 ways to disrupt negative thinking. It’s totally okay if you don’t do a 180 on the way you think overnight!
Thinking positively takes time so don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t get it right away. Take your own time!
Kate Lynn Law graduated in 2017 with an all rounders HSC award and an ATAR of 97.65. Passionate about mentoring, she enjoys working with high school students to improve their academic, work and life skills in preparation for the HSC and what comes next. An avid blogger, Kate had administered a creative writing page for over 2000 people since 2013, writing to an international audience since her early teenage years.