5 Ways to Fight Negative Self Talk

Sometimes it feels like your inner critic deserves an Oscar for its riveting performance in negativity. I can recall countless mornings where I have woken up refreshed and ready to conquer the world. Confidence rips through my body like the strongest tidal wave and washes away my lingering doubts and insecurities. I brush my pearly whites, pin up my hair, and throw on my favourite red blouse. A quick glance in the mirror and I think, hey, I look good. Actually, I look really good. That white wine diet must be working. I feel empowered and unstoppable. I plan to find inspiration and be a source of inspiration. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, I even manage to avoid stepping on the gum stuck to the sidewalk.Today will be a good day.

And then I am knocked off my self-made pedestal. 

A hurricane of turbulent thoughts overrides my wave of confidence; the Oscar nominee has arrived. What am I doing with my life? Am I good at my job? Did I tuck my blouse into my underpants? I hope nobody notices I didn’t floss today. Do my coworkers like me? Do I work hard enough? Is my blouse too red? Am I going to get fired today? Do I have good taste in coffee? Oh no, is that toilet paper stuck to my shoe!?

The incessant nonsense the critic whispers in your ear can be harmful to your mental well-being and detrimental to achieving your goals. Of course, being self-aware is not a dreadful thing, in fact, it can be helpful in some circumstances. Self-improvement is a beautiful journey, and we can all stand to better ourselves. However, this must be done with warm, encouraging words of affirmation, rather than harsh and negative self-talk. Think of it this way: if a loved one approached you with a problem, would you spew poison in their face? Or would you ignite that spark of positivity and offer them reassurance and support? I hope you would opt for the latter. So, why do we feel it justified to question our own integrity and self-worth? It could be the result of our natural tendencies to compare ourselves to others. It is normal to feel the fire of ambition burning in your chest, accompanied by self-doubt. We all want to be successful in life. Whether the pressure we feel to do good comes from family, friends, society, or ourselves, it is natural to question our abilities.

Here's Five Ways to Fight Negative Self-Talk

1. Identify the Critics Playground

Barb Egan, therapist, and owner of Alive Counselling, says identifying the reasoning behind negative self-talk can help support you in conquering your inner critic. Consider your most recent encounter with your inner critic and reflect. Can you remember what the situation was? How did it make you feel? What did you do about it? Once you have these three answers, your quest to conquer negative self-talk will look clearer.

2. Acknowledge the Critic

Take notice of your inner critic. Of course, this will not be difficult as oftentimes the voice is all-encompassing, all-consuming, and overbearing. Once you pinpoint the source of negativity (your inner critic), it will be easier to address the problem. Psychology Today writes, “making the conscious effort to slow down and pay more attention to your thoughts will help you notice when the critic is present.” Try keeping track of when you notice the critic entering your mind; Psychology Today suggests keeping an “inner critic log” in a journal or your phone. Being mindful of your inner critic will help you conquer negative self-talk and enhance your mental well-being.

3. Realize the Critic is not real

Understand that your inner critic is not real. The negative voice you hear stems from external validations (societal standards and expectations, criticism or unsolicited advice from others, fear of judgement, etc.) and influences self-doubt. Many psychologists suggest giving your inner critic a name to differentiate yourself from the villain. Elizabeth Scott, MS, author of The Toxic Effects of Negative Self-Talk, encourages using a silly name to diminish the validity of your critic. She writes, “[the critic] becomes less threatening and [it is easier] to see how ridiculous some of your critical thoughts can be.” She refers to the iconic Saturday Night Live character, Debbie Downer, infamous for her incessant negativity, as a potential name to bring humour and devalue your inner critic.

4. Challenge the Critic

Question everything your inner critic tells you. Barb Egan, therapist and owner of Alive Counselling, has created a list of empowering questions to ask before allowing negative thoughts to control your mind. She writes:

Is this 100% true?

Is this thought helpful? What is a healthier thought?

What would I tell a friend in this situation? What would a friend say to me?

What is the evidence for this negative thought being true?

What is the evidence against it being true?

Is there any other reason this situation could have occurred?

Is there another way of looking at this situation? What are some other points-of-views?

What is the worst/best/most likely outcome?

If the worst did happen, how could I cope? Would I live through it?

Will this matter a day from now? A week from now? A year from now? 10 years from now?

Is there anything I can do about this right now?

If yes, take appropriate action. If no, accept and move on.

5. Replace the Critic

Learn how to become your own best friend. Psychology Today writes, “the best way to defeat the critic is to have an even stronger ally on your side,” so next time your inner critic tries to bring you down, stand up for yourself as you would for a loved one. The more you flood your mind with positive traits (and I promise you have plenty!), the less impact the evil critic will have over you.

The next time your inner critic tries to sabotage your confidence, consider these questions:

What is the situation?
Why are these thoughts intruding my mind?
How do I feel?
Do I truly agree with the critic?

We all face harsh critics, externally and internally, and while some criticism is helpful for self-growth and personal development, we must be mindful of where this critic is coming from. Stop doubting yourself, you are brilliant. Be proud of your accomplishments, you have earned them. Believe in your aspirations, they are going to take you places. Your blouse is not too red. Your choice of coffee bean is perfection.

So go ahead; conquer your inner critic and discover unyielding integrity along the way. As Roger Iger writes in his book, The Ride of a Lifetime, true integrity stems from a “sense of knowing who you are and being guided by your own clear sense of right and wrong - [and] is a kind of secret weapon.” The more confident you become in your skin, the more you empowered you feel, and the healthier and happier you will be.

Trust your instincts, respect yourself, and believe in your goals and accomplishments, and you will develop the confidence to steal that Oscar award from your inner critic in no time.


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