You’re not alone if you’ve ever fought the inner critic who tells you that you can’t do something or won’t succeed. It’s impossible (and probably not good) to just think happy thoughts, but ruminating negatively on yourself too often can have a detrimental impact on your confidence, happiness, and performance.
Negative self-talk can be crippling, so it’s important to learn how to put a stop to it. If you feel helpless, consult a therapist for advice. What follows is an expansion on the topic of negative self-talk, including its causes and remedies.
In this article, we will define negative self-talk and explain what it is.
What Is Negative Self Talk
The language we use to criticize ourselves can take numerous shapes. Maybe you’ve set a health or athletic goal for yourself and need to commit to a training regimen. Self-doubt can creep in before a big event, making you feel that you don’t deserve to do well, aren’t good enough, or that a positive outcome simply can’t happen for you.
Athletes and those trying to improve their health often engage in negative internal dialogue. Internal dialogue that reinforces negative thoughts, attitudes, and fears constitutes negative self-talk, as defined by the American Psychological Association. This internal monologue has the potential to effect your motivation and productivity by altering the way you think, feel, and react.
The Roots of Negative Internal Dialogue
When you’re having a negative internal dialogue, your mind is weighing the risks and consequences of every possible decision. This probably helped people out in a hostile planet throughout history. Today, the tendency to dwell on the bad might serve as a useful lens through which to investigate potential problems and improvement opportunities.
Many people intentionally engage in detrimental patterns of negative self-talk. Negative self-talk can be seen as a motivating technique by some. Athletes can feel more energized and inspired to overcome hurdles when they utilize negative self-talk, according to the field of sports psychology.
However, when it becomes obsessive and persistent, negative self-talk can contribute to other mental health concerns including sadness and anxiety. If this describes you, consulting a mental health expert is a good idea.
Effects of Critical Internal Dialogue
Self-doubt and discouragement are common results of negative internal dialogue, but not always disastrous.
In reality, studies have shown that being critical of oneself can boost academic achievement by lowering one’s self-assurance and raising one’s intrinsic desire and focus. It has also been demonstrated that negative self-talk enhances athletic performance.
However, it’s not good to have a constant stream of negative thoughts running through your head, especially if they’re unfounded or start to get in the way of your motivation. Negative self-talk can lead to emotions of hopelessness and prompt you to give up whether you are an athlete or focused on a health goal. Furthermore, you run the risk of damaging your sense of self-worth and experiencing a decline in mental health.
And there’s evidence to suggest that being hard on yourself can hurt your performance, too. Having a negative internal dialogue can increase your stress levels and make you more vulnerable to negative emotions like fear of failing or making a mistake, especially if you’ve made a similar one in the past.
How to Stop Criticizing Yourself
There are strategies you can employ to counteract the effects of negative self-talk if you find that it’s having a detrimental effect on your life. Sports psychologists have strategies for reframing negative self-talk into positive encouragement. Let me explain.
Understanding and Knowledge
Recognizing and being aware of negative self-talk is the first step in taming it or using it productively. In order to alter negative thought patterns, you must first become aware of them.
One method for doing so is to record the occurrence of negative thoughts, along with an explanation for why they were so disruptive. Just write down your opinions, but try to keep them objective and factual. I’m not physically capable of competing at this level. I’ll make the same mistakes I did the last time.
Document the idea and your actions at the time. The easiest way to get a clear picture of how often negative self-talk occurs and perhaps identify patterns is to keep a daily journal.
Using Criticism to Push Yourself Forward
It is unrealistic to expect to be able to completely shut out all bad thoughts from one’s mind. You may experience increased stress and anxiety as a result of your efforts to suppress unfavorable ideas. However, total avoidance is not practical nor essential. Negative ideas can be managed more effectively when they are recognized for what they are—thoughts, not facts—instead of ignored or denied. While it may be difficult to alter destructive internal dialogue, the simple act of recognizing it for what it is—just thoughts—can have profound effects.
Depending on your personality, your motivations, and your sense of self-efficacy, negative self-talk can be employed in a productive way with some reframing. When you reframe your negative self-talk, you can use it as a source of motivation and drive.
Many people have found success by changing the way they view their own negative thoughts, as shown by studies. In order to improve performance, it’s best to accept negative self-talk as it is and add a challenge statement to it rather than trying to ignore or replace it. The following are a few cases in point.
Rephrase as a Challenge Statement
- It would be more accurate to say, “and I am strong enough,” rather than “my legs feel feeble.”
- Rather than saying “last time I messed up,” you might now say “and I’ve practiced more and I’m ready.”
- Substitute “and I’ve pushed beyond the threshold before” for “my lungs are burning.”
To counteract negative internal dialogue, you should try writing down the polar opposite of that line of thinking. Similar to how reframing presents a new perspective on an old idea, reverse listing can help you see the positive side of commonly held negative beliefs. However, the goal of reverse listing is to fully replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk.
If a challenge remark cannot be easily added to the negative thoughts, this tactic may be useful. You can also use your list of negative self-talk statements to get ready in advance. You should counter each negative statement with a good one. When that negative thinking returns, tell yourself the alternative. Saying it aloud could prove beneficial.
Paralyzing to the Mind
To train yourself to interrupt negative ideas when they arise, you’ll employ a trigger word. The phrase doesn’t need to be anything fancy; it might just be “stop” that you tell yourself over and over again.
When you have a bad thinking, you can also imagine a stop sign or snap a rubber band on your wrist. Another option is to substitute a positive mental image, such as a successful performance or a victory, for the negative one.
The goal of the technique of “thought stopping” is to break up cycles of destructive, negative thinking. Although it has been used successfully in cognitive behavioral therapy for quite some time, it may not be appropriate for all patients or all treatment scenarios. This approach won’t help if you’re plagued by intrusive, obsessive thoughts despite your best efforts to suppress them. If you are suffering obsessive thoughts, it is recommended that you consult a medical professional.