A lot of our suffering, emotionally and mentally, stems from how we talk to and about ourselves. Professionals refer to this as negative self-talk. But before we can determine whether our self-talk is negative, let’s discuss what negative self-talk is.
What is Negative Self-Talk
We all have habits – both physical and otherwise. Our physical habits might include nervously playing with our hair, brushing our teeth when we wake up, and again before we go to bed, and making coffee in the morning.
Our mental habits include the way we speak to and about ourselves. Also better known as self-talk. It may be negative or it could be positive. It’s our immediate reaction. Our quick response to being cut off is likely to call the other driver a moron (or words to that effect). Negative self-talk is like that, but it’s about ourselves. For example, when someone sends us a vague message and suggests we need to talk – what’s your immediate reaction? Is it panic? Do you worry that you made a mistake? It is rarely bad news, so our quick response is negative.
That’s just an example of how negative self-talk might look to you. Your self-talk is essentially the narrative that you are creating for yourself, much like authors do throughout a story.
“Their delight seemeth not so much to be in the catch, nor in the chase but hoping to see me trip and hurt myself as I fall” ~ Joshua Aaron Gullory
Your Negative Self-Talk
Our self-talk describes what’s going on in our life. That might mean what actions we should take and what we are thinking. Much like everything else in life, our self-talk is a learned response. More specifically, we form habits that dictate whether that self-talk is negative or positive from past routines.
“When life makes you have to put up with mean and hateful people, Think of them as sandpaper. They may scratch you and rub you the wrong way…But eventually-You end up smooth and polished. The sandpaper is just going to be worn out and ugly.”
Is Your Self-Talk Negative?
How can we tell whether our self-talk is negative or not? Here are some of the most common forms of self-talk. If any of these describe us, then there is a good chance that our self-talk is negative.
We assume that we understand what others think, despite possessing no evidence of it. We imagine, inaccurately, that we know what is going on in the heads of others. Most of the time, it tends to be harmful, and we tend to imagine that people are judging us. You are presenting, and you decide your boss looks bored. Your partner didn’t greet you warmly when you arrived home so, and you assume they are mad at you. Rarely is this our reality.
When one area of your life is out of alignment, every area of your life suffers.
“Assuming if there’s such a thing as reality if you have a false relationship with it, how can you do anything but fail?” ~ Jordan Peterson
Minimization is when you dismiss your positive qualities, trait, and strengths. It is a trap in a cycle where you feel inferior.
It’s easy to talk about how hard life is. It’s easy to talk about how unfair life is. And that we are always on the bottom. But does that kind of thinking help you?
The world owes you nothing and life isn’t always fair. However, the world has given you everything you need and the truth is, you have what you need to succeed. And by believing that you’ll feel an enormous weight of responsibility to yourself and the world.
Do you make decisions based on your feelings? Using this strategy shouldn’t serve as evidence in how you proceed.
Every thought- no matter how inconsequential-creates a ripple of consequence. These ideas stem from the idea sparked by the work of Edward Lorenz, the butterfly effect. Little things become big things.
Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you intend to do.” It is so easy to get wrapped up in mind games and forget practical, daily living. We have to have the desire to change our thinking and behavior.
Black & White
Life is about nuance. If you can’t think in shades of gray, then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
No matter where you are right now, you can have any future you want. But one thing is for sure, what you plant, you must harvest. Mental creation always precedes physical creation. The mental image in your head becomes your blueprint, and you design the life you will build.
“When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Here’s an adverse event – it’s likely going to keep happening. We overgeneralize, making predictions on the future based on tiny pieces of isolated evidence present now. When you miss out on a new job, you tell yourself you’ll never find the position you desire. When you experience a setback, you convince yourself to give up because you always face setbacks.
Going through the motions is not enough. As Benjamin Hardy says, “There is no check-list of success in life. You have to fundamentally change who you are to live at a higher level. You must go from doing to being so that what you do is a reflection of who you are and who you’re becoming.”
Here is a flaw, and here is a magnifying glass so you can exaggerate it. It’s similar to catastrophizing. You have a stomach ache and immediately convince yourself it’s appendicitis. You get someone’s name wrong and panic that they’ll never speak to you again.
Why do we do this? Do we like drama? Or is it some self-fulfilling prophecy? It is only our negative self-talk. We always seem to assume the worst.
In his book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport differentiates “deep work” from “shallow work.” Deep work is using your skills to create something of value. It takes thought, energy, time, and concentration. At the same time, shallow work is easy stuff. To most of us, it is easier to be negative than make an effort to be more optimistic about life.
We possess a magnified sense of responsibility that manifests in our attempts to control everything.
How many times have you suffered because of the need to control everything?
Do you find yourself holding your breath in anticipation of a positive outcome? If you are anything like me, the answer is many. Let me guess…you also had the perfect plan in mind of how you should have the right job, the right house, etc. And when it didn’t go the way we wanted, we fight what stood in your way.
Looking back, I wish that instead of forcing things to happen. I wish I would have sat back and enjoyed the ride. We can avoid some needless suffering that we caused ourselves by stubbornly sticking to one plan. It can lead to anxiety, negativity, and discontent. The truth is, “when nothing is sure, anything is possible!” And sometimes the possibilities are more than we could ever dream possible.
“Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course? Can you step back from your mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading, and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.” ~ Lao Tzu
It is using extreme (usually negative) labels to describe ourselves. It’s always an oversimplification, and it’s rarely accurate. Titles can be a self-fulfilled prophecy. “I’m so stupid,” “I am not good at that.” Be careful what you say, because that can be what you get. It is a form of self-sabotage. Is that the result that you want, or does sarcasm win you the product you don’t like?
Human beings are holistic- when you change a part of any system, you simultaneously change the whole. Do you wish to be negative, or do you wish to be positive? At least be encouraged it is a learned habit. Everything we do has an effect on the whole or us, for better or for worse. So, I ask you: “Am I a part of the cure? Or am I a part of the disease?”
“Once we know that life is difficult, once we truly understand and accept it, then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters. ~ M Scott Peck
I am Shirley Noah, an internationally known stress expert and entrepreneur. I would love to connect further with you to help you improve your health and wellbeing. If you are interested in learning more about a worry journal, please take a look at my popular Optimize Your Self-Talk eCourse.