Negative Self-Talk: Lies We Tell Ourselves
It’s well-known that positive self-talk is a cognitive strategy that can help in maintaining focus, enhancing motivation, and coping with negative thoughts, emotions, and events. Talking to yourself has been linked to sharpening memory and increasing your overall self-confidence. But sometimes self-talk can take on a much less healthy shape and turn into a negative narrative, so-called hyper-critical or negative self-talk that plays on a loop in your head.
Most people aren’t even aware of this extremely destructive narrative that over time, after countless repeating, solidifies into some kind of YOUR truth about who you are, what life you are living, and what the world you live in is like.
So why does this happen? Why we’re being so mean and harsh in communication with ourselves, and how to not let this negative self-talk take over your life, shadow your personality, and rob you of the ability to look at the world with clear eyes.
What Is Self-Talk?
Self-talk is a constant internal dialogue that most, if not all, human beings experience. It stems from the combination of our conscious and unconscious desires in response to external stimuli.
Negative self-talk is basically any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities, and to reach your potential. It is any thought that diminishes your ability to make positive changes in your life or your confidence in yourself to do so.
Over time negative-self talk develops into a habit of your brain to take on the route of attacking yourself, diminishing your worth, patronizing your ability to stay mentally afloat through storms of life and other inconveniences, bad days, struggles, and different challenges that every single one of us faces in life every day.
But the worrying part is that we don’t even notice how our ability, as humans, to talk to ourselves, which is meant to be one of our many coping mechanisms, turns into a stream of negative lies that we tell ourselves, an inner bully that we foster.
How Negative Self-Talk Manifests Itself In Your Life
Have you ever noticed how mean and radical and unfair you can sometimes be when it comes to your own feelings and your own persona? Why in your head you’re growing the worst enemy to your happiness with all these negative thoughts and narratives that you allow to circulate endlessly in your head? The answer will shock you, because you just do.
You might think that you’re not being affected by negative self-talk, but just look at your life and ask yourself, are you the biggest supporter of yourself or the biggest sabotager in your life?
Now think about your thoughts that are circulating in your head as the backstage of your life. That’s where all the big decisions are made. That’s where the decisions about what things will appear on the stage of your life, in your real life, what role you’ll be playing on this stage, what lighting and even what show will be on this stage are made. So if you’re feeling that your life is just not going the way you want it, or you are not satisfied or happy with the set on this metaphorical stage of your life, then it makes sense sometimes to peek behind the curtains and see what’s really happening backstage.
What lies you’ve been telling yourself that stop you from truly living your life?
Two Stages to Negative Self-Talk
There are two stages to negative self-talk.
The first one is direct, it’s the things we tell ourselves in our inner dialogue in response to different events and occurrences in our lives. And even though negative self-talk is not a healthy way to cope with life, nevertheless it’s still a coping mechanism.
The second one is a narrative, a kind of consequence of all those things we repeatedly tell ourselves that over time solidify in us and turn into a constant inner narrative. It’s all the negative things we’ve been telling ourselves all the time that now are rooted and recorded into our subconscious as our beliefs about ourselves, our abilities, and the world. This is not that easy to fish out anymore, because these thoughts are now the dust, the flavor to the general cognitive processes happening in your brain.
It affects your decision making process, your mental capacity to cope with stress, it makes you less optimistic and limits you in your abilities.
Signs That You’re Being Affected by Neagtive Self-Talk
Did you notice that sometimes you’re being overly and quite often even unnecessarily mean and criticizing yourself when talking to someone? Throwing stuff like “oh I’m just dumb!” when there’s literally no reason for you to tell something like this about yourself. And I mean, we all joke, and it’s perfectly healthy to use a joke to help you get over some awkward situations, when instead of dying of shame you just say, “well, things happen, I’m just a human and an awkward one obviously!”
In social groups and in the media, for example, self-deprecating humor is used as a way to be relatable and feel seen. We enjoy hearing people joking about awkward stuff that happened to them in the past, seeing imperfections of other people through humor. This helps us to relate. And it also helps us to not feel alone in our struggle. But sometimes self-deprecation takes on a rougher form, when it’s used primarily to bash on yourself at a party for a laugh, or point out what you think may be a flaw to your partner or friend hoping they will disagree.
While some level of self-deprecation can simply be a way of communicating and represents a type of humor, over-indulging in self-deprecating talk can be a sign of a larger issue. If you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, putting yourself down to yourself or others, or not thinking highly of yourself, it may be time to look under the surface.
And there’s difference between saying “oh I’m so dumb”, for example, and feeling accepting the fact that you simply can’t know everything or be good at everything and that’s totally okay because you’re curious and willing to learn as long as you live, and saying the same words and hate yourself for not knowing everything or not being good at everything.
Also, if you feel like people aren’t treating you the way you would want them to, then it’s also a sign to ask yourself, are you treating yourself the way you want others to treat you? Because quite often you don’t even notice how on a daily basis you allow this negative self-talk to diminish your worth even in your own eyes. And while some go forward in their lives finding ways to create a better life for themselves, you simply fumble in all that mess in your head simply convinced that you don’t really deserve anything better.
Negative Self-Talk Based On Fear, Shame, And Guilt
What makes negative self-talk especially dangerous is the possibility of it being based on these three feelings: fear, shame, guilt. It can sometimes be hate too but mostly if we really look at it, hate, one way or another, stems from these three feelings as well, so we will take fear, shame, and guilt as the main feelings that pose a danger to us when it comes to negative self-talk.
Just like every feeling; fear, shame, guilt can be healthy. For example, when we’re in danger, we experience fear. Or when we did something bad, we experience shame and guilt. And it’s exactly these feelings that make us want to fix our misdoings.
But when either one or all three of these feelings are constantly present in us, eating us from within, and are caused by traumatic experiences in the past, these feelings are not healthy anymore and are dangerous.
If you think that’s the case with your negative self-talk, I would really advise to seek professional help and not to be afraid of asking for it. It’s always better to address your problems than allow them to take over you and destroy you in the end.
What You Can Do To Help Yourself To Reduce Your Negative Self-Talk
Here’re some tips that can help you reduce your negative self-talk and learn how through self-talk support yourself and cope with life.
Learn to forgive yourself. Each time you feel the narrative starts that you are such a failure or that you did something wrong and hence doesn’t deserve anything good, meet this narrative with a little positive self-talk. Learn to accept the truth and forgive yourself for not being perfect or for making a mistake, because it’s life and things happen. You’ll try to do better next time.
Remember your past is gone, and there’s always a chance to start new and do a little better every day.
Journaling can help a lot because once you start pouring all the negativity on page, you start really seeing it, seeing things you didn’t see before and well, after writing the same things down over and over again, using the same vocabulary and the same thoughts, it will eventually tire you and so these negative ideas that you allowed circulate in your head will stop being so important, and seem so true after all.
Accept compliments from people
Learn to accept compliments from people. Stop trying to figure out how people perceive you and focus on doing your thing. When people have something nice to tell you about you, accept the compliment and don’t try to question whether you deserve it or not.
Everyone deserves a compliment once in a while.
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