Most of us understand that how we talk to others and the words we decide to use are enormously important; they can influence what someone feels or how they see themselves. This is much the same when it comes to self-talk and what we sow as seed in our own inner thoughts.
Self-talk is an internal discourse — for some it’s visual rather than verbal — that’s influenced by our subconscious and how we process the thoughts, feelings, beliefs and experiences we encounter throughout life. Like the ways in which we choose to speak to others; self-talk can either be positive, uplifting and affirming or negative, restrictive and stagnating. It’s deeply connected to our mental health because it can both trigger and perpetuate cycles of stress, depression and anxiety.
It’s frequently during times of struggle that our self-talk becomes unusually harsh or overly critical. As we fight through something that takes an emotional or mental toll on us; it can be extremely commonplace to start speaking about ourselves in a negative way, causing us to generate more anxiety around our abilities, opportunities or successes. It can develop into a cycle of inaction or despondency that becomes self-fulfilling — therefore, it’s essential we learn how to combat this before it begins working against us.
An effective way to combat detrimental self-talk is to immediately interrupt that train of thought and challenge what’s behind it. Allow yourself some time to reflect on whether it’s a genuine problem/issue that needs resolving; or if it’s a symptom/reaction to a separate issue that you’re grappling with. Ask yourself if what you’ve internalized accurately represents how you think/feel; or is it connected to something else, that’s impacting your general mental and emotional well-being. Consider whether or not your self-talk manifests a constructive way to move forward — if it doesn’t and exclusively serves to denigrate, it’s possible that you’re inwardly projecting your stress, anxiety or depression about something else you’re navigating.
Once the reason for using negative self-talk has been examined, you can begin challenging what you’ve expressed and transform it into something more realistic or self-soothing. For example, when I’m experiencing bouts of stress, I often disparage myself as lazy if I’ve achieved fewer things in the day than expected; or been unable to complete a task to a typical standard. As soon as I recognize my inner dialogue is working against me; I can remind myself that I don’t need to be as outwardly productive when emotionally drained and manoeuvring through anxiety — I can take care of myself first.
Effective self-talk disrupts the negative and replaces it with words of encouragement and self-love. Be bold and unapologetic about nurturing yourself with affirmations like:
- I am worthy of rest
- I deserve time to safeguard my mental health
- I accept myself unconditionally
- I will show myself kindness today
As negative thoughts frequently allude to an underlying issue that needs to be addressed; they can be a starting point for seeking out love and support. However, it’s important to note; constantly focusing on finding joy and meaningful purpose in everything we do can be just as harmful as an overly critical internal voice. Believing life needs to be navigated in a perpetual state of happiness can contribute to toxic positivity; fostering feelings of shame, isolation or guilt about experiencing mental and emotional hardship. Every so often life is just shit, and we’re entitled to feel that way about it. Learning to acknowledge when we’re misdirecting negativity towards ourselves is key to making sure we take care of ourselves when we’re weighed down.
Do you use self-talk in a positive way? Are you able to catch yourself when it turns negative? How do you help yourself through difficult times?
Challenging Negative Self-Talk – Psych Central
Overcoming Negative Self-Talk – Mayo Mindfulness/ Mayo Clinic