Updated: May 12, 2022
What if a friend walked up to you out of the blue and said something like: You’ll never be successful…so why are you even trying!? You might think they were not the nicest friend. Would you ever say that to another person? I would hope not. What about when you are speaking internally to yourself? Why does negative self-talk roll off the tongue easier than positive self-talk? It seems that we are acutely aware of our own faults, but we tend to minimize others’. Negative self-talk can be detrimental to our own well-being in more ways than one. It can harshly impact self-esteem, filter out positive evidence, and in some cases, it can trigger depressive symptoms. If someone walked right on your heels all day and spewed insults and jeers about your greatest insecurities, you might begin to feel burdened by them or even believe the negative things that they say about you. It is the same when we talk negatively to ourselves. It becomes our truth, despite it being our poorly informed inner critic. I not-so-lovingly refer to these folks as “Negative Nancy” and “Naggy Norm”.
So how do we fight back against the inner Nancy and Norm? Well, first things first, we must be able to recognize when they are around. It may be difficult to recognize when your inner critic is speaking. One thing that is helpful is to pay attention to the emotions that they elicit. When did you start to feel really sad? What happened just before or just after your heart rate increased and you got really nervous? What thought ran through your head? What evidence is there that supports that this thought is true or false? Once you evaluate the situation more objectively, then you will begin to notice patterns about what may be triggering your emotional responses.
The next thing might be to speak up against the negative self-talk. Tell Negative Nancy or Naggy Norm “I AM going to be successful! I WILL finish this task! I HAVE what it takes!” Sometimes these declarations of positivity are also known as Positive Affirmations. If it helps you, then you might them write down, hang them on your mirror, and read them each morning to frame your day. It is important to build self-esteem, manage your mood, and focus on positive information to keep ourselves uplifted.