When people share with me some of their negative self-talk, I hear statements that sound a little like:
“I’m no good at networking and meeting new people”
“I’ll never find the relationship for me”
“I’ll never be a confident person”
“I’m too quiet to get ahead at work”
Statements like the above I refer to as ‘success stoppers’ because they give the perception of being absolute truths, and therefore unchangeable problems. I’m not surprised why so many of us go through dark times when these statements are ruling our lives on a daily basis.
How to Overcome Negative Self-talk
I work with anxiety sufferers to help them get back in control of their anxiety. A big component of anxiety is the inability to manage negative self-talk.
Because anxiety manifests at an unconscious level, sufferers often describe anxiety as an external force that takes over and they are at the mercy of. The negative self-talk associated with this anxiety becomes so engraved in their psyche that they feel completely powerless. It doesn’t have to be that way.
If this is where you’re at right now, it can sometimes feel like there are no options. I’ve been there too.
I was that anxious shy guy who was riddled with constant negative self-talk. I told myself that I was not outgoing enough, socially awkward, and was destined to live a life of regret because I couldn’t break free of the way I saw myself. I was sabotaging my own success, and if I took no action to change, I could have let this thinking pattern run its natural course for the remainder of my life.
To change your negative self-talk, you firstly need to learn how you think.
Understand Your Thinking Patterns
In fact, one of the questions I might ask you in a therapy session is How do you determine whether you should listen to a thought or completely ignore it?
I ask this question because I’m interested to learn about your cognitive thinking patterns rather than getting caught up in the detail of the problem. While talking endlessly with your friends can temporarily make you feel better, it doesn’t change the deep-seated thought patterns that you experience on a daily basis.
My brief therapy model is about helping you get lasting results in a short time frame. In order to overcome negative self-talk, the first step is to understand and bring light to your unconscious thinking patterns.
When a negative self-talk grabs hold, you might like to ask yourself:
- How do I determine if I should listen to this thought when I have thousands of other thoughts every day that I don’t pay attention to?
- What real-world evidence do I have to support the legitimacy of this thought?
- How do I determine whether this thought is just an opinion or is an absolute fact?
Find the Exceptions
We can go a lifetime running the same thought patterns, which means we become a broken record, stuck on a song that we’re all sick of hearing. While playing that song, it’s hard to play anything else.
When you learn to become a master of your own thoughts, you learn to change the record. You do this by finding the exceptions. For example, if your negative self-talk is saying:
“I’m an anxious person, I’m no good at networking and meeting new people”
Then you’re probably ruminating over past examples where you were at an event, you didn’t fit in and you didn’t click with anyone. This collection of examples become part of the evidence you’ve gathered over time in order to make the above definitive sweeping statement.
There are always exceptions. Your job is to be willing enough to look for them.
When you allow your mind to move beyond all this evidence that doesn’t serve you, you can look for the exceptions.
The truth is, you’re an anxious person except when you’re not anxious. It’s simply not possible to be anxious 24/7. Suddenly the rule about you being an anxious person is thrown into question.
There are always exceptions to the negative self-talk that you’ve been repeating to yourself.
Here are some simple tips that will help you find exceptions to your negative self-talk:
- Ask yourself! How could I see this differently? Is there a perspective that I haven’t considered before?
- Change it up! Put yourself in a different headspace by going for a walk or changing your environment.
- Ask a good friend or loved one to help you highlight exceptions.
- Give yourself distance from your thoughts by recording them in a journal or thought catalogue.
Allow yourself to see what you don’t allow yourself to see.Milton H. Erickson
Discover your Resources
The next stage in the process is to replace your previous negative self-talk with a collection of your strengths, talents, and abilities. When you start bringing these to the forefront of your mind, you can’t help but let go of your previous negative self-talk. It’s like a software upgrade; you simply can’t run the old buggy code anymore.
In Strategic Psychotherapy, we actively search for your resources. We draw out all your strengths and use these as a mechanism for you approaching life with a different lens. If you have a strength, you have a skill. You have a methodology for problem-solving. We can borrow strengths from other areas of your life and apply them to areas where they are most needed.
Here are some simple tips to help you find your inner resources:
- Ask yourself! What are my strenghts and my natural talents? Write them down and make a list and keep adding to the list.
- Spend some time connecting with past hobbies that you haven’t given time for recently.
- Ask a good friend or loved one to help you higlight all your natural strenghts, talents and ablities.
Decide your Focus
All human beings have negative self-talk. It’s part of the human condition. In fact, the world’s most inspirational people also experience negative self-talk. What sets them apart is that they have a filtering system to determine which thoughts they pay attention to and which ones they simply ignore.
The good news is because you’re here now, reading this, you can develop a filtering system to filter out those negative thoughts. You always have a choice. You can choose what to focus on and pay attention to and to what to simply ignore. Once you become a master at this, you will see, feel and experience life unlike you’ve ever experienced before.
If you would like to learn about how Clinical Hypnosis and Strategic Psychotherapy can help you overcome negative self-talk, visit our frequently asked questions and book an online consultation today.