The way you think affects the way you feel. The way you feel affects the way you behave. This is the premise of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), an effective way to combat negative thought patterns. If you are plagued by negative self-talk, chances are you are not particularly happy. Your subconscious has likely hijacked your ability to think things through. Your misperception and assumptions are seriously limiting you. There are simple ways to make changes and turn your life around.
WHERE TO START
Negative thinking is a learned behavior. Over time your subconscious has been taught to respond to stressful situations in a particular manner. With repetition, your subconscious automatically produces whichever coping mechanism it has been taught. If negative thinking is your automatic reaction to challenging situations, it is time to take action.
With time and effort, you can replace negative self-talk with the ability to logically sort through information and react accordingly. Replacing negative self-talk with positive coping skills will make it effortless to face stressful situations. If you believe in yourself, you can overcome anything.
There are times when bad things happen. You have no control over other people or their actions. Most of the time you have limited control over places and things. At times it is pertinent to remain silent. Identifying your negative thought patterns and replacing them with positive solutions will build your self-esteem, confidence, and ultimate success.
WHAT NEGATIVE SELF-TALK LOOKS LIKE
Filtering is a process where you focus solely on the negative aspects of a situation. You are only receiving half the message. You will not be able to make informed decisions or respond appropriately based on a fraction of available information. Your responses may seem irrational to others.
Personalizing puts a great deal of responsibility and stress on you. Personalizing includes assuming that everything that you do is disappointing or wrong. You have a habit of taking responsibility and blame for outcomes that you had no part in. Personalizing is a self-defeating mechanism.
Not having confidence in your own ability undermines everything you do. Having the expectation that things will turn out badly encourages you to not do your best, or at times, simply not get started. Expectation that something will always go wrong will prevent you from branching out and trying new experiences. This is self-limiting.
Catastrophizing means living a life of fear. Fear that everything is going to go wrong. You prepare for the worst, without living for the best. You are waiting for the sky to fall while you cower under a desk.
Not everything goes wrong; in fact, most things go right. Living in a constant state of fright or flight is putting undue pressure on your body and mind. There is no joy in continually waiting for disaster.
With polarizing, your see things in black or white. Situations can go one of two ways, and that is it. You do not acknowledge or consider that there are many nuances to a situation. Having polarizing thoughts prevents you from anticipating and preparing for natural latitudinal movement.
Viewing anything as all good, or all bad, makes you act in a stiff, unrelenting way. Compromise is difficult or impossible when you latch onto one of two narrow outcomes. You will spend a lot of time arguing your point of view.
ALL OR NOTHING
Inflexible expectation puts an amazing amount of pressure on you to be perfect at everything you do. You think that you cannot afford to make any mistakes, or be less than stellar in any sphere of your life. You consider yourself deficient if unrealistic high standards are not met. Establishing perfection as your goal is setting yourself up for certain failure. No one is perfect.
ALWAYS SEEKING APPROVAL
As children, you generally want to try and please your parents. When your parents are proud of you they praise you. This in turn boosts your self-esteem. You feel good about yourself for being acknowledged for your accomplishments.
As you get older, the need to constantly seek and get approval from people becomes defeating. Believing that you can only be happy if you fit in, if people like you, if you get publically acknowledged, or if you’re indispensable, is an unrealistic expectation. You are not a puppy dog.
Constantly seeking approval from outside sources to validate you as a good person or a worthy person is unhealthy. When things go wrong, or people are unhappy about something, you believe that it was because of you. Internalizing other people’s unhappiness is not your job.This kind of thinking torments your self-esteem.
Mind reading is a special kind of hell. The ability to identify what another person is thinking just by observation, and acting accordingly will not make you popular. When other people are not happy about something, and you are in the vicinity, you automatically believe they must not like you.
If anyone snaps at you, ignores you, slams a phone down, walks away from you, raises their voice, goes to lunch without you (and the list goes on), you assume they do not like you. Jumping to conclusion about what others are thinking will get you into trouble extremely quickly. Don’t make assumptions.
SHOULDA, WOULDA, COULDA
The past has already happened. You cannot go back and change it. Getting stuck in hindsight where you second guess yourself and replay possible alternate outcomes is miserable. Beating yourself up because the outcome wasn’t to your liking, and continuously ruminating over it is pointless. Learn from the experience, accept the outcome, and move on. There are more important things to be worrying about.
You believe you know how things are going to turn out; you already have the future mapped. This eliminates your ability to deal with things that come up in between this moment and your assumed future. Believing that outcomes are set in stone prevents you from looking for other solutions and avenues to real time events.
Worrying about and focusing on events and outcomes that have not yet occurred prevents you from living in the present. Being constantly nervous and on edge, or emotionally distraught because you are fixated on a negative outcome, is going to keep you sick. It’s a snowball effect.
HOW NEGATIVE THINKING AFFECTS YOU
If you are unrelentingly in flight or fight status, your mind and body are constantly under pressure and releasing stress hormones. This takes a dreadful toll on your body. Stress is linked to all sorts of diseases and conditions that shorten your life.
Invariably worrying about every little aspect of your life is going to make you sick. Negative thought patterns prevent you from participating in activities that lead to positive outcomes. Cumulative stress without relief will contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Lack of coping skills to confront and correct negative thought patterns is isolating. People do not want to hang out with, or be around people who are constantly negative. You, however, need socialization and to be connected to people. Your negative attitude will alienate friends, family, and coworkers.
Constantly having negative thoughts about yourself will prevent you from challenging yourself to be different. Your lack of confidence and self-esteem will prevent you from aspiring to greater things in your life. If you don’t believe you deserve good things, you will not seek them.
Lowered self-esteem increases the possibility of abusive relationships. Believing you don’t deserve better, you will seek out relationships that fulfil your negative self-prophesy. You will stay in an abusive relationship because you are stuck in a negative self-talk cycle of abuse.
Negative self-talk allows you to live in an altered reality. You cannot correctly evaluate any situation. All of the choices you make will be based on skewed thought patterns. Your poor decisions will continue to bolster your feeling of worthlessness.
Self-development is an ongoing process. As you go through different stages of your life, needs, wants, and desires will change. You will miss out on a myriad of opportunities if you continue to believe you are not worth it, or that there is no point in trying to change anything.
You will choose coping mechanisms that are acutely bad for you. Turning to drugs and alcohol is a common way to escape negative self-talk and the accompanying physical and mental side effects. Becoming reliant on drugs or alcohol to drown out the negative thoughts is an indicator that you should seek help.
WHERE DOES NEGATIVE SELF-TALK COME FROM?
Negative self-talk stems from beliefs you learned at a young age, and imprinting and impressions from your own experiences that you have filed away in your brain. You develop your own set of morals, values, and beliefs based on your environment.
You may have been told that you were less than, less pretty, less skilled, less likely to succeed, less popular, or less capable. You may also have been told that you were worthless, had no future, or that that you were stupid. Possibly you observed these behaviors in others and accepted them into your belief system.
When young you do not have the skills or capability to understand what is happening when someone lashes out at you in anger, frustration, or pain. You absorb their words and actions as truth. This then becomes part of your core beliefs.
Your core beliefs influence how you think, feel, and act. If you have not been exposed to healthy behavior modeling, your concept of normal is way off base. Without opportunity to logically observe and examine your core beliefs you are destined to repeat the same patterns over, and over, and over.
CHANGING NEGATIVE SELF-TALK
To change negative self-talk you must challenge each and every situation where your subconscious automatically produces a litany of negative thinking. You must “play the tape through.” If you continue to think or act negatively, what will the outcome be? What has the outcome been in the past? How does that make you feel?
The next step is finding ways to positively contribute to the situation. What new thoughts can you apply? What could the new outcome be? How will you feel after you replace the negative thought with a positive one? What are the benefits of contributing in a positive manner?
Be aware that sometimes you are in fact part of a problem. Acknowledge your part. Do not assign yourself blame where there is none. Accept the outcome. Look for a solution. And move on from there. Next time a similar situation arises you will be better armed to deal with it.
Repeat affirmations every day. Find your favorite quotes, sayings, authors, self-help books, tapes, videos, or meditations… make sure you tell yourself every single day that you are good enough, that you deserve to be happy, that you deserve to be treated well, and that you deserve nice things. Be positive.
Keep in mind that bad things will still happen. Accept that negative outcomes regularly occur. That does not mean that you were the cause or that anything you did affected the outcome. You are human, mistakes do happen. You only have control of yourself and your responses.
Remain centered in the present. Be realistic. Base your thoughts and actions on actual facts. Slow down and don’t make rash decisions. Sometimes it is better not to react at that moment. Defer if you need to gather more information, or think about an appropriate response.
Stay alert and catch negative thought patterns before they become feelings. After a while this will be second nature. Your automatic responses will become positive ones. You will have replaced your coping skills and strengthened your self-esteem
Negative self-talk is a self-defeating coping mechanism. It is learned behavior that repeated over time becomes an unconscious response. Negative self-talk does not have a place in your life.
You have learned about some of the ways negative self-talk manifests in your life. To combat the physical, mental, and emotional effects, you have to change your thinking. Replace negative self-talk with positive coping skills to build self-esteem and confidence.
Keep your side of the street clean. Act with integrity. Try your best. Accept that sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Don’t blame yourself. Stay firmly rooted in the present. Plan for the future, be prepared, but let it unfold naturally. Enjoy the journey. You are so worth it.
Now you’re ready to challenge your negative self-talk, jump on over and learn about setting goals.
Click here to download the free negative self talk cheat sheet to help you recognize when you are stuck in negative thought patterns.
How do you cope with negative self-talk? Comment below or send an email.
- 15 examples of negative self talk: https://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/
- CBT guide for negative thinking: https://www.iwanttochangemylife.org/cbt/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-guide.htm
- Breaking bad habits: https://jamesclear.com/how-to-break-a-bad-habit
- 11 ways to stop negative thinking: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2018/04/25/11-ways-to-stop-negative-thought-patterns-and-move-forward/#54457f4419ff