Why Negative Self-Talk is Harmful and How to Reverse It

silence your inner critic

Have you ever wanted something so badly and felt like you were trying everything within your power to get it, but for some unknown reason couldn’t quite grasp it? I know I have. All. The. Time.

One of the things that I’ve wanted for a long time is a relationship.  Don’t get me wrong — life is good, I have the best friends, a wonderful family, passionate work, and so many other hobbies and interests, but for some reason I felt like this one thing was a huge void in my life. I dated and dated and dated… and dated. Still, nothing that stuck.

Over time, save full details for another day, I realized that the thing that I wanted or needed wasn’t necessarily a relationship with someone else.  It was a more positive relationship with myself. While I’ve been told that I come across as confident and self-assured, I have spent years knocking myself down. Maybe I should have been an actor.

Whether it was work, image, or my character, my inner voice and critic was always filling in the blank: you’re not _________ enough.

In reflection, I see so clearly that this void couldn’t be filled then. How could I find this love that I was looking for if I couldn’t truly love and be at peace with myself?

The inner voice and critic — you probably know her too.

While there are times when she’s your biggest cheerleader, helps you make positive decisions, and keeps you motivated, she’s also the one that shows up every morning when you get dressed and trash talks your body or takes you three steps back after you’ve gone two forward at work.

We’ve seen her presence, we can feel when she’s approaching, and we’ve all let her take it one step too far.

  • You give a presentation at work, but you stumble upon a few words. For the rest of the day you ruminate and tell yourself you’re a bad presenter and not good at your job.
  • You’re running late so you just grab your go-to dress, look in the mirror, and start in on yourself about the way your body looks.
  • You go on a few dates with someone and think it’s going well only to never hear from them again.  You tell yourself that you’re not fun or personable.
  • You beat yourself up for eating a cupcake, pizza, or something else that’s “bad.”

Do any of those conversations with yourself sound familiar? You’re not alone. It’s so common and totally normal, but this vicious cycle keeps us from living a life of freedom, abundance, and happiness.  When we trash talk ourselves on a regular basis, we add significant stress onto our bodies and our minds… as if we need more of that. We also create fictional scenarios that produce limiting beliefs, holding us back from reaching our true potential.

We tell ourselves that we don’t deserve that raise or we’re not going to get it, so we don’t even ask.

We tell ourselves we’re not worthy of a boyfriend, so we never meet someone.

We believe that we’re not good enough to start a business, so we don’t try.

When we trash talk ourselves, we reduce the positive energy and love we have to offer the world.

There is a quote I love that says “your energy introduces you before you even speak.” When you enter a room your energy is magnetic — either positively or negatively. Now, imagine living in a mind and body that felt uplifted, positive, and that talked to herself in an empowering way.  I think you’d attract everything you wanted.

Is eliminating all negative self-talk possible? No, probably not. We’re human after all. But with a few tricks and tools, you can take that negative self-talk and put her in her place.  While some of these actions might feel elusive, give them a shot. You might find yourself moving through the day with a little more grace and excitement.

Eliminate Judgement, Comparison, and Labels

Judgement, comparison, and labels all harm our inner confidence and bring out our inner critic. It’s a vicious cycle. The more I judge myself, the more likely I am to judge others and vice versa. The more I judge myself and others, the more I compare myself. And the more I compare myself to others, the more I judge and place labels like “good” and “bad” on things.  

Pulling out of this cycle isn’t easy, but through recognition of the behaviors, you can work to reduce and eliminate it. When I find myself doing this, I remove myself from the situation (usually Instagram), say stop, proceed with love, and move on. Gabby Bernstein has a great book called The Judgement Detox all about this.

Treat Yourself Like Your Best Friend

Would you tell your best friend she looked fat in her jeans and sucked at her job? Probably not. So why is it okay to talk to yourself like this? Earlier this year, my friend and I made a pact that we would think of one another each time we were having bad conversations with ourselves, and it worked. I would never want to hurt her feelings, but I hurt my own all the time — and that’s not okay.

Find Calm and Stillness

We’re constantly on the go, never letting our minds settle.  Recently, I found myself with nothing to do and I immediately started judging myself. “All of the most successful people got no sleep and stayed up all night to get to where they are… so now you have nothing that you have to be doing and you’re just going to sit here…” Instead of giving into her reprimanding me, I laid in my bed with my legs in Baddha Konasana and just breathed. I let thoughts flow in and out of my mind.

Letting my central nervous system be calm still helped me relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of my evening.  It’s important to let your body recharge and rest so you can fill up your tank with energy to carry you through your non-resting hours.

Finding this calm place looks different for everyone — maybe it’s exercise, traditional meditation, journaling, or even a conversation with a friend.  Don’t judge yourself for your method of stillness, just do it.

Take Out the Trash (Talk)

It’s okay to talk to yourself negatively or to be upset about something you did (actually, it’s healthy), but at the end of the day, you’ve got to take out the trash and remove it from your life. Ultimately, you want to feel all the feelings, accept them, and then remove them.

I do this by saying to myself, “Okay, I see you… I accept you… but I choose to look at what is real, not what you’re telling me, and I know that this one scenario does not define who I am or what anyone thinks about me. Now, you may leave.” Surprisingly enough, it usually works!

Act With Intention

Does scrolling through social media looking at someone’s massive house in the hills, constant vacations, beautiful kitchen, or killer career make you feel really good? If not, stop following them or limit the amount of time you spend on social media.  Social media is a really great thing in so many ways, but it also shows us a skewed version of reality that can be really dangerous for our minds.

Does moving your body by doing exercise you love, cooking a home-cooked meal, or spending time with friends make you uplifted and empowered? Do more of it!

Understand the things that are going to make you feel good in specific moments and try to do more of it. Embracing and consciously engaging in the things that you love will help you bring more positive energy to every area of your life.

Try a Mantra

While this might feel a bit woo-woo, mantras work.  Repeat it to yourself whenever you feel the trash talk coming on or each morning before you start your day. Here are a few starters:

  • I am enough.
  • I am smart.
  • I am worthy.
  • I act with love.
  • I can choose positive thoughts.

Stop Being Fearful of Being You

You and I are really different, and I think that’s awesome. From the places we live to the food we love and the types of people we want to surround ourselves with, we’re each unique and individual.  Embracing who you are and feeling confident about the things you love will attract more of what makes you happy.

While I still haven’t found my prince charming, I have found a more true sense of confidence. It’s always a work in progress and I have days when I’m pretty nasty to myself, but I know that using these tools, living consciously, and being me will bring me what I want and, more importantly, what I don’t know I need.

What do you love about you? Let me know in the comments below!