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revised March 24, 2011

Arrow BulletBelieving In Yourself: Tuning In To Negative Self-Talk


Negative
Self-Talk

Imagine this:

Someone you know says this to you: "You #*!@ jerk...".
  • What would you think?...
  • How would you feel?...
  • What would you do?...
Now... Imagine the voice talking is your own... and that you are thinking such thoughts about yourself.

You may not even need to imagine... you may recognize a
similar kind of negative self-talk dominating your own thoughts.

"...I'm such a fool to think I could get that job. Look how I screwed up during my last interview. And I forgot my references! I bet even the employment counsellor thinks i don't have a chance."

This self-critical voice works by...
  • Emphasizing past failures.
  • Ignoring anything good that happens.
  • Setting impossible standards of perfection.
  • Assuming others' thoughts about you are negative.
  • Calling you names.
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Feelings... Thoughts... Actions...

The negative thoughts may be mild or mean, and when mean, it's difficult not to believe them.

Think back to the relationship between feelings... thoughts... actions...

Feelings...Thoughts... Actions...

We are always thinking... it's as if we are talking things over with ourselves.
  • Negative thinking may be a clue that you have uncomfortable feelings such as sadness, hurt or anger, that need to be acknowledged and released.
  • When thoughts are mostly negative due to low self-esteem, feelings of anxiety, anger and sadness are experienced more often.
As a result, actions are more likely to include withdrawing from people and avoiding new situations, or perhaps acting on our hostility with sarcasm or blaming.
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Tuning In to Your Personal Thoughts

  • Believe it or not, these negative thoughts serve a purpose. If you are anxious about trying something new and your own thoughts say, "I can't do that! I'm a stupid fool to even think of it! " - you are likely to listen, not give it a try, and, sure enough, your anxiety is relieved.
  • The critical voice protects you in a backward kind of way from fear of failure and rejection. Negative thinking may become automatic - ingrained in your self-image and you end up living your life that way.
  • Positive, encouraging interactions during childhood go a long way toward promoting positive self-talk when we are adults. But if that was not the case when you were growing up, it doesn't mean you can't work to develop positive self-talk now.
  • Tuning in to your personal thoughts is the first step in doing something about negative self-talk.
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