If you take the time to really listen to the things you say to yourself every day, you may be shocked at how harsh you can be. We all say to ourselves things like, “Well, that was a stupid thing to do,” or “You will never get this right.” Could you imagine if you spoke to someone else like that?! Being aware of these automatic self-abusive statements can help you have a more positive view of yourself, others, the world, and your future.
Do you catch yourself using negative labels—basically calling yourself names? When you think about it, are these names something a parent once called you or perhaps another family member, a sibling, or a bully from childhood? You probably didn’t like it when they treated you that way, so why accept this behavior from yourself?
Be aware of negative words ending in “n’t.” Common negatives are don’t, can’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t, and won’t. Also, you can add absolutes like “never” and “always” in this category. For example, “I always get left out…I can’t handle this problem…I shouldn’t feel this way.” When we tell ourselves we must or must not feel or say or do something, we risk shutting ourselves down.
A particularly destructive kind of self-talk is called negative prediction, e.g., “Things won’t ever get any better.” This type of negative self-talk is especially discouraging and usually undermines motivation significantly because we unconsciously act in ways that make the prediction come true, a phenomenon called “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Listen to how often you actually speak kindly, generously, and empathically toward yourself. You probably know it’s important to communicate positively with others, and you can start now with showing yourself that same respect. You deserve positive self-talk for being active, trying new things, taking on challenges, and even for making mistakes!
As you begin to become more aware of how you talk to yourself, you can identify unhelpful thinking patterns and learn to challenge the thoughts that undermine your well-being. You will find yourself more emotionally confident and better able to feel good about yourself, and in turn, you’ll be better able to be good to others.