We all have that inner voice inside our heads. Sometimes it joins us in celebrating a goal achieved, sometimes it consoles us when something doesn’t work out, and sometimes – or a lot of times – it criticizes us for the smallest things, like accidentally knocking over a cup of water, and tells us we’re not good enough. This criticizing inner voice is an example of negative self-talk, and talking in this way to ourselves makes us feel inadequate, decreases our motivation, and makes us feel even more stressed. It’s time to change this inner narrative by altering the negative to positive in our self-talk.
Identify Your Negative Self-Talk
Before beginning your positive self-talk, you first need to identify the ways in which you engage in negative self-talk. This will make it easier to retrain your thoughts and frame the negative into positive. There are four categories of negative self-talk:
1. Personalizing – You blame yourself when things go wrong.
2. Polarizing – You see things as only good or bad, with no grey area or middle ground.
3. Magnifying – You focus only on the negative in every situation, ignoring or dismissing any positives.
4. Catastrophizing – You always expect the worst.
Now that you’ve identified your way(s) of negative thinking, it’s time to start forming the habit of turning a negative into a positive. But how is that done? Here are a few examples of reframing a negative thought with positive self-talk:
Negative: I have never done this before, which means I will be bad at it.
Reframed positive: This is a good opportunity to learn from others and grow.
Negative: I failed and embarrassed myself.
Reframed positive: Trying something takes courage, and I am proud of myself for that.
Negative: This is impossible. It will never work.
Reframed positive: I will do my best to make this work.
Follow-up positive: Even though it did not work out the way I wanted, I learned a lot about myself/gained valuable skills.
Strategies for Success
With the negative self-talk type identified and examples on reframing, it’s important to implement strategies you can use to successfully help form this habit of positive self-talk:
1. Identify Negative Self-Talk Traps. Some situations may increase your use of negative self-talk, such as work events that are particularly stressful. Recognizing when and where you experience heightened negative self-talk can help you prepare in advance to address this.
2. Check in with Your Feelings. During events or bad days, stop what you’re doing and check in with how you’re feeling, and assess whether any negative self-talk has arisen. If it has, or if it’s gotten worse, use some positive phrases.
3. Find the Humour. Laughter is a great way to boost your mood and confidence, and lower any tension and stress. If you feel yourself being pulled down, find ways to laugh, such as watching videos of comedians or cute, funny animals.
4. Surround Yourself with Positive People. Sometimes there are people in our lives who don’t bring out the best in us and increase our negative self-talk. It’s okay to set boundaries for yourself and remove these people from your circle if you find they encourage negative self-talk in you. Focus on surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, and who encourage positive self-talk.
5. Use Positive Affirmations. Sometimes, all you need is some inspirational words or photos to redirect your thoughts. Find quotes or images that do this for you, and post them up around your work and living space. These can make all the difference in changing your mindset.
In addition to these strategies, there are supports you can use to help you, too, such as videos, self-help books, and therapy. Changing your inner narrative is a process that takes time and practice; it won’t happen overnight, so remember to be gentle with yourself.
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