The Healthy Alternative to Negative Self Talk

Has anyone ever told you that you’re too hard on yourself? Do you hold yourself to impossible standards? Do you replay your mistakes over and over again in your head? While it’s good to have high standards and hold yourself accountable, beating yourself up can be counterproductive. Positive self-talk is an important part of good self-care. 

You may not even be aware of how often you say mean or negative things to yourself. It may have become so second nature to you, that you aren’t consciously aware of it. One of the reasons you may be so hard on yourself is because you don’t feel good enough. Maybe you’re repeating a pattern from childhood. Positive self talk doesn’t take the place of therapy. It can become a healthy habit that feeds your mind like good food nourishes your body.

Here are some ways you can start to treat yourself with kindness. For each example listed, I’ve given you some ways to get your mind to think in a new way, by replacing the negative self-talk with some positive self-talk. Adding visualization and emotions, helps break the cycle of negativity to make it easier to  establish a new habit.  

  • You miss a workout as you’re trying to establish an exercise routine. Instead of thinking that you’re a failure or reminding yourself of other times you’ve failed, do this instead: remember a time you had a really great workout. Get a good picture in your mind and examine it closely. What kind of workout was it? Were you inside or outside? Were you with a friend or by yourself? Remember how you felt for just a moment. Think about that as you set your alarm for the next morning’s workout. 
  • You vented to your friend about an issue despite your best efforts to focus on the positive. Instead of labeling yourself a complainer, do this instead: remember the last time you gave someone a really good piece of advice. Who did you chat with? What did you say? How did you know it resonated with them? How did that make you feel? This will help you remember there are still good words to be heard in the world and some of them come from you.
  • You’re thinking you don’t look good or find yourself fixated on some perceived flaw. This is the perfect time to remember a really nice compliment someone gave you. Who said it? What did they say? How do you think saying that to you made that person feel? If you have to, go ask someone you love and trust, how you look today. They will say something nice because they love you. Believe them. 
  • You had a really bad at work and you just can’t shake it off. Remember why you as  leader, do this job. It’s not to control your coworkers or your patients. You do this job to contribute to the well-being of others. Before you end any bad workday, remember a good day. What made it good? Whom did you help? How did you help? Remember how good it felt to let them say, “Thank you.” Now, appreciate the courage it took for you to make it through a tough day. 
  • You find yourself replaying a mistake you made. Instead of focusing on your mistake, think of one thing you like about yourself- something you do really well. Just one thing. Write that thing down on a post-it note. For example, you could write, “I really listen to my kids when they have a problem,” or, “I make a great brunch,” or, “I’m good at solving problems.” It really doesn’t matter if you choose something great or something small about yourself. The point is to break the cycle of negativity.  

Talk to yourself as you would talk to someone you care about. If your friend told you she was frustrated because she ate a Snickers bar when she vowed to quit sugar, what would you tell her? You might say, “Hey, it’s one candy bar. Forget about it. Start fresh tomorrow. You’ve been successful at lots of things in the past. You got this. You’re lovely.”

The next time you catch yourself saying something mean or unkind to yourself, stop and think of that friend who had a little setback with a Snickers bar. Now, pretend she is you and speak to yourself with kindness. Encourage her. Speak truth to her. 

What are words you tell yourself that aren’t so kind? What can you say instead?

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