How to Stop Negative Self Talk

How to stop negative self talk and retrain your brain for kindness

The Cost of Negative self talk

Negative self talk can cause depression and anxiety. It can change your perspective on your life and cause you to feel worthless and like a failure. While some people think negative self talk will motivate them, it actually creates your reality - what you believe about yourself is how you will act and treat yourself.


Part of stopping negative self talk is recognizing when you’re doing it. Common forms of negative self talk include:

  • Personalizing - when you hear something bad has happened you blame yourself

  • Labeling - describing ourselves and others with negative, harsh labels

  • Filtering - focusing only on the negative aspects and none of the positive

  • Polarizing - seeing things as only bad or good - thinking you are a total failure

  • Catastrophizing - always anticipating the worst

  • Minimization - minimizing your positive qualities and strengths

Do any of these ring true for you when you read them? When we let our mind wander on autopilot, lots of ‘spam’ thoughts go through our mind. It’s important to recognize not every thought we have is true or worthwhile to think. The first part of dealing with negative self talk is recognizing you are doing it, then you can address it.


Speak like you would to a friend.

When you have a particularly nasty thought - something like, “you’re so horribly fat” or “god, I’m so dumb” - ask yourself if you would say that to one of your closest friends. If you would, you need to work on your friendship skills! But I highly doubt you would - so you shouldn’t speak to yourself like that either. If you have a terrible thought run through your head, say something to yourself like “that’s not how I talk to myself, because I love myself”.

Push out the bad with some good.

One fun way to respond to negative self talk is to tell yourself three good things for every negative thing you’ve said. For instance, if you think to yourself, “I’m never going to be good at this” say three good things like, “I’m on my way, I’m trying my best, and I’m very good at (example) thing”. When I’m feeling particularly low, I’ll tell myself five things I like about myself.

Ask yourself “why do I think I’m responding this way?” instead of immediately believing the thought.
It’s hard not to believe everything you think. But, when you catch a negative, hurtful though - instead of feeling guilty for it or trying to reason with it respond to it with “that’s interesting, why am I responding this way?”. Allow yourself a moment to dissect the thought and ask where it came from and why you might have been triggered to feel that way. Ask yourself if it’s really something you want to believe.

Label or name the inner critic.

If you have a specific thought or type of thoughts that routinely plague you - give them a name. Whenever you think them say, “oh that’s negative Nancy again” or “angry Alex strikes again”. Perceiving the thoughts as someone else allows you the space to both consider them or just ignore them.

Surround yourself with positive people.  

If you struggle with negative self talk the last thing you need around you is negative people! Spend time with people who build you up, celebrate your wins, and recognize you for the fabulous person you are. Friends who root for our failure aren’t really friends. I’ve spent lots of time and energy culling the people I spend time with, because I want to be around positive people who make me a better version of myself. I highly recommend this practice!

You are worthy of love - how to stop negative self talk and retrain your brain towards kindness.


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