*There may be affiliate links in this post. (Please see our legal pages, link in the footer, for more information.)
We are always talking to ourselves whether the inner voice promotes positivity or negativity. Most of the time, we are not even aware of the inner voice in the present moment.
Each of us also has an inner critic inside of us. Negative self-talk can show up when we are on the cusp of a big change or big decision. This inner voice is a manifestation of negative thoughts and can take advantage of our insecurities and low confidence about a particular situation. It can spur anxiety and increase stress. It can also steal our joy and happiness.
Negative self talk is the inner critic in our daily life that tells us that we are not good enough or attractive enough. It can take many forms:
- “I am are so dumb.”
- “What’s the point? I can’t do this…”
- “I am not worthy enough.”
The impact of negative self talk is detrimental, if we allow it to go untamed. Our thoughts emerge as our reality, if not addressed.
In many cases, those with an out-of-control inner critic experience relationship and mental health issues. It can make depression and anxiety worse. With more severe depression, the negativity of the inner voice can get more intense, creating a downward spiral and multiplier effect of bad outcomes.
The problem with the compounding nature of negative inner talk is the more it occurs, the more forceful it is, the more we are likely to believe it, and the depressive state worsens as the severity of hopelessness deepens. It is a vicious cycle that becomes harder and harder to dig out of.
How inner dialogue is the voice of the unconscious mind
Self talk is the internal chit-chat of the subconscious mind. We have thoughts all of the time but most of the time, we are not aware of it.
The problem with the lack of awareness is that, like a computer hard drive, the unconscious mind saves information without determining whether or not the information is useful or not, and the subconscious mind learns through repetition and reinforcement. Constant negative self talk gets embedded and makes it harder to erase.
Let’s demonstrate the impact with the example of a baby learning to walk. When the baby first attempts to take a step, she falls because she finds it difficult to balance when trying to shift her weight from one foot to the next.
As she perfects the transition of body weight from one foot to the next from many attempts to walk, she is able to take one step, then two, then five. She subconsciously learned what it takes to maintain balance while walking because of the numerous repetitions, and this is why walking becomes so second nature.
These physical habits of movement hold true for mental habits as well. Negative self talk is a mental habit, which tinybuddha.com describes as “thought cycles of self belief.”
In order to combat negative self talk, we have to do several things–feed it positive information over and over to erase the mental habits of negative self talk.
Using the computer analogy, the subconscious mind is like the computer hard drive. The information that we feed it is like installing new software to upgrade and reprogram the information within the subconscious mind through repeating cycles.
The first step in reprogramming negative self talk is to create awareness of the inner voice and to observe our thoughts as they pass. The act of noticing removes the power of the thought.
For example, when you look in the mirror, you may have a negative thought around how you look, “I am ugly,” is a common statement from our inner critic.
Let’s say you notice when it happens and you notice that this thought comes every time you look yourself in the mirror. You have become aware of the mental habit of a thought pattern.
The key in mitigating its impact is to observe it as it happens without judgment that is good or bad. It just is…a thought. By taking note of the negative thought, you are creating mindfulness around it occurring. This is a key step in establishing the foundation for powerful mindfulness practices to create a positive mindset.
Turn the negative self-talk into positive messages using powerful words
When you become conscious of the, “I am ugly,” statement, you might say to yourself, “Well, there is the harsh statement about myself,” and move on. It is best not to dwell on it and not make a big deal out of it Just observe it and go on about your day.
In this moment, you are choosing not to give it attention and energy. You are letting it be. This part is not easy and the first action to set yourself up for positive changes in your life.
Next, you are able to replace your negative thought with positive words to change your outer worlds and perspectives. There are a few ways to do this.
Create a positive statement with powerful words that is is the opposite of the negative one. For example, the thought, “I am ugly,” becomes “I am beautiful.” By taking this action, you are choosing a good starting point for positive self-talk and habit of positive thinking.
Another option is to choose powerful affirmations once you notice the negative thought as one of many positive ways and mindfulness techniques to change your perspective. Here are some wonderful options of positive phrases and mindfulness affirmations:
- I love myself for what I look like and who I am.
- I love myself and all of my parts, the positive and negative.
- I remain positive in the midst of negativity.
- I deserve happiness.
- I forgive myself for my past mistakes.
- My failures help me to grow.
- I matter as much as everyone else.
- Good things are coming.
- I believe in myself and my abilities.
- I deserve love
- I have everything that I need in this moment.
- I am enough. I am good enough and worthy.
- Positive thoughts create positivity.
- I give myself permission to make mistakes.
- I accept who I am.
- I am beautiful.
- I am amazing.
- Today, I choose positive thoughts.
- People love and respect me.
- I am strong beyond measure.
- I am a positive person.
- I radiate positive energy.
Putting mindful affirmations into practice
The best positive affirmations are those that work for you and therefore, you will probably find the need to experiment with a wide range of positive affirmations to find the one that works best for you. Starting out this process more than once daily may be necessary as a further reinforcement of the positive changes you are desiring.
Combining acceptance and breathing with daily affirmations is a healthy way to create good habits as part of a usual self care routine and clarity of mind.
When your negative self-talk is going wild as unhelpful thoughts,first, accept your anxiety. The underlying emotion is most likely fear. The fear is there to protect you.
When our ancestors were nomadic (in the cavemen days) and our brain function was not as sophisticated as it is today, the most basic part of our brain (also called the amygdala or primal brain) controls our automatic response to fear detection–fight, flight, or freeze decision. This fear-response kicked in to help our ancestors detect threats to safety to stay alive.
This function is still very present within us today. The important part is to be aware of it and understand that it is part of our brain chemistry.
The second thing to do is to allow the discomfort to move through your body with full presence. Breathe through the discomfort using the four-count, box breathing method to gain anxiety relief.
Then, select your positive mantra. For added benefit, journal daily and write out all of your fears. (Check out Well and Wealthy’s awesome journaling set).
Putting this together:
- When the inner negative self-talk begins, acknowledge its presence. Say to yourself, “There is my inner critic. Thank you.” You see, your inner voice is there to protect you, so thank yours for doing their job.
- Then, breathe to calm your nervous systems as a first step of gaining inner peace.
- Start saying your preferred affirmation.
Using affirmations gives you another action to focus on, so that you don’t allow the negative self-talk spin out of control. You are taming your inner negative self-talk.
This process may seem like it is time-consuming, but it really is not. It can be done in under five minutes (the breathing method in under 2 minutes, and the affirmations in under 3 minutes).
Choosing this process is a powerful mindfulness practice to neutralize the strength of negative inner talk. Through this discipline as part of a daily routine, you are setting the stage for a foundation for a wonderfully positive life.