Tame your self-talk

“You idiot!” You’d be offended if someone said this to you, but how often do you say it to yourself? Learn to make your self-talk more respectful.

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Why this matters

Self-talk can dramatically impact our ability to deal with negative emotions. It can play a powerful role in shaping our daily experiences.

Negative or unfair self-talk can have serious consequences for your confidence and effectiveness. Your thoughts about yourself influence your interactions with others. Unrealistically negative thoughts almost always interfere with your well-being.

Learn the Emotional impact of automatic thoughts

Explore and reflect

Do you find yourself regularly thinking the following?

  • I’m not good enough to succeed.
  • I’m not talented enough to do this.
  • I’m an imposter.
  • They made a mistake when they hired me.
  • It’s a joke having me lead this project.
  • I can’t run this meeting. I’m going to look like a fool.

Or, do you say things to yourself like:

  • You’re such an idiot.
  • How could you be so stupid?
  • What’s the matter with you?
  • Nobody likes you.
  • They’re all laughing at you.

If these or similar thoughts are familiar to you, then you may have a problem with negative self-talk. Imagine if someone else spoke to you in this way. You’d feel attacked and may even have grounds for harassment charges. Yet, when we do this to ourselves, we ignore the harm we’re causing.

You can combat unfair self-talk by challenging it with meaningful questions. These will expose its flaws and help you think about yourself more accurately.

The next time you think negatively about yourself, stop and ask yourself six simple questions:

  • When I thought this way in the past, how often was I right?
  • When I felt this way in the past, did my fears actually come true?
  • What would I say to a close friend having thoughts like this?
  • Does this thought serve a useful purpose?
  • Would other people agree that there’s strong evidence to support this thought?
  • How can I change my own evaluation of myself?

Take action

For at least one full day, keep these 6 questions in front of you. Each time you have negative self-talk, answer the questions.

Some people experience negative self-talk 100s of times a day. When you become aware of how often you do this, you can learn to tame your self-talk.

Contributors include.articlesMary Ann BayntonWorkplace Strategies team 2007-2021

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