“I’m So Stupid!”
The Power of Negative Self-Talk
Kara M. Subler, MS
You’ve heard it all before. I know you have. You know everything you are supposed to do, but you don’t know how to do it. You want to be happy and healthy, but it seems like every time you try, you fail.
Don’t beat yourself up –that’s easily the worst thing you can do.And it’s probably exactly what you are doing. Am I right?Telling yourself how stupid you are, how fat you are, how ugly you are, how worthless you are, how angry you are, what a mess you’ve made – none of that will help you achieve the change you desire. We all fail, we all make mistakes. If you constantly talk negatively to yourself – call yourself names or put yourself down—you will begin to believe it. And then you will begin to live it. Your experiences, your life, your world are a direct reflection of what goes on in your head. And you have the power to control and choose the words you say to yourself.
Self-talk is a natural part of life; everyone chatters along in their mind, narrating each day. Take some time to notice your daily self-talk. What do you say when you make a mistake? When you help someone? When you forget something? When you ace that interview? Are your responses mostly negative or positive? Would you repeat what you say to yourself to a friend or family member or your own child?
If you notice a lot of negative self-talk (or even a little), chances are you have been doing that for a long, long, long time. It’s amental habit. It’s something you do on auto-pilot, without thinking. But a habit can be broken. It may not be easy, and it certainly may not happen overnight, but it CAN be done.
You can train your brain, just like you can train any other part of the body. Be prepared for a battle because the brain is more difficult to change than say, your bicep. Being the brain and all, it’s smart. It likes to hang onto what it is familiar with, what it knows. Change isn’t easy for the brain. It likes routine, and your routine involves putting yourself down. You need to break that routine, bit by bit. The trick is to catch yourself in the moment and stop the negative thing you are telling yourself. You have to become aware of what you are saying and actively work to stop it. Turn off the negativity button. Then you can begin to speak more positively and just plain nicely to yourself. In the same way you talk to almost everyone else in your life. And now it’s time to treat yourself with that same respect.
You are the only one inside your own mind. You are the only person who is with you all day, every day, for your whole life. You have the choice to talk kindly to yourself or unkindly. You have the choice to show yourself love or treat yourself with hate.Stopping the negative self-talk may be a lifelong commitment for you. You may or may not always have to remind yourself to stop putting yourself down, but it’s worth the effort. Changing your inner dialogue can change your life. And, as with anything else in life, practice makes better. The more you do it, the easier it will become. It can become natural for you. Aren’t you worth the investment?