As a coach, people let me into their world and their thinking. A recurring theme that I witness is a habit of negative self-talk. We all can call ourselves an “idiot” now and then. For some people, the negative self-talk becomes habitual, excessive, degrading, mean and harmful. The negative voice sabotages their success.
4 Things You Can Do to Limit Negative Self-Talk
- Give Your Negative Voice a Name: By naming it, you raise awareness of the phenomenon. Brené Brown, author, researcher and famous TED speaker calls her negative voice “The Gremlin”. By naming your voice you can step back and become an observer of this behavior which creates distance between yourself and the voice. By naming it you externalize it. In this way, you create greater self-awareness. Other potential names could include Mr. Grinch, The Enemy, The Nag, or Ms. Debbie Downer.
- Develop a New Habit of Positive Self Talk – Find a phrase or mantra that is uplifting and resonates with you. Repeat this mantra as often as you can, especially when the inner critic comes knocking. Some examples could include:
“I know who I am, and I am enough.”
“I am a child of God.”
“I am capable.”
“I choose to love myself.” I know of one client who chooses to repeat the name of one of his strengths (as identified by the Clifton StrengthsFinder) as in “I am a Relator” or “I am an Achiever.”
- Name the Strength – To what degree is your negative voice an extension of your strengths? The Clifton StrengthsFinder is a great tool in this capacity. For example, someone with Responsibility may have an inner critic that berates them for not doing enough, or a Maximizer can have an inner critic that says “you’re so mediocre.” A strengths coach can help with this. Another way to look at this is to tell yourself “this is my Responsibility in overdrive,” or “my Maximizer is out of control.”
- Ask: What Would My Best Friend Say? – Recalling your friend’s voice and what they would tell you will help drown out the negative one.
Clients who have tried these practices have reported feeling lighter, more optimistic and hopeful. Keep in mind it usually takes about 30 days of practice to make a habit.
Negative self-talk can serve a purpose. In some cases, it can motivate you to change behavior. However, in my experience, the cost can far outweigh the benefits. I encourage everyone to control all types of self-sabotage.