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How to Stop Negative Self Talk

Photo by aeschleah

Do you know what makes life difficult?

The answer is simple: it’s us. :)

It is us, and that large and complex brain of ours that seem to seek out drama, repeat negative self-talk, create false illusions of fear, and generally makes our life difficult in almost all situations. Seriously.

Every single struggle we experience on a daily basis; every complaint, every dissatisfaction, every problem can be drilled down into a single source of root cause: our brain and the stories it tell us.

Because our brain’s job is to keep us safe, it is constantly acting from a place of fear. Its job is to ensure our survival. As such, its job is not to ensure that we have a blissful experience while we are alive.

Even when everything is going well, a little voice in our head will say, “Watch out! Something bad is going to happen.” Then panic sets in, and we experience that unnerving anxious feeling of possibly losing all the good we have going for us.

Our brain is exceptional at telling us engaging stories that are so convincing that it’ll influence us to also act out of fear and irrational anxiety. Additionally, It will vividly replay the emotional story in our mental theater over and over… over and over… over and over.

It’s torture, really.

Before you know it, you’ll start to believe in the story and trusting it to be true. It becomes solidified in your mind in the form of a belief–even if it wasn’t true. We then continue our life’s journey and take action from that place of false belief.

The problem is…. we end up suffering.

Sometimes, we suffer a lot. Sometimes, we suffer for a long time. We suffer because we don’t realize that we are the problem and that we are also the solution.

My Story of Negative Self Talk

For the last year or so, I have been carrying with me the repetitive thought and heavy belief that “I am a bad mom.”

Like many of our self-defeating thoughts, it whispers quietly in our ears and its toxin spreads insidiously. We realize that it is there, but because it’s difficult to separate it from reality, we let it stay. Because our brain speaks with our own voice, it feels real and it feels true.

Anyway, in my example, I had believed it. I had bought its story. Feeling completely incompetent as a parent, I did what I could to stay busy and to stay away from my little boy. It was heart breaking. I kept this secret silently tucked away in the privacies of my mind (and now you know it too).

Externally, people saw that I was focused on work–after all, lots of kiddies go to day care. Internally, my heart was crying. Truth was: I had buried myself in work because I didn’t think I could handle it. I was scared.

The more I stayed away, the more time I spent focused on work the worse I felt and the more my actions confirmed the affirmation that “I am a bad mom.” I was literally torturing myself.

Can you see that it’s a downward spiral? In these private mental wars we battle, no body wins.

Having gained the conscious awareness that this little thought was the reason why I had put my son in day care and why I suddenly felt compelled to focus on my career, it felt like waking up from a bad dream.

Looking at my precious little boy (almost 2 years old now), who radiates life so fully and with so much joy, I feel a surge of emotions–a mixture between feeling guilt for having “missed” a year of his life and feeling deep appreciation for having learned this valuable lesson.

I put my forehead against his soft little forehead, his light brown eyes looking straight into my soul and I gently whispered, “I love you Booboo. From now on, I promise to enjoy EVERY moment with you. Mama understands now.”

With that, I decided to stay home with my son once again. I decided to work out my schedule such that I can be a full-time mom again. No more drama. No more (mental) lies. No more (self) abuse.

I get another chance at this important “job”, except this time without illusions, without guilt. Through its ups and downs, I want to be there, fully.

~ ~ ~

Even before I was a mom, there was always something non-supportive running through my head, and often I would believe it. And this belief into a false statement about myself would cause so much pain and zaps much of my vital energy. I would feel cut off from life and it significantly limited my ability to feel happy.

I think the last thing before “I am a bad mom” the limiting thought running in my mind was “I am not lovable”. Even just a few weeks ago, while standing in a room of strangers at a conference in New York, feeling alone, the thought that kept running in my mind was “I’m such a loser. No body likes me.”

It doesn’t make sense, and it even sounds silly when we talk about this openly. But I genuinely believe that thoughts like these hunt each and every one of us to some capacity. Whether we are conscious of these thoughts or not, they do affect us. And they do hurt us.

Now, I don’t think these thoughts will ever go away, which is ironic, since this article is on “How to Stop Negative Self Talk”. While we can’t completely stop the negative self-talk, we can work towards a new reality where we stop believing in all this negative self talk.

We can do our best to practice awareness in recognizing when these thoughts are happening, and choosing to not buy into the abuse.

We can say, “Thank you for sharing.” Or “Cancel.” Or simply recognizing that our brain is like a crazy, drunken monkey that says really stupid things, and that we really shouldn’t take it seriously.

What about you?

What unsupportive thoughts are you hearing on repeat in your mind? What self-defeating, abusive and limiting statement is your brain trying to convince you (or have convinced you) to be true?

Stop for a minute from reading and reflect. What were you worried/stressed/anxious about recently (or right now)? What thoughts have been racing on repetition in your head?

Take inventory. Take notice. Then shine the light of awareness upon it. When we are facing the light, the shadows must fall behind us.

Here are some common thoughts:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’m ugly.
  • I’m too fat/tall/short/young/old.
  • I’m stupid.
  • He/she’ll never love me.
  • I am not lovable.
  • I am a bad parent.
  • I am a horrible person.
  • There is something wrong with me.
  • I never have enough time.
  • I don’t deserve …
  • I can’t …

All of these (and more) are illusions fabricated by our mind, which significantly limits our capacity to fully enjoy life. When we get lost in the story, we miss the gifts nestled only in this moment.

This moment, after all, is all we have. Once we loose it, it’s gone forever.

So savor it.

Drop the story. Be here now.

**BACK TO YOU: How have you been? What’s on your mind lately? I’ve missed you. Let me know how you’ve been and your thoughts in the comment section. See you there.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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32 thoughts on How to Stop Negative Self Talk

  1. Hi, Tina,

    It IS amazing how powerfully wrong our minds can be, isn’t it?

    Lies. Sometimes our mind just tells us flat-out lies.

    If you were to ask your son if he thought you were a bad mom, he would likely tell you, ‘No.’

    I wrote 2 posts on my blog about negative self-talk and about the power of our words.

  2. Otto

    Missed you too Tina! Welcome back!! :)

  3. Negative self talk can hold us back in ways we even not can imagine. You are right: we are the ones who make our life more difficult.

    But we are not always aware of it.

    Last week I tried again to follow a home speed reading course. I have tried to improve my reading speed many times and never had a real result.

    This time I discovered that I was doing negative self talk during reading. First I became aware of the feeling that something was holding me back. After investigation, I discovered that I was saying to myself: ‘you cannot read so fast. You just cannot. It is not for you.’

    My reading speed improved by 10% just by paying attention to my negative self talk and refuse to still accept it.

    Thanks for your sharing your inspirational story

  4. Wonderful post, Tina! Too often people are held back by negative self talk and they don’t even realize it. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. sonal

    liked the article Tina . It is very true . I am the only person who makes me down or high all the time . Most of the time , I blame myself for all the bad comments I get from people . If I am doing good I say I am superior , but my brain says ,” you are not , u are bad .” Then I feel bad even no body told me same in front of my face . This makes me work harder but my brain never sit quite . Even if every thing is okay , it is busy putting me into wrong situations that something bad would happen . So I get busy thinking negative again .
    Best solution is do your best and leave the idea of expectation . whatever happens would be good . If bad things happen they can be our lessons , if good things happen they are our inspiration for getting better ,of course we learn from experience .

  6. Thank you for sharing your experiences – I think we have all experienced these negative thoughts and sometimes they can be pretty much constant. It crazy that we do this to ourselves and we are our own worst enemy.

    When I feel myself consumed by fear or negative talk I stop and ask myself ‘what is the problem?’, and often in the present moment there is no problem – I am either dwelling on the past, worried about the future or making up stories about myself and other people. Once I realise this I can then let go and enjoy the moment for what it really is.

  7. Thanks for the sharing and reminder Tina. Yes, it is so natural for us to have limiting thoughts and beliefs. We have to be constantly aware of them and keep them in check, and replace them with positive and empowering thoughts. It is always so much easier to give up and quit, to be back to our old self, our comfort zone; rather than continue to persevere in unknown and discomforting challenges and territory for a better us towards our dreams and goals. May we all have courage to follow our heart and pursue our dreams.

  8. Barb

    Thank you for such an honest and insightful post. We probably all do this to some extent and I am now thinking of all of the “not good enough” messages that I cycle through the drunken monkey brain! (Very good description). Thanks again for sharing and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  9. Danielle

    I’m 25 and have 2 girls, I believe that i’m a bad mum. Even though I get told otherwise regularly, i’m terrified i’ll end up like my own mother (who actually wasn’t all that great) I adore my little girls, but feel as if firstly, I could be doing more to nurture them, but get distracted in other ways. Secondly I feel i’ve got creative potential in doing something (which I dont know what it is yet) and i’m a little trapped into being a full time mum. Great artical, good concept, it is a daily task to not accept opinion as fact (: but I for one am improving slowly

  10. Susan

    Thank you so much for being so honest- not easy to do, but so important for people to hear. Thank you.

  11. Wonderful article, Tina.

    For me, it always starts with feeling the bad feeling in me, due to these negative self-talk. Its almost like a sense of beating up myself and telling myself what I should have done. And boy, it really doesn’t feel good.

    It takes awhile to realize this and then choose to be objective. It makes it easier for me to break this pattern, by taking a deep breath, and tilt my head up or look away. I let my body go against the negative self-talk, and fill myself with a cleansing good breath as a motion of welcoming something new and better.

  12. Oooh, that Evil Auctioneer is such a killer. So insidious, and we’re so good at letting him run things! I love that you owned up to your fear, faced it, and acted; that’s so hard to do, but it’s the only way to beat the Auctioneer when he gets dug in.

  13. MarkS

    Perfect little article. Just forwarded to a few people who have that negative narrative going through their mind all of the time.

    Sure. I have some of this going on in my own head.

    I know people who have this inferiority complex. One of them still manages to do good things despite doubting herself. She still works hard at things and accomplishes stuff.

    Another person oozes self-defeat constantly. In every email communication, the tone is “Why bother? Something in the universe is going to make me fail anyways.” So it’s a convenient excuse to not even bother getting started, and as a result very little gets started and often, some of those things that get started never get finished.

    No amount of anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs can fix the narrative that you’re telling yourself, which is why it’s important to have some form of counseling, be honest with yourself, and read stuff like this with a willingness to change your mind.

    There is also a book that would be helpful:

    Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

  14. Tina, thank you for the article. You know, there is actually a way to stop your brain from producing the negative selftalk. It takes time and work, but like a monkey or a dog, the brain can learn to stop this behavior and replace it with positive behavior instead.

    The work of Byron Katie and her website is an amazing resource for retraining the brain away from negative thoughts.

  15. Great article Tina, I appreciate you opening up and talking about how you have personally dealt with negative self talk. For me, I tried being my own personal coach. I wrestled in college so I started picturing myself as my own coach on the side of the mat. When things become difficult, or I’m about to give a big presentation, I will talk to myself like a supportive coach: “You got this Isaiah- stay the course, just get through this next match.” or “You have prepared, you are ready- now go out there dominate.” It might sound a little intense or crazy, but it works -don’t worry, I’m not actually hearing voices ;) Thanks again.

  16. “Drop the story – be here now” – great advice

    Our minds are amazing things, they create meaning for us – assembling memories into our personal histories, which give us character and context.

    But sometimes we get stuck and we need to trick ourselves to ’empty our minds’ and get rid of our constant thoughts and inner monologues in order to start again and move on.

    Sort of a reboot for the mind.

    Keep up the good work :)

  17. Wow. I’ve been having the same struggles as a SAHM. Lately I’m I doing pretty well, until those wonderful perimenopausal hormones start fluctuating like mad.

    At which point I know I am the worst mother in the world. Happily, I am optimistic the rest of the time.

  18. Fred

    “I long to escape the prison of my
    ego and lose myself in the
    mountains and the desert. ” ~Rumi

  19. Eileen

    I love you Tina. Once in a while, I thought of checking on your website again because I am feeling down. Negative thoughts clouded my mind and I could not get out of the bed the whole morning. Then I always try to picture my mum who has been my main pillar of support urging me to get up so my body has to drag out to reboot as a mother, a woman and a wife. I have been your fan for more than 1 year…

  20. Hi Tina,

    It’s true. We can accomplish great things, but more often than not, we end up sabotaging ourselves.

    Being a parent is not easy. It is a tremendous responsibility to raise a child because of the great influence a parent has on the child. I love how you manage to overcome your negative self-talk and doubts so that you could do your best for your son. It is a struggle at times, but the only thing we can do is not to give up.

    I guess one of my greatest fears is that I will never succeed. But instead of succumbing to my negative self-talk, I take action to keep on moving towards my goals. I challenge my negativity at every step to see if it holds water. If it does and I am not getting the results I want, I make adjustments and press on.

    As you rightly point out, all we have are moments. It is how we make the best use of each moment that truly matters. Whether the moment becomes a cherished memory or a useful foundation towards our goals it is within our actions and choices to manage.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

  21. Hi everyone,
    I personally hade this “I’m not good enough” thought+talk going on nearly all my lif,e till recently. So i’m reading and improving and it’s articles like this one that helps you along the way

    Thank you for sharing

  22. Mohan Kumar

    Great Article !!!

    Simple but perfect ways to stop listening to our negative thoughts.

    I will put my 100% to avoid negative self talk and enjoy my life :)

    One of my new year resolution !!!

    Thank you :)

  23. Hi Tina,
    I do not know how long ago this post was written, but I have found that when something is of truth it is also timeless. Funny thing, just the other day while on Facebook with ‘a million’ things going through my mind (not going there ;-) I wrote, “Oh, the security of my insecurities” (Picturing Linus with his Insecurity Blanket. The ego loves to relay negative thoughts to affirm a childlike need that we need it, when the reality is there is something much bigger than our in-self fabricated reality it composes. Self-defeating thoughts can actually KILL someone. Such is that of the sufferer of anorexia nervosa for instance, or one with OCD. Trying to control and uncontrollable world. Worrying and negative self-talk is actually a way one tries to create the allusion of being in control in a twisted, insane way is what I have learned for myself. My task is to catch the lies, knock them down, believe and know them not to be true, realize, and replace them with just the opposite thought. I try now, first things first, upon remember to state mentally “No matter what, today I will be filled with Joy” Happiness is whatever I want it to be quite literally. Even in grief, joy is right there with me. Practice never makes perfect, it’s in the practice..I practice life but live it in the now.

  24. Beautiful Tina! Beautiful! The part where you looked you son in his eyes and he saw your soul brought me to tears. I love your site and all the work you are doing.

    Keep it up and always follow what you know is true :)

  25. Rukhsana

    Hi Tina
    I love the image of that crazy drunken monkey I now have in my head because of what you wrote, it makes those negative beliefs seem even sillier when you imagine that monkey saying them to you!
    Thank you, as always, for sharing and for inspiring me to think more positively. Whenever I have doubts about myself and my abilities, I know I can come here to read your (and your guest writers’) stories of similar situations. Your generous sharing of your struggles and how you try to overcome them makes it easier to believe I can do the same.
    I will always appreciate that; it is a lovely gift.
    All the best.

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