We all have an inner critic. And at times, this inner critic can even be helpful and keep us on track when we’ve lost sight of our goals and the things that we should (or should not) be doing—like when our inner critic reminds us that we have a deadline coming up that we should be preparing for instead of watching Netflix, or when we’re procrastinating about doing something that really needs to get done. This inner critic can actually be helpful sometimes in order to hold ourselves accountable; however, this inner critic can at times be more harmful than helpful, specifically when we begin to ruminate and fixate on negatively driven thought patterns. This is also known as negative self-talk, and it can be detrimental to both our mental and physical wellness.
Life is inherently filled with obstacles and fluctuating waves of ups and downs, but there are some obstacles that we have control over, and these are our thoughts, our beliefs, and how we care for and love ourselves. Life has enough obstacles, hardships, hindrances, and setbacks as it is, and we owe it to ourselves to be patient and empathetic with ourselves during these difficult times.
There are many ways to reduce the negative self-talk in your life. Different strategies work better or worse for different people, so take your time to try a few of the strategies listed below to see which ones are the most effective for you—or you can do them in order and use this list as a routine practice for when you engage in negative self-talk.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Learn to become both mentally AND physically aware of when you’re experiencing negative self-talk. Begin to notice how you look and feel when you’re experiencing negative self-talk. Do you sit and ruminate over things that happened in the past? Do you quickly and automatically blame yourself when something bad happens? Do you magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones? Does it feel like everyone and everything is against you? The first step to eliminating the negative self-talk is to become aware that you’re doing it in the first place.
2. Acknowledge It
When you notice yourself begin to spiral down the rabbit hole of your negative self-talk, acknowledge it. You must acknowledge your negative thoughts before you can confront them.
One of the main reasons that people engage in negative self-talk is because of stress and fear. When you ‘re stressed, your blood pressure increases and your brain goes into fight or flight mode, which is why people tend to act irrationally when they’re stressed. When you breathe intentionally and focus on your breath, it reassures your central nervous system that you are safe. Our limbic system takes part in playing some pretty tricky games with our brains and activates our fight or flight when we undergo stressful stimuli, and so when we breathe deeply, it reminds our brain that we are safe, and thus our levels of stress and fear will be reduced, which may also allow us to return back to a more rational state of thinking.
4. Confront It
Why are you feeling this way? What triggered these thoughts? Are you acting out of fear? Why are these thoughts creeping in? Are you experiencing self-doubt? These are all key questions to uncovering the unconscious reason(s) behind where these negative thoughts are coming from. Take a moment to consider where these thoughts are coming from and then confront them. If you’re acting out of fear, let that fear direct positive change and redirection, if you’re experiencing self-doubt, look deep into where that feeling is manifesting itself from. Consider the root causes of these thoughts so you can address them and work towards silencing them.
5. Stop Expecting Perfection
Negative self-talk doesn’t just magically go away as soon as you start acknowledging it and taking the steps towards eliminating it. If you are experiencing self-doubt, feelings of failure, or worthlessness, remind yourself that it’s okay to get knocked down. Flaws, imperfections, and failures are all part of life, and once you embrace them, and move forward in spite of them, you will become stronger and fiercer because of it.
Take some time to remind yourself just how amazing you are. Negative self-talk can really negatively impact your mental health, and so it is important that when you are hypercritical of yourself, you remind yourself of all of the things that make you as beautiful as you are.
7. Make A Conscious Choice To Silence the Thoughts
At first, it will be difficult. You will have good days and bad days, and the negative thoughts will try to creep back in in the ways that they always have. It will be tempting to let them have their way, but choose to confront them and remind them that they do not have a home in the fortress of your mind. If you’re filled with self-doubt, surround yourself with positivity and remind yourself of the progress that you’ve made every day.
You can do it—I know you can.