Giving Up Defeating Self-Talk

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Researchers estimate that, on average, we have 70,000 thoughts per day. 70,000! The bad news? Around 80% of those thoughts are negative. Many of those negative thoughts are ones we have about ourselves— thoughts that we aren’t good enough or smart enough or qualified enough. And the majority of those self-defeating thoughts are lies.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself what you might be able to accomplish if you were able to free yourself from the tyranny of your obnoxious (and very vocal) inner critic. Of course, looking at yourself and your life with a critical eye is necessary for growth and self-awareness. This sort of examination can be incredibly productive. Self-defeating talk, however, is useless to you.

Often, thrusting this sort of negativity upon ourselves is a misguided attempt at self-preservation. We think, unconsciously, If I put myself down, I’ve said the worst before anyone else can. If I fail, it’s no surprise because I already knew I would.

This sort of recurrent and negative self-talk is harmful and limiting. So what can we do about intrusive, hurtful thoughts we have about ourselves? Here are some ideas:

Reframe them and make them productive. Instead of dismissing any negative thoughts outright, ask yourself what’s really bothering you and how you can address the thing that’s making you upset. When you think to yourself, Wow, I botched that presentation, reframe the anxiety you’re feeling about your performance and think instead, Next time, I’ll set aside more time to prepare. When you think, I have no friends, say to yourself instead, I’m going to spend some more time investing in my relationships.

Let go of perfectionism. There is no room for perfection in being human. Life is messy. Growth is messy. Release yourself from the need to get everything right all the time. And I promise you, that thing you’re beating yourself up over— everyone else has probably already forgotten it. We are far less important in the minds of other people than we imagine ourselves to be.

Make your cheerleader your dominant inner voice. Who is your greatest cheerleader? When your inner critic pops up, think about what your dearest friends and supporters would say. Even better, think about the person you believe in the most. Would you talk to them the way you’re talking to yourself?

When we break the cycle of recurrent negative self-talk, we are able to shed so much excess judgment and doubt. What will you accomplish once you’re free from all of that extra mental baggage?

Tracy Sanson