How To Stop Negative Self-Talk

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Medium close up of Lovely young latino woman dressing in front of mirror. photo credit: GettyGETTY

Life is inherently filled with obstacles that are outside our control: the circumstances we are born into, events that are unforeseen, emergencies we are unprepared for, etc. But there are some things we have control over and among them are our thoughts and how we care for ourselves. Life has enough obstacles, we do not need to make things more difficult for ourselves and inflict more pain than life inherently brings. One thing you can do for yourself that does not cost one cent and pays huge dividends is to give yourself a break. Negative thoughts and feelings do untold damage, visible and invisible, so it’s important to keep them to a minimum. That’s much easier said than done, but here are several ways to help halt negative thoughts and self-talk:


Some big reasons people beat themselves up and feel badly about themselves are because they are overwhelmed, they have recently failed or they are paralyzed by fear. It’s important in these moments to pause and take a deep breath. It will help slow your increasing heart rate by calming you down and giving you some clarity. If you start thinking negative thoughts, and you are feeling overwhelmed and upset pause and breathe.

Acknowledge It   

When you know you’re starting to spiral and succumb to your negative thoughts, acknowledge them. You’re not going to stop negative thoughts by ignoring them. You have to acknowledge them before you can confront them. It’s not easy to admit you have doubts, that you are afraid or have reasons to be concerned, but you will never put them to rest in a meaningful way until you acknowledge them.

Consider The Cause 

What are the roots of these thoughts? Are you afraid? Are you experiencing self-doubt? Have you had a big failure recently that has bruised your self-confidence? Are you depressed? Why are these thoughts creeping in and why are they stopping you? Take some time to consider where these thoughts come from and confront them. If you’re afraid, assuage your fears. Chances are, they are only in your head. If you’re experiencing self-doubt, tell yourself everyone fails and the only way to prove to yourself that you can do this is to start working. Consider the roots of these thoughts so you can address them and work toward silencing them.

Stop Expecting Perfection  

Don’t expect perfection when you are just beginning. If you are starting over after a major failure, or you are suffering from self-doubt, try telling yourself it’s OK to fail. Don’t expect perfection when no one is perfect. Flaws and failure are part of life, and once you embrace them, and move forward in spite of them, you will become happier and more self-confident. If you make mistakes it’s OK, get back in the saddle and keep going.

Surround Yourself With Positivity 

Surround yourself with things that give you energy and motivate you: put on a playlist that gets you moving and in a good mood, play a podcast or a YouTube video of a coach, writer or speaker that motivates and validates you, or a movie that inspires you, or call a friend or family member that always knows what to say when you’re having a bad moment, exercise, etc. When you are feeling down, raise yourself up. Know what helps improve your mood and your mindset so you can change it. Your thoughts are not out of your control, know what steps you need to take to change them when they are not serving you.

Build A Routine 

If you create a routine, then your day takes less thought, therefore less time and energy. The best way to get past negative thoughts is to work through them, and it is easier to work through them if your day is planned and you do not have to think about how to start your day. If you wake up at the same time every day, and make the same breakfast and workout at the same time, and walk out the door and arrive at your office at the same time you are not overthinking anything and not getting stuck in your own head. If you treat things like getting to work at a certain time, working out and meals like appointments you will naturally rise the occasion of every day. Even if you are suffering from self-doubt, or fear, having a routine helps your press on in spite of them, so build a routine that will help you get your day started and put negative thoughts to the side.

Make A Conscious Choice To Silence Those Thoughts 

At first, it will be difficult. The negative voices and thoughts will want to creep in the way they always have, and it will be tempting to let them have their say, but choose  to confront them, and create a counter-narrative that’s on hand in your head. If you’re filled with doubt and feeling like you cannot do something, remember to breathe, to surround yourself with positivity and to remind yourself of the progress you’ve made every day.

When You Have a Negative Thought About Yourself, Cancel It

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There are certain negative thoughts we have about ourselves that we replay over and over. If you’re trying to break the habit of thinking terrible stuff about yourself, here’s a helpful hint: cancel that thought.

This relates to a recent post on /r/LifeProTips, shared by u/Falcia, who wants everyone to stop shit-talking themselves all the time. In fact, if you do say something bad in your mind or out loud, say two nice things as a follow-up:

Every time you say one thing about yourself that you don’t like, accompany it with saying two things that you do like. You may begin to love yourself a bit more this way.

They expanded to say this was a New Year’s resolution, and the benefits showed themselves immediately:

I find this to be a good method of retraining my brain and the way I view myself. This allowed for the times that I was down on myself, to be overrid[den] by an immediate pick me up, and soon I found I was actually running out of things to say that I didn’t like about myself, and the list that I do like could still continue on.

This tip reminded me of a phrase I learned recently on my birthday: To celebrate, I like to go see a tarot card reader and inject a little magic into my life. My reader told me to draw a card, and when I flipped it over she grabbed it to hide it.

“That ruins my surprise,” she said.

Feeling embarrassed, I joked, “Oh, I’m sorry. You have to tell me everything—I can’t be trusted!”

“Cancel that thought,” she replied. “Say, ‘I cancel that thought. I am trustworthy. I can be trusted.’”

And because we were in a small room together filled with incense, I repeated the words, “I cancel that thought. I am trustworthy. I can be trusted.”

I felt immediately better! Even jokey self-deprecation can add up in your self-perception. The best tarot card readers tell you what you need to hear, and I needed to hear that I should be kinder to myself. Since then, every time I find myself thinking some negative “truth,” I cancel that thought, and say the opposite, positive truth instead.

If you fear that saying only positive things about yourself is delusional or will skew your view of the world, consider that it’s already skewed to see the worst side of everything. There is also a big difference between acknowledging reality and predicting a negative future that hasn’t come to pass. For example, saying “the house is on fire” when the house is actually on fire isn’t the same as saying “the house will catch on fire, because houses always catch on fire, why live in a house.”

Learning to acknowledge terrible thought patterns takes work and this phrase is a catchy way to remind yourself that they’re just thoughts, not fate. Don’t get stuck in an old story that’s no longer working for you. Be the TV executive in your mental network and cancel it.