Welcome back for Episode 2, y’all! *not from the south, just a really handy word I enjoy using.*
Today’s episode covers negative self-talk. I define it, give active steps you can take to challenge it, and give some examples to help you grasp it.
So hold on to your hats, people! (I’m not really sure what that means, but it felt right to put it there).
First, what is negative self-talk?
Negative self-talk is pretty self-explanatory; it’s the inner dialogue we have with ourselves that happens to be…not-so-upfliting. NST is made up of both conscious thoughts (thoughts we’re aware that we’re having) or unconscious beliefs and assumptions about ourselves that tend to go unnoticed by our conscious mind.
(An example of an unconscious belief is being told as a child that you weren’t good enough in some way, and that belief following you around in your adulthood.)
Self talk is non-discriminatory
Someone who is depressed is more than likely engaging in negative self-talk for the better part of their day, but depression is not required to engage in negative self-talk.
All day long, we have thoughts running around in our brain. Sometimes they are positive (I can’t wait for vacation this weekend!) or mundane (I wonder who discovered cheese?).
Other times, they can be downright mean.
- “I’m never going to pass this test.”
- “I’m never going to get the job I want.”
- “I’m the worst.”
- “Why did you say that? No wonder no one likes you.”
- “You’re so ugly.”
Now, how does one stop this nonsense, you ask?
Here are a few steps that incorporate the first blog post of the series (if you haven’t read it, go read it NOW! –> Therapy Hack: Reality Testing) mixed with other principles found in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
Step 1: Start noticing/keeping track
- The easiest way to recognize negative self-talk is to pay attention to your moods. When you’re in a bad one (angry, annoyed, lonely, anxious, etc), try and focus on the thoughts that come up (in the therapy world we call these “automatic thoughts“).
- If you feel comfortable/have time to write some of them down, GREAT. If not, just take a mental inventory.
- Even doing just THIS step is helpful, but finishing the steps is what will give you the greatest success.
Step 2: Assess the validity and truth of the thought
- Here is where reality testing comes into play. Take the thought and pick it apart. Ask yourself questions like:
- Is this accurate? Is it a fact?
- Would someone else (an outsider) say the same thing about me?
- Is this me talking? Or is this something I’ve heard from my parents, ex-boyfriend, bad friend, etc. that I’ve taken on to believe?
- Consider alternative interpretations: Are there ANY other possible outcomes for the situation, that don’t necessarily reflect negatively on you?
Step 3: Replace with more appropriate, realistic thoughts
- Once you dissect your negative self-talk, try and come up with alternative thoughts for those that you’ve found to be irrational or inaccurate.
- The thoughts that replace your negative thoughts MUST be R E A L I S T I C.
- Often my clients would replace their negative thoughts with fluffy, ultra positive ones, hoping this would help. Welp, it doesnt.
- It doesnt help because in order for you to believe the thought and your subconscious to take hold of it, it needs to be within reason.
- For example, if you have a negative thought of, “I can’t find a job anywhere. I’m never going to work anywhere again,” don’t replace it with, ” I AM GOING TO BE THE NEXT ELON MUSK AND INVENT SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY!”
Here’s an example:
A: “I have no one in my life. I am alone and will be forever.”
- Do me a favor: Write down a list of all the people in your life. If you get ONE name down on the piece of paper, this statement is no longer valid.
- How do you know you’ll be alone forever? Are you a fortune teller? So some relationships haven’t worked in the past? This doesn’t mean you’re doomed forever. If this were the case, everyone would be alone. We’ve all had breakups. They don’t define you and certainly don’t mean you are destined to be an old lady/man with 12 cats.
- Now, the reality here MIGHT be that you truly feel lonely rn. So, how can we create a new thought that is both REALISTIC and truthful? See below.
B: “I just broke up with someone and I’m hurt and feeling lonely. This may go on for some time. BUT, I know that there are plenty of other people out there to date, and I know that this feeling will not last forever.”
You can imagine how replacing Statement A with Statement B could alter your mood. Instead of dramatic, all-or-nothing statements, you’re thinking realistic, kinder thoughts.
With time and practice replacing your thoughts, you will find that it will no longer require active effort, it will just happen.
Be kind to yourselves. There are enough people in the world who will try to tear you down, don’t add to the list. – Peach