By: Niku Sedarat
Negative self-talk has become an extremely normalized way of talking to yourself. Phrases such as “I hate myself”, “I’m so stupid”, or “I’m so ugly” are often tossed around in our day-to-day vernacular and while they may just be said out loud as surface-level comments, they do have a large impact on one's perception of themselves and overall emotional wellbeing.
Negative self-talk is essentially talking about yourself in a non-constructive and offensive manner. It can range from critiquing yourself to catastrophizing, personalizing blame, and selective filtering. You might catastrophize, magnifying situations out of proportion, or view events through a pessimistic lens. Personalizing leads to constant self-blame, where everything becomes your fault. Filtering involves disregarding positive aspects, leaving only negatives in view. All of these different forms of negative self-talk can be a result of a negative thought pattern or a pessimistic outlook on life, which has detrimental impacts on mental health.
In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, engaging in positive self-talk and adopting a more optimistic outlook on life can lead to lower levers of distress, pain, depression, and overall stronger emotional well-being. Its positive impact extends beyond psychological well-being, as it also improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of death by heart attack, respiratory conditions, and infections. Undoubtedly, mental health and physical health are connected, so when you treat yourself negatively by engaging in negative self-talk, you’ll experience both negative mental and physical health implications.
Like anything, when you have made it a habit to engage in negative self-talk, it can be difficult to break the cycle. However, it is definitely possible and does not require a great amount of strain to do. In fact, it only requires two steps: identification and incorporation.
The first step—identification, simply requires catching yourself whenever you engage in negative self-talk or thoughts. Being vigilant that you are engaging in these thoughts is crucial, as it paves the path for you to stop yourself in the midst of engaging in negative self-talk and shift gears. You can practice identifying these thoughts by intentionally looking out for them throughout your day or practicing mindfulness activities, like journaling, that allow you to become more in tune with your thought patterns.
The next step—incorporation, is taking what you have learned about shifting negative self-talk into positive self-talk and incorporating it into your daily life. For example, you may be saying “I hate myself”-- a negative comment. Once you identify this, you can incorporate positive self-talk by reframing that comment as “I am learning to love myself”.
“I am so stupid” → It is alright to make mistakes– I am trying my best
“I am so lazy” → Simply existing is productive— It is ok to take breaks
“There is no way that I can do this” → I can try my best to make this work
“I am a failure” → My mistakes do not define me
“I am a burden” → I am allowed to simply exist and take space
Like anything, shifting from negative to positive self-talk will take practice but it is completely possible. You can absolutely do this! Prioritizing your mental health is so crucial and engaging in positive self-talk is just one method of doing so.