Recently, we put a poll on social media asking our followers if they ever experience negative self-talk.
A staggering 98% of respondents said that yes, they at least sometimes engage in these negative thought processes about themselves or their bodies
But although it’s normal and common to think negative thoughts sometimes, a pattern of negative self-talk can actually be a destructive force in your life — making it more difficult to achieve your goals.
Here are ten ways that you can reframe negative self-talk to adopt a more positive outlook.
What Is Negative Self-Talk?
Negative self-talk is a thought pattern that’s characterized by pessimistic, and often exaggerated, thoughts about yourself. Essentially, it means that the voice in your head is a very harsh critic.
Many people, even those who are otherwise very positive and upbeat, struggle with negative self-talk when it comes to certain parts of their lives. For example, many of our users revealed that they really struggled with negative self-talk regarding their body image and their food choices.
While it may seem like negative self-talk could be helpful for motivation, research shows us something totally different. Here’s a quick recap of the findings of some recent studies on negative self-talk:
- A 2022 study of gymnasts found that positive self-talk was associated with better gymnastic performance, while negative self-talk was associated with increased anxiety levels and worse performance [*].
- In a study comparing exercise performance in men who engaged in positive or negative self-talk, researchers noted that those who practiced negative self-talk had a higher rate of perceived exertion, more rapid breathing, and higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) [*].
- Researchers have also found that adolescent girls who grow up around relatives or friends who engage in negative self-talk about their bodies or their diet also engage in negative self-talk and have lower levels of self-compassion [*].
Overall, persistent patterns of negative self-talk may actually make it more difficult to reach your goals.
Negative Self-Talk Examples
Here are a few examples of negative self-talk:
- “You dummy!”
- “You’re gross.”
- “You blew it again.”
- “You’re lazy.”
- “You’ll never reach your goals.”
Let’s take a look at how we can reframe this negative self-talk.
10 Ways to Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk
Here are ten ways you can reframe, replace, and — hopefully, eventually — eliminate negative self-talk.
1. Be Aware of It
A crucial first step to reframing negative self-talk is to recognize when it happens. If you have an ingrained pattern of this type of self-talk, you may not be consciously aware of when it happens.
However, it’s important to tune in to your internal dialogue so you can start to recognize when you have episodes of negative self-talk and what’s triggering them.
2. Name It
One way you can reframe your negative self-talk is to give that negative voice in your head a name. It can be silly, cutesy, or serious. Either way, assigning that voice a name provides a distinction between your rational internal thoughts and your negative self-talk.
When you feel the negative self-talk coming on, you can simply say, “Oh, that’s just Nancy again. Hush, Nancy.”
It may seem a little silly at first, but it could really help to highlight the unrealistic nature of your negative self-talk.
3. Finish the Statement with “And” or “But”
Another strategy is to simply finish the thought by adding “and” or “but” to make it a more truthful, realistic, and positive statement. Here’s an example:
Negative thought: “I can’t believe I messed up AGAIN!”
Finishing the statement: “But I can try again tomorrow or “And that’s OK because perfection is unrealistic and this is really hard.”
4. Stop the Thought
Another strategy used in therapy is called "thought stopping". With this strategy, you give yourself a code word or some other type of signal (like snapping or crossing your fingers) that you say or do the moment you think something you recognize as negative self-talk.
This is meant to stop the thought, keep you from spiraling into negative self-talk, and redirect your line of thinking [*].
5. Use Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are mantras that you can repeat out loud or in your head as often as you need to. If you struggle with negative self-talk, having a personal affirmation that’s designed to combat that thought can be really helpful.
Some examples of positive affirmations include:
- “I can do this.”
- “I am smart.”
- “I can figure this out.”
6. Be Your Own Friend
It’s old advice, but it’s good: “Talk to yourself like you would one of your closest friends.”
If your best friend were going through something similar, would you tell her what the negative voice in your head tells you? Definitely not. That’s because that voice is needlessly cruel and untrue.
You should give yourself the same level of respect that you would give your best friends or other loved ones in your life.
7. Lean On Your Support System
If you’re struggling to drown out the negative self-talk on your own, it might be helpful to recruit a trusted loved one — like a friend or your partner.
Let them know when you’re dealing with intrusive, harmful thoughts, and they can send you some loving words to help you get through it.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of a good support system.
8. Counter the Negative Self-Talk Lies
Although negative self-talk can feel oppressively true in the moment, it’s very important to recognize that the negative voice in your head often exaggerates to an extreme degree.
“I never do anything right.” Yes, this is a thought you may have — but is it actually true?
Of course not. It’s very likely that you actually do most things right, but whatever triggered this thought is something that you may be particularly sensitive about.
When these extreme negative thoughts cross your mind, be sure to counter them with the truth. Here’s an example of what the thought process may look like.
Negative thought: “I’m so lazy and useless.”
Response: “This is a challenge for me, but I’m not a lazy person. I’m a hard worker and I can keep trying.”
9. Restate Your Goals
Interestingly, your goals can have an effect on your attitudes and your level of self-compassion — especially when it comes to health, wellness, and body image.
In a 2020 study in The Journal of Health Psychology, researchers noted that appearance-based goals (for example: “I want to lose weight to look good in a bikini”) were closely linked to negative self-talk.
However, they also found that setting health-related goals (“I want to lose weight for my heart health,” for example) was related to higher levels of self-compassion and healthier eating patterns [*].
10. Seek Professional Help
Finally, you should turn to a professional if negative self-talk is something you’re really struggling with. Many of the strategies we detailed above are adapted from cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of therapy that helps to create new positive connections between your thoughts and your behaviors [*].
A licensed therapist or counselor can help you to learn and practice more of these cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, so you can overcome negative self-talk.
At Carb Manager, we hope to support you in reaching your goals — and we also understand how important mindset is when it comes to lasting success. Here are some of our other articles on body image, body positivity, and motivation to help you get in the best frame of mind for both physical and mental health.