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How To Overcome Negative Thoughts (Self Talk)

Self talk, also known as your internal mental dialogue or “automatic thinking”, is a term used to describe how you mentally talk to yourself throughout the day. Your thoughts. There are two main types of self talk that a person can use: positive or negative.

Positive self talk involves saying something to yourself that motivates or empowers you. It makes you feel good and confident in your ability to carry out a particular task.

Some examples of positive thoughts/self talk are: “I can do this“, “I like myself” or “I am very good at this“.

Negative thoughts, however, have the complete opposite effect. When a person uses negative self talk it is demotivating and results in a feeling of weakness and helplessness. It makes you feel bad and causes you to doubt your abilities or skills.

Some examples of negative thoughts/self talk are: “I can’t do this“, “I am such a stupid idiot” or “I am completely useless“.

you are beautiful

Self talk refers to how you mentally talk to yourself throughout the day. It can be either positive or negative.

Unfortunately, negative self talk is the most common type of self talk that people use and is something which can severely disrupt a person’s life.

If you talk to yourself in a predominantly negative way, for example, it is essentially like having an invisible friend who stays with you throughout the entire day and all they ever say are words that put you down and make you feel bad.

This, as you might imagine, will make it much more difficult for a person to achieve their hopes and dreams in life and much more likely for them to experience failure.

sad princess

Most of the self talk that people use is negative. This can make it much harder for you to achieve what you want in life, and constantly leave you feeling lost and unfulfilled.

When combined with failure, negative self talk often has a self reinforcing effect, whereby the more you fail the worse your self talk becomes and so the more likely you are to fail again.

In fact, self talk can even result in a person forming an expectation of failure which then causes them to think that they will fail at whatever they do.

This may then lead to low self-esteem, low self-confidence and feelings of depression, all because of the way that they were talking to themselves!

Messages From The Subconscious Mind

Examining the type of self talk you use can be a great way to gain an insight into the mental programming you have stored in your subconscious mind.

The reason for this is that self talk is simply a reflection of your most dominant beliefs that have been reinforced throughout your life through repetition.

The majority of these beliefs will have been formed during your childhood years of life, because that is when your mind is the most impressionable to external influences.

mother with daughter

Much of how we think and feel about ourselves comes from the beliefs we acquired from our parents.

As a young child, for example, if your mother or father told you that you were “the greatest kid in the world” or “the worst kid in the world“, either way you would believe them because all children place great importance on what their parents say.

As a result of accepting their message, it then became incorporated into your subconscious mind as a belief within your system of beliefs.

Whenever you heard that message again, or something similar to it, that belief would be strengthened. If, however, you heard something contrary to that message, then that belief would be weakened.

This is why the large majority of people who start to monitor their internal mental dialogue soon discover that the way they are speaking to themselves is similar to how their parents used to speak to them, and in some cases, they are even using the exact same words as their parents did!


How significant others talk to you can affect how you talk to yourself.

So if someone makes a mistake and then mutters to themselves that they are “such a stupid idiot” or “such a stupid boy/girl, for example, there’s a very good chance that’s what they used to hear whenever they made a mistake when they were younger.

It should be noted though, that your parents are not the only sources of negative beliefs, as anyone who tells you something often enough can also affect the type of beliefs you form.

This can include your spouse, your friends and the messages that you are exposed to in the media.

Identifying Your Negative Beliefs

Self talk is your subconscious mind talking to you. It is telling you what your most dominant beliefs are.

As your beliefs play a big role in determining how you feel about yourself and the types of things you choose to do in life, you obviously want to have the best and most supportive beliefs that you can, as negative self-limiting beliefs will only serve to stop you from reaching your true potential in life.

talking into mirror

Self talk is a reflection of your most dominant thoughts.

One of the best ways to form empowering beliefs is by monitoring your self talk to identify your negative beliefs, and then changing the type of self talk you use to reprogram those beliefs into something more positive and helpful. You can use the following steps to do this:

The event

Identify what event caused you to experience the bad feeling.

The thought

Identify the thought or belief associated with that feeling.

The action

Identify how that thought or belief caused you to act.

The evidence

Challenge your belief by asking yourself if it is true, and what evidence you have to support it.

The new belief

Create a new belief by changing your perspective of the situation. What other way could you positively interpret your thoughts/beliefs?

the only thing limiting us in life is our belief that there are limits.

There is nothing complicated about this technique, although it is something that will require time to master.

The reason for this is that unless you are already familiar with the concept of self talk, you probably haven’t being paying much attention to how you talk to yourself because most people do so automatically and without even thinking about it.

As a result, you need to give yourself at least a week or two, sometimes even a few months, to be able to mentally recognize the common phrases that you say to yourself.

If you always tell yourself that you are stupid, for example, then that would be one phrase which you could focus on changing.

cloud over head

To stop negative self talk you must first become aware of it.

Some of the types of internal dialogue that you may want to look out for when monitoring your self talk are:

•Criticisms you make of yourself.

•Times when you say you should quit or not bother trying.

•Worries you may have about future events.

•Criticisms relating to something not being perfect.

•Feelings of inadequacy as a result of comparing yourself to someone else.

How To Change Negative Thoughts

Once you have identified the negative words or phrases that you frequently repeat to yourself, you will find that you automatically become more conscious of them the next time you repeat them to yourself.

This occurs because you have caused your subconscious mind to question a belief it had previously accepted as being true, and this is the time that you stand the best chance of changing that belief.


Once you start to think about your self talk it quickly becomes obvious what you need to change.

Your beliefs, however, will not just disappear into thin air because you don’t like them. In order to change a belief, you need to have something to replace it with.

So the next time that you use negative self talk, try to immediately say the reverse or opposite of what you have just said or something else that you would like to replace your negative thought with.

For example, if you find yourself saying “I can never do that” immediately afterwards say “I can do this” or “I will find a way to do this“.

Importantly, you must say it like you mean it with belief and emotion, as otherwise your subconscious will reject the reprogramming attempt.

positive and negative self talk

Another reprogramming technique that can be used is to attach a rubber band around your wrist. Then, whenever you catch yourself saying something you don’t like, pull the rubber band back and let it snap on your wrist.

Providing this results in a painful enough feeling, and you are disciplined enough to do it every time you say something negative to yourself, this can be quite an effective technique to use as it teaches you to associate a negative thought with pain.

This, in turn, will then motivate you to avoid using that negative thought again. With enough practice, you will eventually replace your old negative internal dialogue with the new positive dialogue you have chosen.

elastic band on wrist

Associating a negative thought with pain can quickly help to extinguish that thought.

At the start, this is likely to require a lot of conscious effort, but given enough time, it will become automatic and a habit. When that occurs, you will have been successful in changing your negative belief into a positive one.

You will know for sure if you have been successful in changing your negative beliefs during times of stress or when you are feeling really down, as it is during these times when you are most likely to resort back to your old habits of thinking.


During times of stress our true beliefs come through. This can reveal how successful you’ve been in reprogramming your old beliefs.

If you have changed your beliefs successfully, your new beliefs will surface at this time. If they do not, keep on trying until your belief is changed.

Create Positive Thoughts With Affirmations

To make a new belief stick, it’s important you reinforce it as much as possible. One way in which this can be done is by using affirmations.

These are simply statements that you say to yourself which are supportive of your new belief, or the belief that you are trying to create.

The most effective time to use affirmations is when you first wake up in the morning and before you fall asleep at night, as it is during these times of the day that the subconscious mind is most receptive to programming.

You can further increase the power of your affirmations by saying them to yourself in front of a mirror, as affirmations tend to have a stronger effect on you if you can look yourself in the eyes while you are saying them.

I don't want to be anyone other than me

Affirmations are most effective when repeated in the morning or at night.

In addition, the use of affirmations during meditation or self-hypnosis can also be beneficial, as your relaxed state of mind will provide easier access to your subconscious.

Affirmations are really just another form of self talk, and the more you use positive affirmations, the more they will become programmed into your subconscious and the stronger of an effect they will have on shaping your beliefs.

How To Boost The Effectiveness Of Affirmations

It is important to understand that not all information is seen as equal by the subconscious mind. This means that you can have lots of incoming information, but the subconscious will only play back, via beliefs, what it thinks is the most important.

tree growing from head

Only the most dominant beliefs grow from the subconscious mind.

There are several factors which influence how the subconscious grades information, but the most important factors are:

1) Frequency

How often is the same information entered into the subconscious? You are more likely to remember the things that you repeat.

2) Emotion

What kind of feeling is associated with that information? You are more likely to remember something that made you feel a particular way. For example, love, pain, sadness etc…

As you can see, the best way to influence the subconscious is by doing things often and with emotion.

This means that the effectiveness of affirmations can be boosted by daily repetition and by being spoken like you really mean what you are saying.

girl looking in mirror

You can increase the power of affirmations by saying them with meaning and emotion.

This will ensure that the subconscious sees your affirmation as important information, which should then eventually result in it overriding less important previously stored information.

When that happens, you will have successfully programmed a new belief into your mind.

The Importance of Positive People

Perhaps the most powerful thing that you can do to support your new beliefs is to hear supportive words from other people.

The reason for this is that it’s human nature to care about what other people say, and so most people tend to place great importance on the views and opinions of others.

surrounded by happy people

The people who you surround yourself with have a powerful influence on how you think and feel.

So if you can surround yourself with people who support and encourage you, and stay away from people who are not supportive of you, you will find that your beliefs can be changed much more easily and rapidly than if you were just trying to change them on your own.

But be warned, the reverse of this is also true. So if you still have people in your life who are very negative towards you, then you are likely to find it much harder to change your self talk and your negative limiting beliefs.

Using Goals to Reinforce New Beliefs

Goal setting is a process which involves deciding what you want to achieve in life and then making a plan of action that will guide you towards the attainment of your goal.

The goals that you set for yourself can have a very powerful influence on your subconscious mind, because beliefs are most easily changed when you have some kind of evidence to disprove them.

goals to do

Completing goals provides the subconscious with evidence that a new belief should replace an old belief.

A person who believes the earth is flat, for example, would soon readily change that belief if they were to go in to space and see the earth in orbit around the sun.

What this means is that if you can set goals for yourself, and then achieve them, your achievements will ultimately reinforce the new beliefs that you are trying to create for yourself.

You must, however, be determined to keep working towards the achievement of your goals and not let failures cause you to quit, because by quitting, you may inadvertently reinforce the old beliefs that you were trying to get rid of.


Dr. Shad Helmstetter – "The Story of Self-Talk"

Support Yourself with Upbeat Self-Talk

Self Awareness 101 Episode 13: The Power Of Belief Systems

How to Stop Negative Thoughts and That Little Voice In Your Head

Reviewed – 26th March 2016

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