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bookish1's avatar

How do you fight negative self-talk?

Asked by bookish1 (13147points) March 28th, 2013

Inspired by janbb’s question.

When you find yourself about to criticize yourself, or beat up on yourself, to excess or to no good purpose, what do you do to fight it? Did you learn these things from a friend, a therapist, or just come to them on your own?

I grew up in an abusive household and now that I am out of it, I am my own worst enemy. I’m getting better at it, but I still do this far too often.

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16 Answers

janbb's avatar

When you find out the answer, can you let me know? Apparently, I’m too stupid to figure it out.

bookish1's avatar

@janbb: I just try to make it a practice to catch myself before it starts, or in the middle, and reason myself out of it. But old habits die hard.

Can’t wait to see what @tom_g and @ucme will say :D

tom_g's avatar

A couple of years ago, I started a practice (before my meditation practice) of having a couple of speech patterns that I would look out for. When one would occur, I would place a check on a piece of paper at my desk. For example, when I first started, I would place a check any time I would speak negatively about someone who was not there. Then I included speaking negatively about anything. Then, I found that I was able identify these negative thoughts when they were “spoken” in my head about myself. I started to add checks.

I found that after a long time of doing this, I didn’t need the piece of paper any longer. I also started a meditation practice around that time that really helped me note unskillful speech and thoughts.

EDIT: I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t need the paper because I stopped my negative speech. Rather, it was simply easier to identify when speech was happening – and even before speech would occur. I was able to make a mental note, and when I added my meditation to the mix, I found that the noting would allow me a fraction of a second in which I had a choice of whether to engage in this speech or not.

ucme's avatar

Very rarely happens, but when it does I inflate a small party balloon, usually purple & let it off right in my face so that my lips flap about the place & my eyes water a little.
This usually reminds me i’m a childish bastard, then all is well again on planet ucme.

rojo's avatar

How the hell should I know? I never know what to do! I should kick my own ass for my ignorance but I am so out of shape I would probably lose anyway.

Mariah's avatar

In my short life, what I have found works well for me is this: action.

If I feel I am making progress, I don’t beat myself up even if the progress is slow or I have a very long way to go. I am making progress, and that means I am doing what I can to be better. And that’s all I can ask of myself.

It’s the times when I am stagnating and I know things aren’t good and they’re not getting any better that I start feeling down.

It’s easier said than done…sometimes it is so hard – especially when you’re feeling crummy about yourself! – to face the things you’re insecure about, find a way to alleviate them, and actually follow through. I find I am most successful when my life is in flux. I am very easily tempted into settling into a status quo. Given a lot of free time, I get very lazy, never bother doing anything difficult, and end up hating myself for it. When life is busy and constantly changing and I am being forced to adapt, I make a lot more progress.

thorninmud's avatar

I don’t fight it. I refuse to take it seriously. I see it for what it is: some little relic of the past, a little “looped tape” that got recorded way back when that keeps resurfacing under certain conditions. If I make it my enemy, then I put it in a position of power.

Trying to convince yourself that those negative views are wrong, e.g. through “affirmations”, has been shown to be counterproductive. That’s what I mean by giving them power. Better to just see it as this weird thing brains do, and that it’s irrelevant to who you are. That renders it harmless.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Sometimes I can cut it right off at the source but other times it all seems to spiral out of control so quickly that I find myself in a random bout of depression out of nowhere. When these rare cases happen all I can do is wait it out till I feel normal again. Generally though I try to keep a pretty positive outlook on myself and my abilities. After all I am American and we’re known for being totally confident in things we know absolutely nothing about :P

marinelife's avatar

I used a book. Self-Parenting is a really good resource for hearing your negative self-talk and changing it.

Some important things I’ve learned:

1. Persist with positive self-affirmations even if they feel awkward.
2. Say them (positive self-affirmations) out loud.

Bellatrix's avatar

I love @tom_g‘s idea with the checks (or I would call them ticks). I’m going to try that. I don’t really have a solution because I’m guilty of it too and haven’t worked out how to successfully avoid it. I’m an overachiever (I suspect you are too). That’s symptomatic of the same problem I think. So, @tom_g‘s idea would (I think) at least make me conscious of when I was doing it so I could mentally set off one of @ucme‘s balloons to slap myself in the face when I catch myself being negative.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I list all my good qualities and if that doesn’t work, I call a friend, maybe go spend some time with my mom, you know, my biggest fans.

Almost all of us have good qualities that we tend to overlook and focus on the negative, you have to find what works for you. Get out of your head by doing something physical maybe. You seem like such a nice person, you should give yourself more credit.

I once dated a guy that had been called worthless all his life and treated like crap, and he told me one of the saddest things “I’ve heard it so much I believe it now.” I tried everything I could to build him up, but unfortunately, the mindset was inpossible for him to overcome and he leads a sad life. Don’t let yourself get to that point, doll.

Linda_Owl's avatar

I, too, grew up in an abusive household & I have struggled all of my life with a very negative image of myself. Frequently, when I make a mistake, my mind will kick into gear & the first thing my mind says to me is “You are stupid & you are a screw-up”. Both of these comments I grew up listening to from my step-father. I am better now, than I was when I was younger – but it is something I have lived with all of my life. So, as @janbb said, when you figure out the answer to this self-criticism thing…. I would love to know the answer!

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I recently completed training to become a Hawai`i Certified Peer Specialist in mental health. As a person with mental illness, this certification will allow me to work with others in the same boat and help them wherever they are on their journey in recovery.

One of the segments of the training and one of my personal demons was about negative self-talk. I know it well. All those rapid-fire thoughts pounded at my mind calling me “worthless,” “crazy,” “stupid,” and worse.

In the course, I was required to write a Wellness Recovery Action Plan, and it changed my life. I don’t know why it had such a revolutionary effect on my life, but it did. The vehement negative self-talk is gone.

It may have something to do with a word @Mariah mentioned: action. In writing my WRAP, I started with the “List of What I’m Like When I’m Well.” Seeing that page of words like flamboyant, responsible, sober, dramatic, witty, articulate, etc. made something click in my brain. Putting it down on paper for the first time ever changed the dynamic of the exercise. I’d used positive affirmations before until I was blue in the face, but I didn’t believe them at heart. This time I was faced with a list written by my own hand that said things differently from the negative crap rolling around inside my head.

Since writing my WRAP, I’ve had a few instances of those old words popping up. I learned in my training to open my WRAP and simply read it out loud. There are many more sections to a WRAP, and I also refer to those. One important part is the “Daily Maintenance Plan” which lists in detail the things I do to stay healthy each day. Reading these pages reminds me that I am a person in recovery. I am worth it.

I look in a mirror today and like what I see. It’s the first time in my life this has happened. It’s a sea change.

Here is a list of great techniques for stopping negative self-talk, and each involves action.

breathing exercises: in through the nose and out through the mouth slowly

washing the dishes: speak out loud the exact action your hands are doing while they are doing it

exercise: speak out loud what your body is doing exactly while it’s doing it

walk through a park: speak out loud to the plants and animals

Does anyone see the common theme? It’s action and speech. It’s getting outside the head.

WRAP may not be the answer for anyone here. It’s not meant to be completed alone. It originated in a group, and it’s meant to be passed on that way. Still, I wanted to share my experience, strength, and hope.

Negative self-talk doesn’t have to rule one’s life.

SABOTEUR's avatar

What are you using to fight negative self talk with? You might try countering negativity with positivity, but you place before you the dubious task of becoming your own “judge and jury”. Of course, the whole process becomes thwarted once you become distracted and allow the mind to wander off into other forms of unproductive activity.

The problem with “fighting” negative self-talk is failing to recognize all self-talk (or inner dialogue) is a product of the ego. Trying to thwart ego with ego is (as the masters of old would say) like trying to wipe blood away with blood.

Rick Carson authored an excellent book on this very subject: Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way. He describes a technique of “Simply Observing” your inner dialogue. Not analyzing…not interacting…not questioning…not figuring out…not doing anything with that inner dialogue other than simply looking at it, allowing it to do what it will until the energy that created the inner dialogue dissipates into the nothingness that it is.

I highly recommend you try it.

filmfann's avatar

Just say to yourself: I forgive you, and I will try to do better.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I put my left foot in, then my left foot out.
I put my left foot in, and I shake it all about.

I do the hokey pokey and I turn myself around.
That’s what it’s all about.

i put my right foot in, i put my right foot out…

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