I’ve had the privilege of talking to many top performers and I’ve found one thing that stops them from reaching their full potential is how they talk to themselves. It may not seem like much, but negative self talk can be the one thing preventing you from living your dream life.
But it doesn’t have to. You can start today and shift that hurtful self talk into something more positive. The way you talk to yourself can become a vehicle that helps you reach your goals instead of a barrier preventing you from obtaining them.
Before we get into tactics, let’s take a look at how negative self talk affects us at a deep level.
Btw, I have a video where I answer some questions about negative self talk. You can watch it below.
How negative self talk is hurting you
Do any of the below excuses sound familiar to you?
- “I could never do that, I’m just not built for…”
- “I never follow through, so I’m just not going to start”
- “Why would anyone listen to me? I don’t have enough experience”
If they sound familiar it’s because negative self talk is something we’ve all experienced at one time or another. In fact, I dealt with this same issue not too long ago. If you’re new to IWT you probably don’t know this, but I used to be 40lbs lighter. Just picture it, I was 5’11’’ and 127lbs — I basically had the body of a female super model.
During that time I would literally say to myself “I can’t be as big as those white guys. I’m just not built like that”. I literally used race to justify me being skinny. And I came to this conclusion without carefully considering different diets and workout plans. I didn’t even think to ask a friend to help me create a healthy diet or even advise on lifting weights.
I didn’t do any of the things a rational human would do. Instead, I went to the gym, looked at the other fit guys, and did a half ass job until I concluded that my physique goals weren’t possible for me.
How many of us do this exact thing?
We say “Oh, I could never look like that” or “I could never have that job”.
We all do this. And the worst part is negative self talk is such a deep issue we don’t even notice we’re doing it. I certainly didn’t when I was complaining about being skinny. To make matters worse I actually used to joke about being skinny to cope. But I quickly realized there was nothing funny about the situation. The reality is, engaging in this type of self talk quickly turns into a self fulfilling prophecy. Whether or not it’s a joke doesn’t matter, the result is the same.
In order for us to experience a better life we have to envision better for ourselves. We have to speak it when we talk to ourselves.
Let’s get into what you can do to start eliminating negative self talk from your life.
How to stop negative self talk
1. Subtly shift negative self talk
The first way to prevent negative self talk is to slightly change the narrative. Let’s take my fitness example from above. Instead of saying “I can’t gain muscle because I’m a skinny Indian” I could shift that self talk by saying “I’m going to try to find a way to make this fitness thing work for me”.
Notice how I wasn’t extreme. My change in narrative shifted to curiosity instead of being certain that it couldn’t work.
The same principle works for those of us who tend to make self deprecating jokes. It may seem harmless, but joking about being incapable of doing something has the same unintended consequence as negative self talk — it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.
So what’s the alternative?
The best approach I’ve found for this is to turn self deprecating jokes into self aggrandizing jokes. Let’s use my previous gym woes as an example.
Instead of me going to the gym and making jokes about being a skinny indian, I can instead take the same situation and say something like, “I’m sure that workout just added an extra 10lbs to my frame.” I’m still making a joke, but what I’m saying is building me up instead of tearing me down.
Now I want you to try and do the same. Take something you’ve had negative self talk around and shift the narrative slightly to be more empowering.
Instead of saying “I can’t do x”, shift that and say “Let me do some research to see how I can make x happen”.
Doing so will motivate you to action and free you from negative feelings of guilt.
Aside from changing the narrative, there is another way to rid yourself of negative self talk.
2. Be careful who you listen to
A lot of the time our negative self talk isn’t self generated, but rather memories of what other people have said to us in the past. This could be from a friend, family member, or some rando on the street.
The fact is many people are critics of us and their criticisms can manifest in direct ways or subtle ways. For example, someone can criticize you by being very direct by saying you don’t have enough experience. On the other end of the spectrum, they can do what I call “concern trolling” and play the role of someone who’s worried about you.
The result is still the same — both lead to negative self talk. The best way to avoid this situation is to determine who is worth listening to, and who should be ignored.
Not too long ago I was hiring someone to redesign something for my apartment and I had to interview a few candidates. One of them noticed I was an author and started asking me questions. When she discovered my books were focused on personal finance she asked “so what are your credentials”?
I responded by telling her how successful my students have been with my material, but this answer didn’t satisfy her. She responded with “yea, but what are your actual credentials”. The assumption underneath her question was that I needed to have special credentials in order to talk about the subject of personal finance, regardless of the results my students have gotten. Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.
Now in this situation I noticed myself wanting to argue with her, but what was the point? This lady and her opinion aren’t important to me. Now if she was from the NYT and wanted to interview me, then I would take the request seriously. I have credentials that I would share at an appropriate time, but this lady wasn’t someone important in my life so I simply ignored her.
That’s what you’ll have to do in your life to help you fight against negative self talk. Get to a place where you’re able to give attention to the important people in your life and ignore the opinions of the rest.
Now what if the people who are criticizing you are your parents or loved ones? You can’t just ignore them, righ? While I wouldn’t recommend simply ignoring your mother, there are ways to address their criticisms without allowing it to turn into negative self talk.
I’ll give you an example.
Let’s say you want to start a business and your parents say, “that’ll never work. Why don’t you just get a real job?”
One approach is to co-opt their fears and say, “You know what? I’m not sure if this will work, but I think it’s worth a shot. If you were in my shoes, how would you approach it?” Now they’re on your side instead of against you.
Another approach is to say, OK, instead of getting mad and storming out of dinner, I’m going to ask them what they think…what they wish they had done when they were younger…and what’s the BEST and WORST that could possibly happen. Gently guide the conversation in the right direction instead of walking in guns blazing.
See the difference?
You’re in control. Not the world. Not society. Not even your parents. It’s your responsibility to not allow people to prevent you from living the life you want. Best part is, this is a habit that will become easier and more intuitive the more you use it.
Ending the habit of negative self talk for good
Negative self talk is a bad habit that can absolutely be redeemed if you put the right systems in place. Remember: Subtly shift the self talk and be careful who you listen to.
But negative self talk isn’t the only bad habit we have. In fact, there’s a whole list of bad habits we all engage in that can lower the quality of your life. That’s why I put together this free resource that will help you end bad habits and build good ones.
If you’re ready to take control of your habits, just click the link below and enter your email.