How to Dial Down the Negative Self-Talk and Be Kinder to Yourself

Negative self-talk is all too common while self-compassion is often lacking; your inner critic most likely wins out when it comes to a trade-off between self-negativity or showing yourself some understanding. For highly sensitive people, side effects can be pretty paralyzing anxiety, and for others, side effects include stress and feelings of depression.

But, you can change the balance between these two, in order to be a little kinder to yourself.

According to research from Ideas.TED, people who have greater levels of compassion for themselves tend to be less lazy, more motivated and in turn, more successful over time.

Psychologist Susan David says that this is because “they still recognise where they’ve gone wrong, but rather than getting caught up in blame and judgement, they can learn from the experience and adapt and change course for the next time.”

Those who practice self-love are also shown to have an increased life span, lower rates of depression and better coping skills during times of hardship.

While it’s not fully known why this is the case, according to The Mayo Clinic, it’s believed that those with a positive outlook handle stressful situations better, which in turn, reduces the harmful health effects of stress on the body.

How to cultivate self-compassion

— Recognise the negative behaviour

Paying attention to the negative self-talk and the form in which it takes in your brain will help you eventually curb this behaviour.

The Mayo Clinic has identified four types of negative self-talk which includes filtering, personalising, catastrophising and polarising.

  • Filtering means you have a tendency to magnify the negative aspects of a situation while ignoring or filtering out the positive ones.
  • Personalising: According to The Mayo Clinic, this type of negative self-talk is when something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself.
  • Catastrophising: You naturally anticipate the worst.
  • Polarising: You have a tendency to only see things as either good or bad and there is no middle ground. This is a tricky one as it means you often feel you have to be perfect otherwise you’re a complete failure.

— End the tug-of-war with yourself

Constantly battling yourself and your thoughts is a drain on your energy. David recommends simply dropping the rope in the tug-of-war with yourself and giving yourself a break.

In a study with more than 70,000 people, David found that roughly one-third of the participants judged their experiences and emotions as either “good” or “bad”, “positive” or “negative”.

“When you evaluate your life in such a black-and-white way, you’re entering into an internal tug-of-war — you criticise yourself whenever you feel “bad” or “negative” emotions and whenever you don’t feel “good” or “positive” emotions,” David wrote for TED.

Instead of using this black-and-white approach to your thoughts and feelings, try using them as data. As she points out, these thoughts are actually providing you with valuable information about who you are and what matters to you in your life.

“Self-compassion allows you to acknowledge and accept all of your feelings, even when they’re negative,” David wrote. “For instance, you might notice that you’re feeling really frustrated at work. So ask yourself: ‘What is that frustration a signpost of? What is it telling me about what’s important to me?'”

— Practice positive self-talk

This might be the most difficult part of changing your internal wiring but it’s also the most important. Once you’ve intensified how you’re negatively talking to yourself and dropped the rope on the battle, it’s now time to embrace some positive self-talk.

The Mayo Clinic recommends following one rule when it comes to this step: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a loved one. You wouldn’t tell your partner, sibling or friend what a failure they are, so quit using this language with yourself.

“Be gentle and encouraging with yourself,” The Mayo Clinic said. “If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you’re thankful for in your life.”

— Methods of practising self-compassion

While simply thinking positively is helpful, you can also incorporate practical activities into your routine that will make this process easier. One such way recommended by Greatist is through post-it notes, where for 30 days, who write a positive thing about yourself or your life on the post-it note and put it on your mirror. This will help reinforce the positivity and make it seem a little easier.

Other methods also include journaling, where you write down your thoughts and learn to turn any negative feelings into positive ones on the page, or the creation of a daily mantra. Picking a mantra and repeating it every day, or when you’re feeling sad, can help reinforce your positive behaviour.

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