No one likes hanging out with a Debby Downer. It’s one thing to complain about the weather and how cold and rainy it is, but it’s entirely different if all you do is talk sh** about yourself 24/7. The crazy thing about negative self-talk is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a slow, gradual slope that eventually plummets you into despair. It’s not an easy thing to climb out of, but with the right attitude, you can do it. Here are five tips to combat negative self-talk.

1. Identify Negative Self Talk

It’s cliche to say the first step to overcoming a problem is acceptance, but you need to identify a problem before you can start working on it. I always think about When Robert Met Jamie, a Queer Eye episode from season 3, about a self-deprecating dad who listens to how he talks about himself. We might not realize how often we tear ourselves down with how we speak about ourselves until someone points it out to us, but identifying negative self-talk is the first step. 

2. It’s All My Fault

One form of negative thinking or self-talk is personalizing everything. Are you the type of person who blames themselves if something bad happens? It doesn’t have to be something bad, but we view it as such. For example, do you ever think your friend is annoyed at you because they take longer to respond to a text message? You blame yourself for something that, in your head, is true but has no evidence to back it up. 

If this sounds like you, then you should challenge the negative thought. First, ask yourself if there is any logic behind the thought and if there is evidence to support it, or are you just interpreting what happened? Then, challenge the thought and replace it with a different response, like maybe your friend is just having a busy day, and that’s why they aren’t responding to you immediately.

3. No Gray Area

Polarization is a form of negative self-talk where you don’t allow any sort of middle ground. Everything is either good or bad. You don’t allow yourself to be human and you try to be perfect at all times. For example, maybe you’ve been going to the gym before school or work every morning this week but decided to get some extra sleep instead today, and now you think you are lazy because of that decision. 

The best way to fight this sort of self-punishment and negative talk is to treat yourself with extra kindness. Remind yourself that you are not a robot who achieves perfection. You can make decisions that meet your needs the moment you make them. With the example of extra sleep, maybe you need some extra rest to recoup from killing it in the gym all week. Reframe laziness into something positive instead of mentally punishing yourself. 

4. The World Is Ending 

Another form of negative self-talk is called catastrophizing. With this, you usually anticipate the worst. You jump to wrong conclusions over things that shouldn’t ruin your day. For example, you think you bombed an important paper and will now fail school and be a failure in life. You let yourself spiral with the worst possible scenarios that ramp up your overthinking, stress, and anxiety

To combat catastrophizing, you need to change your perspective. Turning in a paper isn’t the end of the world. Neither is thinking you got an F on it. So take a step back and think about how you probably didn’t get a 0 on the paper. And if you didn’t get the grade you were hoping for, then use this as an opportunity to learn and maybe ask your professor what you might be able to do to get a better grade. Finally, reframe the worst scenario in your mind. Failures in life only make you a failure when you let them define you. 

5. Half-Glass Empty

The final form of negative self-talk is filtering. Filtering is when you only focus on the bad and filter out all the good stuff. Then, you start to minimize every single one of your accomplishments by focusing on your mistakes. My best example is sports. If I’m playing soccer in a Sunday league and have one goal, three important defensive stops, and an assist but only focus on the three turnovers I gave up, then all I’m doing is beating myself up for playing a great game.

The best way to combat filtering is to look at the whole picture. Your mistakes don’t define you, so look at everything you’ve accomplished, no matter how big or small. A dub is a dub. So don’t minimize your wins, but enjoy and celebrate them. Your life will feel less like a grueling punishment filled with mistakes but much more satisfying and rewarding.        

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