4 Strategies for Challenging Negative Self-Talk
By Trenna Ahlstrom
You are worthless. No one likes you. You can’t do it. You shouldn’t even try.
Comments that you would not tolerate hearing from other people might be a regular part of the way that you think about yourself. Parents of struggling teens may be especially susceptible to these kinds of negative thoughts. This critical inner monologue, which psychologists call self-talk, can have a negative effect on your daily life.
According to Dr. Fran Simone, “What we tell ourselves on an ongoing basis reflects not only the way we think but how we feel and act. In other words, our thoughts influence how we create our reality.”
Because our thoughts shape the way that we interpret reality, negative self-talk can make reality a crueler and more unpleasant place.
“It’s estimated that you have around 60,000 thoughts per day. That’s 60,000 chances to either build yourself up or tear yourself down. Learning to recognize your thought patterns is key to understanding how your thinking affects your life,” writes Amy Morin, LCSW.
Challenging negative self-talk can improve your life. Using these four strategies can help.
1. Treat yourself the way that you would treat someone else that you love.
For many people, it is easier to be kind to some else than it is to be kind to yourself. When you are in a challenging situation, imagine that you were talking to a friend who in the same situation. You probably would not tell a friend things like, “You can’t do it. You’re a failure.” Don’t say things like that to yourself either.
2. Learn the difference between constructive and destructive self-criticism.
Everyone has flaws. Wanting to improve those flaws is healthy. The difference between healthy self-criticism and self-abuse is focusing on specific behaviors that you can change. For example, avoid telling yourself, “You lost your temper and yelled again. You are a hothead. You will never change.” Instead, focus on the behavior itself. Believe in your ability to improve. For example, you can tell yourself, “When you are overtired, it’s harder to control your emotions. You need to get more sleep.”
3. Live a healthy lifestyle.
When your physical health suffers, your mental and emotional health suffers too. Do your best to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get a healthy amount of sleep. When you are well-rested you are better able to identify and combat negative self-talk.
4. Develop an awareness of your negative self-talk.
If you are not aware of a problem, then you cannot fix it. Your inner critic may be so much a part of the way you think that you no longer notice it. Evaluate the way that you think about yourself. Pay attention to the things that you tell yourself. Challenge the negative beliefs that are unrealistic and keep you from achieving your goals.
In life and in parenting, there are many things that are outside of your control. However, with time and effort, you can change the things you think about yourself, which in turn can change the way that you interpret reality. Positive, compassionate self-talk will help you be better able to cope with challenges and enjoy the successes of parenting.