Do you ever have an interaction with someone and then feel like you’ve said something wrong? Afterwards, you spend the next three hours berating yourself for how dumb you are?
Or maybe you get a question wrong on a test or make a mistake at work and spend the rest of the day telling yourself how stupid you are and how you can’t believe you made such a mistake.
It’s so easy to talk poorly to ourselves.
Things we would never say to a loved one (or probably even to someone’s face we didn’t like) flow easily into our minds about ourselves. Everyone knows bullying someone is cruel. Yet, so many of us are guilty of bullying ourselves without a second thought about the harm it causes.
Negative self-talk can destroy your self-worth. But when you talk to yourself with love, respect, and compassion, it changes the way you view yourself and affects your entire worldview.
Negative Self-Talk Hurts
Negative self-talk damages the psyche. What you hear (or think) about yourself gets embedded in your subconscious and becomes the reality you believe about yourself.
Toxic relationships take a toll on your mental health, and this includes a toxic relationship with yourself. There are many symptoms of a toxic relationship, including name-calling, that create depression and feelings of worthlessness. When you communicate in an unhealthy way with yourself, you are damaging your self-worth.
The more you tell yourself these things, the more you believe them, the less worthy you believe you are, and that ultimately can lead to other toxic relationships and self-destructive behavior.
Oftentimes, your negative self-talk has little basis in reality. You may have said or done something you perceive as negative, or maybe you don’t feel smart or confident, but then your mind tends to blow these events out of proportion. You start remembering every other time you did something wrong and all of a sudden, you discover that you’re the worst and you aren’t good at anything.
Your mind has convinced you that you have just seen the evidence of how unworthy you really are. But the truth is more complicated than that. Our egos work hard to protect us.
Don’t just assume your negative self-talk is accurate. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you have evidence in your mind to back it up, but that’s not entirely true.
If it were, wouldn’t you find it equally as easy to believe positive things about yourself? After all, there’s plenty of evidence of your positive traits as well. Yet, it’s much harder to believe something positive about yourself than it is to believe negative things.
However, learning to focus on communicating with yourself kindly and believing positive things about yourself can be done.
Your narrative creates your reality about who you are. If you want to live your best life, then be mindful of what you want that narrative to be.
Positive Narrative Equals Self-Love
If you had someone in your life that constantly put you down or talked badly to you, then you probably wouldn’t keep that person really close. I’m sure you work hard to surround yourself with supportive people who treat you with kindness and compassion and who genuinely enjoy your company.
You choose these people because they treat you with love. If you choose kind and loving people to surround yourself with, then don’t you think that’s how you should also treat yourself?
Talking to yourself kindly and treating yourself with compassion and forgiveness equals self-love. You must be kind to yourself if you want to reconnect with yourself. Self-love allows you to give yourself permission to make mistakes and take time for yourself. When your self-worth is low and you don’t treat yourself kindly, it’s easy to fall into a martyr mentality where you put everyone’s needs ahead of your own, but the more drained you become, the less tolerant you become.
This can turn into resentment, anger, and depression because you feel someone should be taking care of your needs. And you’re correct; someone should. You should be taking care of your needs and treating yourself the same way you want others to treat you.
But the benefits to yourself are not the only ones. When you change your narrative to a positive one, you’ll also find that it’s easier to treat others with compassion and forgiveness. Positive self-talk is treating yourself with kindness, which enables you to see that everyone is human and gives you more compassion for what other people are going through.
Change Your Self-Talk
Knowing you need to talk more lovingly to yourself can be easier said than done. It is likely something you’ve done for a long time without thinking about. And it’s so much easier to believe negative things about yourself than it is to believe positive.
The first step in changing anything is to become aware of it. You need to pay attention to the things you say to yourself and how you feel about yourself. Notice those times when you chastise yourself, or when you obsess on mistakes or what you believe are failures. Keep a notebook handy or use a note app on your phone and track these thoughts and feelings. You don’t need to show this to anyone; it’s just for you to see. Sometimes we aren’t truly aware of how often we do something until we write it down. Seeing it can add a new perspective on it.
Once you’ve tracked your thoughts for a few days, now it’s time to reframe or replace those thoughts.
- Use affirmations for change. For example, if you lack confidence in an area, you can tell yourself, “I am confident.”
- Use facts to stop negative self-talk. For example, if you feel you aren’t smart enough for something, remind yourself – or even write down – all the times you can think of when you did do things you didn’t believe you could. This allows you to see that the negative thoughts have their basis in fear and not reality.
- Replace negative thoughts with compassionate ones. Use what you would say to your friend or family member as a guide. Treat yourself the way you treat others.
Learning to communicate positively with yourself is a life-long journey. The benefits of positive communication with yourself extend beyond your relationship with yourself into your relationship with others and the natural world as well.
When you treat yourself with love and compassion, that behavior will spill over into your other relationships. When you feel confident and loved, you will find that love flows from you to others. Love is your natural state.