How to stop negative self talk

Negative self-talk is a pervasive inner dialogue that can undermine our self-esteem and mental well-being. These unkind thoughts often stem from past experiences, societal pressures, or internalised beliefs. Fortunately, it’s possible to break free from this cycle and cultivate a healthier, more positive mindset. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to stop negative self-talk and embrace a more empowering inner dialogue.


1. Recognise negative self-talk patterns

The first step in overcoming negative self-talk is recognising it. Pay attention to your inner dialogue and notice when you engage in self-criticism or pessimistic thoughts.

Common forms of negative self-talk include:

  • Catastrophising: Imagining the worst-case scenario in every situation.
  • Personalising: Blaming yourself for things beyond your control.
  • Overgeneralising: Making broad, negative assumptions based on a single event.
  • Labelling: Assigning negative labels to yourself, like "failure" or "loser.

By identifying these patterns, you can begin to address them consciously.

2. Challenge and reframe negative thoughts

Once you’ve recognised negative self-talk, challenge its validity. Ask yourself:

  • Is this thought based on facts or assumptions?
  • Would I say this to a friend?
  • What evidence do I have that contradicts this thought?
  • Replace negative thoughts with more realistic and positive ones. For example, if you think, "I’m terrible at my job," reframe it as, "I made a mistake, but I’m learning and improving."

3. Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend. When negative thoughts arise, counter them with self-compassionate responses:

  • Acknowledge your feelings: "It’s okay to feel upset about this."
  • Offer kind words: "I’m doing my best, and that’s enough."
  • Remind yourself of common humanity: "Everyone makes mistakes."

Practising self-compassion can significantly reduce the intensity and frequency of negative self-talk.

4. Adopt a growth mindset

A growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset, embraces the idea that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort and learning. When you encounter setbacks, view them as opportunities for growth rather than evidence of your inadequacy. For instance, instead of thinking, "I’ll never get this right," try, "I’m learning, and I’ll improve with practice."

5. Surround yourself with positivity

The people and environments we engage with can influence our thoughts and feelings. Surround yourself with supportive, positive influences that encourage and uplift you. Engage in activities that bring you joy and foster a sense of accomplishment. This positive reinforcement can help counteract negative self-talk.

6. Practice mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness involves staying present and observing your thoughts without judgment. Meditation can be a powerful tool for cultivating mindfulness and reducing negative self-talk. Regular meditation practice can help you become more aware of your thoughts and develop a more balanced, objective perspective. Simple mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or body scans, can also be effective in managing negative self-talk.

7. Set realistic goals and celebrate achievements

Setting realistic, achievable goals can help build self-confidence and reduce negative self-talk. Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps and celebrate your progress along the way. Acknowledge your achievements, no matter how small, to reinforce a positive self-image.

8. Seek professional help

If negative self-talk is overwhelming or persistent, seeking professional help can be beneficial. A therapist or counsellor can provide strategies and support to help you manage and overcome negative self-talk. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), in particular, is effective in addressing negative thought patterns.

9. Engage in positive affirmations

Positive affirmations are statements that reinforce positive beliefs about yourself. Regularly practising affirmations can help counteract negative self-talk. Examples include:

  • I am capable and competent.
  • I deserve to be happy and successful.
  • I am worthy of love and respect.

Repeat these affirmations daily to help instil a positive self-image.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9
Written by Natasha Kelly, BA (Hons) MBACP
Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9

Natasha is a counsellor based in London and online. Her passion lies in helping individuals build meaningful connections and foster strong rapport. With a deep understanding of human emotions and interpersonal dynamics, she has worked as a primary school teacher and as a freelance writer on mental health.

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