I don’t believe me - turning off the negative voices

We seem to find it so easy to criticise ourselves and so difficult to say something nice. Make a mistake, or even imagining we have done something wrong, will spark off those endless negative voices in our heads but most of us seem to struggle to acknowledge when we have done something well.  

Often we don’t seem to be able to enjoy the moment, rejoice in our successes, and even if we can, we are swiftly off to contemplate or worry about the future, where the next opportunity will come from and whether we will fail at that. It seems it’s so much easier to talk down to ourselves than give ourselves a pat on the back. A friend once told me that her mother’s response to some fantastic news she had been given at work was 'no-one likes a show-off'.  No chance of her getting too big-headed then.


Social media doesn’t help, presenting us with images of everyone else’s perfect lives, which we seem to accept without questioning the reality of what is shown or acknowledging the use of photoshop. If we keep being presented with pictures that seem to show everyone else is living a much better life than us, is happier, more attractive etc, then it can be tough not to be hard on ourselves. We are outside, we are not one of 'them' and yet the reality of their lives is seldom close to what is presented and even if it was we are not in a competition, we are just trying to live our best lives, be the best versions of us we can, for ourselves, no-one else.

Stop those annoying little voices in your head and learn to be happy

Stop listening. It sounds so simple but we do have a choice as to whether we take any notice of our negative thoughts. We can be aware of them without taking any notice, just letting them float through our brains without letting them impact on our mood, they are just thoughts, they are not real.  

Fight back. Sometimes when I find myself going down the road of negative self-talk, I stop myself and ask myself, out loud if I’m not in a public place, “What are you doing?” By challenging myself I bring attention to what is happening and most of the time I am able to stop doing it. It’s so easy to build one negative thought on top of another without challenging it, so you can build a wall of self-doubt before you know it. Stopping it early reduces the damage.

Stop comparing. There will always (unless you are the one person at the very top of the pile) be people who are smarter, richer, more attractive, thinner etc than we are so what’s the point in comparing? Just live up to your own standards, be who you want to be or you will have a lifetime of unfulfilled targets, self-doubt and unhappiness. Just do your best at life but know that your best is different to everyone else’s so there’s no point in comparing.

Positive self-talk. Standing in front of a mirror saying “I love you” feels a bit weird at first, especially if you are not alone, but the more you practise the easier it becomes. You might not be perfect but you are the best you, you have. Acknowledge that, tell yourself how great you are, praise what you see are your positive features, be proud to be you. If “I love you” is too much find another expression that gives you a positive lift and use that. Basically, the message is you are ok the way you are; like the rest of the human race, you are perfectly imperfect.

Be kind to yourself. I think most of us know we wouldn’t talk to our friends or family the way we talk to ourselves so why don’t we just stop? Say nice things about yourself (see the point above about positive self-talk), acknowledge the bits you like about yourself, praise yourself when you do something that feels right, sing your own praises. It’s not being a show-off, it’s just part of who you are. Accept the positive in the same way you have accepted the negative for so long.

Keep it up. It’s no good doing all this once or for a few days you have to keep practising. Think of all the years of negative self-talk you have subjected yourself to? It’s going to take a while to turn off, or reduce the volume, of those voices and that only happens if you keep working at it. You need to make it feel natural and that only comes by doing it time and time again. Hopefully, it will then be a habit, something that becomes normal to you.

By trying all these things and sticking with the ones that work for you then we can get to a place where the positive voices and feelings can drown out the negative ones and we can feel better about ourselves.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Exeter EX1 & Colyton EX24
Written by Charlotte Feeny, Counsellor MBACP BSc (Hons) Dip Couns
Exeter EX1 & Colyton EX24

A qualified and experienced counsellor, with a degree in psychology, working with couples and individuals online and in Exeter and East Devon. Visit charlottefeeny.co.uk.

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