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Lifehack.org: By Lewis Humphries
Have you ever been plagued by negative self talk or doubt? Perhaps you have refrained from applying for a job as you
believe that you are under-qualified for it, opting instead of pursuing more modest opportunities. This is a clear
reflection of low self-esteem, while it also highlights the role that our thought processes play in creating our own
This was also explored by an interesting study from 2013, which showed that women who had a poor body image and
considered themselves to be fat often squeezed sideways through doorways, despite the fact that they were relatively
slim and had ample room to move through.
While defining the problem is easy, however, resolving it is far more difficult. It is important to resist the urge to
eliminate self-talk (which can also be used for positive affirmation), and instead understand how this can be controlled
and used to influence our outlook for the better. Here are some steps towards achieving this:
One of the main issues with self talk is the use of the pronoun ‘I’, as this creates subjectivity and touches
innumerable emotional triggers. It is far better to use your own name or ‘you’ in this instance, as it instantly
establishes a sense of distance while enabling you to provide more objective and constructive self-advice. This
underlines the subtle science of self talkand allows you to use this as a method for delivering informed feedback.
If the first steps helps us to create distance, the second allows us to leverage this to deliver concise and instructional
self talk. Delivery is all important, as allowing yourself to mumble and share negative thoughts simply creates further
doubt while offering no positive resolutions.
Here’s a personal example. After being promoted at work, I sought to create distance and began to think objectively
about why this may have been the case. Self talk then enabled me to consider these as single, concise points,
providing insight and offering instructional advice on how to improve myself in the future.
On a similar note, you often find that negative self talk is characterised by introspection and reflection on past
experiences. It also tends to focus on mistakes that have prevented you from achieving a personal or career goal in
the past, creating an overwhelming sense of fear that is hard to escape from.
You can negate this by using present tense messages when engaging in self talk, focusing on what can be done in the
moment and adapting your outlook to create a forward-thinking outlook. If you have had a job application rejected in
the post, for example, internalise reactionary steps that can drive progress (such as asking for feedback from the
employer or identifying new opportunities) rather than dwelling on what has gone before.
Another issue with self talk is that it can become extremely introspective, meaning that we forget to challenge
negative thoughts and comments. If we consider self-talk as more of an internalised, two-way conversation between
alternative viewpoints, however, it is possible use this as a platform for proactive problem solving.
For example, whenever negative self talk statements such as ‘I can’t’ enter your mind, you should respond this
immediately with ‘why not?’ This forces you to consider the initial, negative statement more objectively,
while challenging you to uncover solutions rather than focusing solely on the problem in hand.
This provides a quick transition from abstract negativity to constructive positive thinking, helping you to cope when
negative thoughts inevitably spring to mind.
Throughout history, studies have shown that the externalisation of angst and negativity has a positive impact on
everything from anger management to treating life-threatening illnesses. Writing is a particularly effective vehicle,
thanks to the distance that we create with the written word and the sense of anonymity that it afford us.
In this respect, externalising negative self talk by committing it to paper is an excellent idea. You can do this through
a regular journal or sporadic letters to yourself, so long as you read these documents and provide an outlet for your
negativity. For those of you who are courageous and dealing with a specific source of negativity, you may even want
The key is that you are comfortable with the format, and willing to externalise your negativity in an open and
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