That little voice that tells you you shouldn’t go for it, it’s too hard, you shouldn’t speak up, you didn’t earn what you have, you’re not talented, people don’t want to hear your opinions. The list might go on forever. Sheesh. If you’re wondering whose voice it is, well… we’ve traced the call; it’s coming from inside the house.
Sometimes our thoughts and inner dialogue can be hurtful. Negative self-talk is the internal dialogue that tears you down and keeps you from:
I am guilty of having all those thoughts listed above at different points in my life. Negative self-talk is what we tell ourselves because we feel that we know ourselves better than anyone. Here are some examples of negative self-talk:
We may know ourselves well, but there are several things that can contribute to that unkind inner dialogue:
Most people will experience negativity bias: we are more inclined to focus on things that went wrong instead of what worked perfectly. We tend to react strongly to negative things, think more negative thoughts, remember insults rather than compliments, or constructive criticism above praise. In other words, we will shrug off 50 compliments but spiral if one person says they don’t like our shoes. We may never wear those shoes again, or if we do, we may have a more challenging time forgetting about the sting of that one rude comment. This tendency can significantly affect our ability to recognize our successes and alter our view of ourselves and the world around us.
If I study for weeks for a math test and feel extremely prepared but get a failing grade, my internal dialogue might say, “wow, I guess no matter how much you study, you’re always going to fail.” That’s a hurtful thing to say, especially to ourselves. If we say something like this to ourselves enough, we might believe our negative self-talk. When we take our negativity bias at face value, our thoughts are more likely to become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Our worries may only happen once or twice, but our brains become detectives that connect the dots between our concerns and the real-life events that validate them. This is confirmation bias, or our tendency to look for and interpret information in a way that confirms what we already believe to be true.
Using the shoe example from before, we might filter out all fifty compliments only to remember the one bad one about our shoes, leaving us feeling like we made the wrong choice in buying them and wearing them out.