Imagine this: You’re about to give a presentation. You’ve prepared, you know your material, and you’re feeling confident. But as soon as you step up to the podium, all that confidence evaporates. The critical voices in your head take over, and you start to doubt yourself.
Sound familiar? If you’ve ever struggled with self-doubt, then you know how damaging negative self-talk can be. But what if I told you that you could reframe those critical voices into something more positive?
Whenever you catch yourself saying things like “I can’t do this”, “I’m not good enough”, or “I always mess up”? you might be engaging in negative self-talk, which can harm your mental health and lower your self-esteem.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the different types of negative self-talk with examples and how to overcome them with positive affirmations and cognitive restructuring. Read on to learn how to change your inner dialogue and boost your confidence.
Table of Contents
What Is Negative Self-Talk?
Negative self-talk is a voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough, that you can’t do it, that you’re ugly, or that you’re just not cut out for this. It’s the little devil on your shoulder that whispers doubts and insecurities into your ear, and it can be incredibly destructive.
Recognizing negative self-talk is the first step toward reframing it. Once you know what to listen for, you can start to challenge these thoughts and replace them with more positive ones.
Common Examples of Negative Self-Talk
It’s normal to have negative thoughts from time to time, but when they become a regular occurrence, they can start to wear on our mental health. These thoughts usually fall into one of three categories: self-doubt, shame and fear.
Self-doubt is that little voice in our heads that tells us we’re not good enough or that we can’t do something. Shame is the feeling that we’re not worthy of love or respect, and fear is the idea that something bad will happen if we don’t do what we’re afraid of.
All of these thoughts are normal, but they don’t have to dictate our lives. We can identify and reframe these thoughts to make them more positive. For example, if you’re plagued by self-doubt, try telling yourself “I am capable” or “I am good enough.” If you feel ashamed, tell yourself “I am worthy” or “I am loved.” And if you’re afraid, tell yourself “I am safe” or “I am in control.”
Types of Negative Self-Talk
Negative self-talk can be harmful to your mental health and well-being. It can lower your self-esteem, increase your stress and anxiety, and interfere with your goals and relationships. Therefore, it is important to recognize and challenge your negative self-talk and replace it with more positive and realistic thoughts. Here are some common types of negative self-talk.
Personalization is a type of negative self-talk where you take the blame for things that may not be completely within your control. It can lead to feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.
- “I’m such an idiot. I should have never become a manager.”
- “They must not like me anymore.”
- “Everyone else is out alone at night, I should be too.”
- “This is happening to me because I don’t deserve good things.”
- “This is my fault for not making myself clear.”
- “What did I do to deserve this?”
- “Why is this happening to me?”
- “No one can solve this but me.”
- It’s my fault that he didn’t pass the test.
- “I should have known better.”
2. Over generalization:
Overgeneralization is a type of negative self-talk where you make sweeping statements about yourself based on one experience. It can lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression.
- I always mess things up.
- It’s always my fault.
- No one is going to buy this product, so why am I wasting my time?
- I don’t know anything about this subject, so I’m bound to screw up somehow.
- Nobody’s going to listen to me.
- They’re just going to be bored out of their minds by what I have to say.
- I never do things right.
- Nothing good ever happens for me.
- No one is ever satisfied with what I do.
- “I was born unlovable.”
3. Mind Reading:
This type of self-talk happens when you think you know what other people are thinking, even though you can’t actually know. It usually leads to negative thoughts and judgements about yourself and can be a hard habit to break. Here are 10 examples of mind reading negative self-talk:
- He probably thinks I’m a jerk!
- That guy was probably thinking that.
- They must think I am the most boring person in the room.
- I know what people are thinking about me – They don’t like me.
- I know he doesn’t love me, he is not talking to me today
- “They don’t approve of me.”
- “They must think I’m stupid.”
- “They don’t respect me.”
- “I’m not as interesting as them.”
- “No one would like me if they knew my true self.”
4. Fortune Telling:
This is when you predict the worst-case scenario for any situation.
- I’ll be a failure in life
- I’ll never lose weight
- I’m going to be stuck in traffic again today.
- My boss is going to think I’m lazy.
- I’m going to be the only person at this party who’s single.
- No matter how hard I try, I will never get promoted.
- “I will never be able to change my behavior.”
- I did well in that meeting, but no one is going to notice or appreciate my hard work.
Catastrophizing is a type of negative self-talk that involves imagining the worst possible outcome of a situation and believing that it is inevitable or unavoidable. This is when you think that something is far worse than it actually is.
- I’m not good enough. Everyone else is better than me.
- I’m no good at this.
- I knew I would mess this up.
- That person is better than me.
- “If you did that, you’d have done it better than me.”
- “I failed one test, so I will fail the whole course and never graduate.”
- “My partner didn’t answer my call, so they must be cheating on me or in danger.”
- “I made a mistake at work, so I will get fired and never find another job.”
- “I have a headache, so it must be a sign of a serious illness or a brain tumor.”
- “I didn’t get invited to the party, so everyone hates me and I have no friends.”
6. Discounting the Positive:
Negative self-talk can come in many forms. But here are some common examples of what discounting the positive looks like:
- “I got a compliment but it probably doesn’t mean much.”
- “I did well on this project, but I could’ve done better.”
- “Even though I got an A on the project, it was because the instructor liked me and not because I actually did well.”
- “I made it to the meeting on time today, but it’s only because I left extra early.”
- “I lost five pounds, but that’s no big deal since I used to weigh less before.”
- “I got a job promotion, but someone else was more qualified for it than me.”
- “I have a lot of friends, but they don’t really care about me anyway.”
- “My partner said something nice about me today, but he doesn’t really mean it.”
- “My presentation went well, but I think people just clapped because that’s what you do after a presentation is over.”
- “Even though everyone complimented my new outfit today, something must be wrong with it if no one said anything bad about it.”
This is when you call yourself names, like “stupid” or “ugly”.
- “I’m not worthy.” – Everyone has worth/period. Even if you don’t see it or believe it right now, recognize that everyone deserves respect and kindness, including yourself.
- “I’m stupid/incompetent.” – You’re not stupid or incompetent; you just haven’t developed the skill set needed to do certain tasks yet. Try treating yourself like you would treat a child trying to learn something for the first time with patience, leeway, understanding an,d encouragement.
- “I’m overwhelmed/not enough.” – When you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you’re not enough, remind yourself that no one has everything figured out all the time and that there’s so much help available including understanding friends and family members who are there for support when you need it most.
- “I’m clumsy/awkward.” – We all stumble over our words or misjudge steps sometimes; nobody is perfect in every situation, but try to recognize the moments when you do something well rather than harp on your “clumsiness” or “awkwardness”.
- “I’m fat/ugly.” – Don’t be so hard on yourself; beauty standards change over time and everybody has flaws—embrace your unique self instead of putting yourself down because of a few perceived imperfections that don’t take.
- I’m a loser.
- “I’m a burden to others.”
- “I’m so stupid.”
8. Magnification or Minimization:
One bad thought can snowball into a whole avalanche of negative self-talk. We may not even realize it, but it’s happening.
Let’s look closely at some forms of magnification and minimization self-talk. Magnification means exaggerating the impact or importance of an event and minimization means downplaying its impact or importance.
- Believing that one misstep or mistake defines you as a person.
- Blaming yourself for all that goes wrong, even if it’s out of your control.
- Interpreting one criticism as proof that you’re worthless.
- Focusing on one skill you don’t excel at rather than all the others you do have in abundance.
- Believing that failure makes you a total failure in life, regardless of any success in other areas of your life, past or present.
- Seeing only the worst aspects of any situation and nothing good ever comes out of them (also known as catastrophizing).
- Thinking only about how far away you are from achieving something, instead of how much progress you have made since starting out on the journey.
- Believing that a compliment isn’t deserved or earned and brushing it off completely rather than proudly accepting it for what it is—a sign that someone acknowledges your efforts and hard work and appreciates them genuinely!
- Feeling like successes don’t really matter because they come too easily to you when compared to others who struggle more than yourself (also known as Imposter Syndrome).
- It’s not my fault.
9. Should Statements:
This is when you put unrealistically high expectations on yourself and then feel guilty or disappointed when you can’t meet them.
- I should be able to do this without any fear
- I should never make mistakes
- I should always be happy and positive
- I should have done better
- I should not feel this way
- I should be more successful by now.
- I should never make mistakes.
- I should always please others.
- I should look like a model.
- I should feel happy all the time.
10. All-or-Nothing Thinking:
This type of negative self-talk is when we see things in black and white, there’s no middle ground. We see ourselves as either all good or all bad.
- I’ll never be good enough
- I can’t afford it
- “It’s just going to hurt; I might as well not try.”
- “I can’t do anything right.”
- If I make a mistake, I’m a failure.
- If I don’t get an A on the test, I’m stupid.
- If I’m not perfect, I’m worthless.
- If someone disagrees with me, they hate me.
- If I’m not happy, I’m depressed.
11. Emotional Reasoning:
This is when you assume that your negative emotions are proof that something is true, even if there’s no evidence to support it.
When it comes to negative self-talk, one of the most common methods is emotional reasoning. This means believing that your emotions denote an absolute truth: if you feel bad, then things must be bad. It might sound logical, but the truth is often more complex. Here are 10 examples of emotional reasoning negative self-talk:
- “I feel incompetent, so I must be a failure.”
- “I made a mistake, so I’m terrible at my job.”
- “I feel like a burden, so obviously nobody wants me around.”
- “I feel embarrassed about my mistake, so I must be worthless.”
- “I’m feeling overwhelmed and stressed now, so it’ll never get better.”
- “I felt left out in that situation earlier, so nobody likes me.”
- “I feel inadequate around her; she’s better than me in every way.”
- “I have this feeling inside me that everyone hates me, they probably do.”
- “Maybe I’m just not cut out for this job; it feels too hard to handle.”
- “No matter what I do it feels like it’s never enough; so what’s the point?”
Emotional reasoning can be insidious and lead to unhealthy cycles of self-doubt and anxiety if left unchecked; but the truth is that our emotions are not necessarily indicative of reality. Especially when they come from negative self-talk! Taking conscious stock of those moments can help you challenge them in order to lead a more positive life overall.
12. Mental Filter
One type of negative self-talk that many of us are guilty of is mental filter. It is when you focus exclusively on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore the positive ones. You only pay attention to the negative details, while disregarding any positive feedback or accomplishments. Here are 10 examples of this common form of negative self-talk:
- “I’ll never finish this project, I’m so behind!”
- “I can’t believe I messed up that presentation”
- “I’ll never find someone to love me”
- “I ordered the wrong thing at the restaurant again, how embarrassing!”
- “My birthday party wasn’t as fun as my friends’ parties”
- “This is all my fault, I’m so stupid”
- “That person doesn’t like me at all, why did I even try?”
- “My boss hates everything I do”
- “No matter what I do, it’s never good enough”
- “I’m too old/young/inexperienced for this job”
It can be difficult to take a step back and challenge these thoughts when you’re in the thick of it, but it’s important to stop negative self-talk before it can take hold and become a bigger issue. Taking a few moments to reflect and consider solutions instead can help you break out of unproductive mental cycles and work towards achieving your goals with confidence!
In this blog post, we have discussed four types of negative self talk: personalizing, catastrophizing, filtering and polarizing. We have also seen how they can affect our mood, self-esteem and behavior. Negative self talk can be a habit that is hard to break, but with awareness and practice, we can challenge and replace it with more positive and realistic thoughts. Remember, you are not your thoughts, and you can choose how to respond to them. Thank you for reading and I hope you found this post helpful.
- Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress By Mayo Clinic Staff from Mayoclinic.org
- 4 Types of Negative Self-Talk to Stop Right Now Written by Awilda Rivera from lifehack.org
- Identifying Negative Automatic Thought Patterns From research by Harvard university from sdlab.fas.harvard.edu
- The Toxic Effects of Negative Self-Talk By Elizabeth Scott, PhD (2022) from verywellmind.com
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