Strategies to Make Your Self-Talk More Constructive

We all talk to ourselves—sometimes out loud, but mostly in our own head. While the voice in our head often goes untracked, it has a significant impact on our wellbeing, confidence and ability to bounce back from painful life experiences. What does the voice in your head usually sound like?

We’ve evolved to have a bias towards negativity for survival purposes. Even though the intention of the voice in our head is usually to protect us, our self-talk can often do more harm than good—keeping us from pursuing goals, lowering our self-esteem and making emotional wounds worse. The good news is that, with practice, we can turn crippling self-talk into more constructive conversations with ourselves.

Read on for strategies to bring more attention to your self-talk and to make it more productive.

1. Acknowledge what you’re saying to yourself:

  • Awareness is an important first step that allows us to notice our tone and word choices

  • Are the things you’re saying destructive or constructive? (Do they make you feel better or worse?)

What we often notice when we listen to the voice in our head is that we aren’t very kind to ourselves. Consider what you would say to a friend in a similar situation and notice if it sounds different or similar to what you say to yourself.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to treat ourselves like a friend and forcing ourselves to feel different sometimes backfires. Melody Wilding suggests the following two tactics to reframe negative self talk:

2. Use release statements:

  • When you notice that you’re beating yourself up, you can use statements like “It’s okay for me to be disappointed” or “I forgive myself for not finishing on time”. These statements allow us to halt unproductive self-talk and frees us up to consider solutions.

3. Use self-inquiry instead of criticizing statements:

  • Asking questions instead of issuing criticizing statements allows us to meet destructive thoughts with curiosity instead of fear. We’re able to consider other possibilities and create room for problem solving

  • For example, if you notice yourself saying, “I’m not good enough to get this done”, you can ask yourself questions like:

    • Have I done something similar before?

    • What’s the worst that can happen?

    • How can I get help or make myself more prepared?

    • What will it take for me to do this well?

4. Be intentional about forming habits that make you feel good:

In addition to the reframing strategies listed above, we can also be proactive about practicing activities that plant seeds for constructive self-talk. Here are some suggestions you can try:

  • Gratitude: Take time during your day to write down things you’re grateful for.

  • Daily Success Review: At the end of the day, write down small wins/things you’re proud of from the day.

  • Mindful Awareness: Consider something you do everyday. Perhaps using a computer or eating food. Take a moment to acknowledge all of your abilities and the actions of others that made those experiences possible.

  • Friendly Note: Write a note to yourself at the end of each day speaking to yourself as if you were a caring friend.

These exercises all foster connections that make it easier for us to notice more things to feel good about.

Overall, it’s helpful to remember that we aren’t perfect. Notice the progress that you’re making with goals and with your self talk and allow yourself to figure out what works best for you.

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