We all have an inner critic. Sometimes it can help us but, when this voice in our head gets too loud, it can affect our well-being. We call this “negative self talk.”
Here’s how you can flip the script, quiet your inner critic, and aim for positivity.
Negative Effects of Negative Self Talk
If we’re constantly berating ourselves for simple mistakes, it can have huge consequences on the quality of our lives. In terms of your fitness goals, this negative self talk both kills your motivation and leads to poor performance.
It’s hard enough to stay motivated on a good day, let alone when you’re constantly thinking of yourself as a failure. It’s one thing to notice that you’re feeling frustrated with yourself for not following through on a commitment, but it’s another thing to beat yourself up for something you can easily fix.
Negative self talk also affects performance. There’s a psychological phenomenon called a self-fulfilling prophecy where your thoughts manifest themselves. It sounds far-fetched but, for some reason, we’d rather live out our negative thoughts than admit we might’ve been wrong for being so negative.
For example, if we already had the thought that we’re going to be too tired to exercise, our brains tend to fulfill that preconception versus going against what has already been imagined.
We’d rather say, “I told you so,” even to ourselves. It’s not ideal, but it’s a thing. So, negative self talk can be truly damaging for that reason.
How to Avoid Negative Self Talk
The good news is, we don’t have to always listen to our inner critic. It won’t be easy, but there are some powerful ways to avoid negative self talk:
- Notice your thoughts. Sometimes, our negative self talk runs wild, simply because we didn’t take a moment to notice it. When we finally do, it might be too late and we find ourselves drowning in a sea of doubt. Instead, notice your thoughts as they come, figure out what happened (you woke up late) and what your inner critic had to say (I’m lazy).
- Separate yourself from those thoughts. Once you’ve noticed your negative self talk, separate yourself from what it had to say. Remember, you are not your behavior. So, even if you’re feeling embarrassed for skipping a workout, refrain from letting that decision define who you are.
- Talk back to your inner critic. Yes - out loud. Now that you’re better at noticing your negative self talk, once you hear it start to get louder, talk back. “No, that’s not actually true.” “Be quiet, this isn’t helping.” “Calm down, you’re simply tired.” You’ll find that talking back to your inner critic can help you avoid negative self talk.
Flipping the Script Toward Positivity
In addition to avoiding negative self talk, we should also be encouraging our inner critic to embrace words of encouragement. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend, even if you have something constructive to offer.
“You skipped another workout but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You’re human! What can we do tomorrow to make sure we get it done?”
“Although your goal was to avoid sugar, you decided to order dessert last night. It tasted great but now you’re feeling a little sluggish. No worries! What might we try next time to avoid this feeling?”
When we encourage positive self talk, we notice the good things about our behavior (not just the bad) and think about the tools we can use to do better. That way, we’re far more likely to take steps toward a healthier version of ourselves without falling into a pit of despair.
It’s normal to have negative thoughts now and then. Challenging yourself to do better every day can certainly be encouraging at times. But when the negative thoughts take over and you feel like even the smallest mistakes become the biggest deals, it’s time to flip the script!
How do you manage negative self talk?