“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
Despite age-old idioms, the voices around us have a way of sticking to our bones. What people say, the way they say it and how we feel when they do can build up or chip away at our confidence. When people we love say positive things about us, we glow—we want to be positive too. If they say negative things, we dim ourselves and the negative voices seem to stay with us longer. We can be 50 years old and still hear the judging voice of our mother, or the echoes of self-doubt left by a relationship from 20 years ago.
Over time, these voices seem to imprint, and eventually, those negative words come from inside too. When it’s our own inner voice dimming our light, it affects more than our confidence. If your negative self-talk is dimming your heart and chipping your soul, keep reading for gentle guidance on how to overcome and glow.
Confront the negative voice directly
When the only thoughts in our minds are negative or hurtful, it can feel challenging to find a stopping point. It’s easy to lose our way of balanced thinking, especially in recovery, when falling down that spiral of negativity that so easily consumes our hope.
Instead of spending energy warring with the voice and allowing it to make us feel certain ways, take a moment to address the voice directly.
Who are you?
This question seems so simple, and it is. But how often have we stopped to question the authority of the voice trying to undercut your power, much less to ask its identity or purpose?
- Who are you, we ask, to tell me these things?
- Whose voice are you repeating from my past?
- Who are you to make me feel bad?
- Who are you to threaten my peace?
- Who are you, and what makes you think you have power over me?
The power of negative self-talk often comes from the voices of the past we’ve internalized. It’s rooted inside of our ego, tailor-made using words designed to injure. When we confront our ego and challenge its power, we can make it falter. By asking who it is—whose voice it’s stuck repeating—we can make headway in loosening the grip of the words it feeds us.
You can’t talk to my friend that way
Take a moment and consider the negative thoughts that have taken root in your mind. Would you say those things to your closest friend? Honestly, would you tell them to someone you tolerate? Some of the things I think I wouldn’t even say to my worst enemy. So why am I getting away with saying them to myself?
The next time you find yourself thinking or (even more vital) believing the negative self-talk that narrates your experiences, refuse to go along with it. When you speak up, tell those negative words that you can’t talk to my friend that way. It may feel uncomfortable, but you are a good friend to your loved ones. It is high time to start being a good friend to yourself. If the things you’re thinking aren’t things you’d let someone say to your friends, don’t let them fly in your own head either.
Find little phrases to help empower the light that those negative thoughts try to steal away. Using short, easy-to-recall phrases to reinforce your power is an internal tool that requires no additional support to use. Over time, those mantras can become reflexive, so if you don’t believe them at first, that’s okay. Don’t quit- keep repeating the things that you’ve found to let the light in.
Try phrases like:
- I am enough
- I am capable
- I’m in control
Reinforcing the positive traits that create the groundwork for believing in yourself is a fantastic way to undermine that negative self-talk now and begin to extinguish its recurrence as time goes on.
Retrain your brain
Speaking kindly to yourself may feel difficult and unnatural at first. Especially if you are used to being your own worst critic, making your way into spaces where you offer yourself support may feel foreign. It may even feel hopeless, but the effort to reprogram your thoughts can change not just your mind but legitimately rewire your brain.
By speaking kindly to yourself, you can go further than just retraining your brain to think kind thoughts. You can actively shape your mind to bypass the impulse to offer criticism instead of support and create room for more love and confidence in the space your negative self-talk once took up.
There is no single reason we develop habits that criticize our worth and capability. There is, however, one single truth at the root of dispelling their power: you are deserving of kind words and complete faith in your abilities. Whether you’re learning a new skill or working toward recovery, you are worthy of support, and we are here to help you find it inside your thoughts and out in the world.