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How to Stop Negative Self-Talk

by Steve Rizzo
negative self talk - head in hands statue

If there is anything that can keep you from being productive and partaking in the abundance that life has to offer, it’s negative self-talk. This is the type of talk, and thoughts, that create or reinforce existing subconscious beliefs that will keep you from what you desire. If you want to enjoy life the way you should, you’ll need to learn how to stop this type of talk for good.

negative self talk - head in hands statue

Do You Suffer From Negative Self-Talk?

If you have a tendency to believe that a tough situation is worse than what it is, it’s negative self-talk. If you’re wondering why you’re not enjoying the journey of your life, it’s negative self-talk. And if you find yourself more often in a state of unhappiness than happiness, it could very well be because of chronic negative self-talk.

Negative self-talk comes from relating your current situation with some past experience. If you’ve tried to succeed at something and haven’t been able to shake off past failures, or have been afraid of being unable to match the previous levels of success you’ve achieved, you’ve got to change your thought process.

Related: 7 Benefits of Positive Thinking

Self-Awareness is the First Step

The good news is, if you can recognize your self-talk for what it really is—nothing more than unnecessary baggage from your past that you carry into the present by way of your own thinking—then you can choose to gradually shift your way of thinking to create thoughts, words, and beliefs that will make you feel better and put you in a better position to achieve success.

The thing to understand about negative self-talk is that it reflects your internalized negative feelings about yourself rather than the truth. In other words, just because you feel it doesn’t make it true.

Your subconscious mind does not distinguish between true or false. It doesn’t make judgments or have the ability to have an opinion. It simply takes what is believed to be true– in the case of self-talk this would be doubt and fear—and it makes it feel real. In turn, this “truth” is compounded and reinforced and solidifies your belief and you will receive a negative result.

How to Stop Negative Self-Talk

Fortunately, you can prevent yourself from getting caught up in this negative thinking. It helps that in the morning you allow your first thoughts to be positive and if a negative thought slips in that you recognize it before it snowballs out of control. That one negative thought can take an otherwise promising day and blow it to pieces.

It’s normal to have negative thoughts every now and but once you realize what’s going on, focus on positive thoughts to drown out the negative. Eventually, your mood will follow and you’ll be able to get back on track.

Related: 5 Steps to Personal Growth and Development

Researchers say we have more than 60,000 thoughts per day so being present to monitor these thoughts is a daunting task. So rather than trying to master your thoughts try this simple practice: view your feelings as an emotional warning system. When you’re feeling good you must be having good thoughts, and when you’re feeling bad you must be having bad thoughts. Simple.

So when you’re feeling lousy, ask yourself what bad feelings am I having? At that point you can change your thoughts. And when you change your thoughts, you change the way you feel, and only then can you change your life experience.

Related: The Power of Positive Thinking

The Takeaway

The bottom line is this: the power of your thoughts and beliefs are immense. They can lift you up and take you to the highest highs or drag you down to the lowest lows.  The greatest leaders and most famous entertainers and athletes exercise healthy habits of thinking that springboard them into a fulfilling and prosperous life, and so can you!


steve rizzoSteve Rizzo is a personal development expert and author of Get Your SHIFT Together: How to Think, Laugh, and Enjoy Your Way to Success in Business and in Life. He has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, and the Oprah and Friends Radio Network, as well as his own PBS special, “Becoming a Humor Being.” Prior to his speaking career, Steve was a headline standup comedian, sharing the stage with comic greats, such as Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Eddie Murphy, and Rodney Dangerfield, among others.

Featured photo by Alex E. Proimos

Originally published 3/11/2013 and updated 4/10/14. 

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Suzanne May 1, 2014 - 8:01 pm

Hi Steve,

Thank you for posting this article. Healthy self-talk is so important to our overall emotional wellbeing! Recognizing that those negative thoughts aren’t “true” is the first step to stopping it. The best way to keep them from coming up at all is to release the unconscious beliefs that are underneath.

Dennis August 3, 2013 - 4:20 am

The best thing I ever did was to eliminate the words “worthless” and “pathetic” from my internal vocabulary.

To Joel: Negative self talk is more about how you perceive a situation than it is true or not true. You can perceive setbacks positively, as a challenge rather than a roadblock. If you’re unsuccessful at something you try, it’s not because you’re a failure or a bad person, it’s just that you whatever strategy you used wasn’t the right one for this case. Look at it as a learning experience and try again – this is positive self talk; kicking yourself and thinking that you’re a failure, or thinking that you won’t ever succeed is negative self talk.

beth June 1, 2013 - 12:18 pm

Thank you very much for this enlightening article, which came across my path at an extremely perfect moment. It caused me to reflect more deeply than ever before as to the origins of my negative self-talk habits. Undoing literally decades of habitually tearing myself down will of course take time, but I feel greater clarity and motivated to start a new way of thinking. Thank you again.

Al April 30, 2013 - 7:03 pm

This is so true – I have recently completed a 9 week program that has completely changed my life. Negative self talk comes about as a result of our feelings and emotions. These come from our unconscious mind and are formed as a result of thoughts and ideas in our conscious mind, as well as our actions and behaviours(ie what we do with our body). The theory goes that only way to change what goes on in the unconscious mind is to change either our thoughts or our actions… well it works! For years I have been a negative self-talker, and this knowledge has made a huge difference.

Joel April 27, 2013 - 7:39 am

What about when the negative self talk is true? You’re supposed to lie to yourself?

Sean August 16, 2013 - 6:59 am

No No hehe 🙂

It is not lying to yourself friend, it is you learning to conquer the negativity of the thought process out and replace it ‘just like you would do with a bad habit with a good habit’ of encouragement and affirmation within yourself that you have the power that you are in control and that you are self aware of the constructive power of positive self thought.

It is not lying to yourself 🙂
You cannot willingly lye to yourself unless you are simply unaware that you are deliberately doing so. You can however(and allot of people do) lye to yourself willingly aware that you are, simply because you accept yourself to do so, but in this case… You will most definitely feel guilt or regret which will force you to feel anxiety or unhappiness or self-anger or even depression.. Or all of these kinds of negative emotions as a result.

Be good to yourself, be positive as much as you can be, and i promise you, it will get easier, just don’t think you will become super-human and conquer negative thought from your life, because you will never achieve such a dreadful thing fortunately. That is the power your negative thought can actually bring you to achieve and reach a point in your life when you are ready too, to find your center and embrace and accept yourself and all that comes with you.

I hope this helps my friend.
Life is a path that you pave.

Here is a little poem that i wrote for myself 🙂 Maybe it can help you reinforce and remind you believe in yourself that in time, patience, practice and resolution.. that you will reach this point, i can guarantee it in fact!

A negative mind, cannot grow.
A positive mind, will sow.
And Fruit will soon grow.
With a nurturing flow.

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