NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Are You Sabotaging Yourself With Negative Self Talk?

Negative self talk can become so automatic and persistent that you don't even realize that you're sabotaging your own efforts by giving yourself negative messages.  When negative self talk becomes so habitual, the more you engage in it, the more you reinforce this negativity.

Are You Sabotaging Yourself With Negative Self Talk?

What is Negative Self Talk?
Everyone has his or her own version of negative self talk.

Some people compare themselves to others unfavorably to others and then tell themselves that that they could never measure up to these other people.

Here are some examples:
  • Comparing yourself to pictures of models in magazines and then berating yourself for being overweight or being as attractive as the models
  • Comparing how much money you make to other people's high income, and telling yourself that you'll never have financial success
  • Comparing other people's success and telling yourself that you'll never amount to anything
Aside from comparing yourself unfavorably to others, there are many other kinds of negative self talk that can act as an saboteur:
  • Criticizing yourself when your efforts don't bring success immediately rather than trying again
  • Telling yourself that you're unlovable or worthless
  • Telling yourself that you're stupid
And so on

Where Does This Negative Self Talk Come From?
For many people, negative self talk starts in their family of origin.  If they had a critical parent when they were growing up, they internalized these negative messages.  Then, as adults, they continued to give themselves the same messages--often without even realizing it.

How Can You Change Negative Self Talk?
  • Becoming More Self Reflective and Aware
The first step to changing negative self talk is to become aware that you're doing it.   In order to become more aware, you need to become more self reflective and begin to pay attention to your internal self talk.

Do you offer yourself encouragement or discouragement?

Step back and observe yourself.

If you realize that you've developed a persistent habit of being self critical, you need to also be aware that this habit is an obstacle in your path.
  • Admitting to Yourself that Your Negative Self Talk is a Problem
Once you've become aware of your problem, the next step is to start making the connection between your negative self talk and the consequences that it has had in your life.

While external factors might play a role in your feeling stuck, in order to change, you need to also admit to yourself that you're sabotaging yourself.
  • Taking Action to Change
Once you've become aware and admit to yourself that your persistent negative self talk has become an obstacle for you, you need to take action to change.  Awareness alone, although a very important first step, isn't enough.

Begin to challenge yourself, whenever you engage in negative self talk, as if you were someone else questioning your own negativity.  Ask yourself for objective evidence that what you're telling yourself is true.  Engage in your own internal debate.

Ask yourself what a good friend, who knows you well, might tell you.

"Act as if" the negative self talk isn't true.  So, for instance, if you're telling yourself that you'll never be able to complete a project for work, acknowledge that this is how you're feeling, but put that aside and act as if you can.

In my opinion, "acting as if" is different from "fake it 'til you make it" because by"acting as if," you'll eventual discover that you're not faking it at all--you're really doing it.

By "acting as if," you're opening yourself up to new possibilities both within yourself as well as in external your world.

Getting Help in Therapy
If these tips for overcoming negative self talk don't work for you, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional.

For many people, negative self talk is linked to childhood trauma where there was emotional and/or physical abuse.  As a result, the trauma keeps getting triggered in their lives now as an adult and often shows up in negative self talk.

There are licensed psychotherapists who specialize in providing therapy to overcome trauma, and finding a therapist with expertise in trauma can help you to work through the trauma and also help you to stop engaging in negative self talk.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples, and one of my specialties is helping clients to overcome the effects of trauma.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.