Okay, from time to time you might hear yourself talking in your mind. For the most part, you might be simply talking out the things you need to get done or a reminder like, “Oh yeah, I need to ask my dad about the car on Friday night.” This kind of self-talk is natural and very normal.
Sometimes, self-talk can get a little mean. You might start to hear yourself say things like, “You’re such an idiot. What did you say that for?” And you might not feel very good about saying this to yourself. Or you might be so used to negative self-talk you might start to think that others are thinking the same thing. And that can start to negatively impact your family relationships and friendships.
In fact, most people today have some form of negative thinking. Unhealthy thinking can sometimes develop as a result of not knowing other ways to cope with challenging circumstances. Frequently, negative thinking patterns develop as a response to difficult experiences we have had in life. However, when those challenging experiences are over, it’s hard to let go of that thinking pattern. Instead, those thoughts persist and continue to create challenging inner experiences.
Also, many teens to have some form of self-criticism or self-judgment. But that doesn’t make it okay! If you want to feel good about yourself, reach your goals, and have healthy relationships with others, learn to change your negative self-talk into positive statements about yourself.
Here are a few ways to change your negative self talk:
Use a thought diary. It’s a documentation tool for monitoring feelings of anxiety, fear, hurt, anger, shame, guilt, or sadness. Along with noting when and where these feelings were experienced, you can also write down the associated thought you had with that feeling, in a particular situation. Reflecting on the self-talk you had during a specific situation can facilitate finding those thoughts that are harmful and self-defeating. Without this sort of reflection, these damaging thoughts might go unnoticed, and cultivating this sort of awareness is practically essential in order change any negative thinking.
Try changing your thought right in the middle of having one. Once a thought is found it can be replaced with a thought that is more life affirming and self-loving. It can be hard to change a thought right while you’re having it. It’s going to take practice. However, if you’re willing to use a thought diary, as suggested above, you can start to identify common patterns in your thinking. You might notice that you’re often thinking to yourself, “You never get it right.” If you notice that pattern, you can then learn to turn it around. You can then stop yourself and replace it with something like “I may not get it right all the time, but I try my best and I do get it right occasionally.”
Think about your goals and desires. You might notice right away that thinking negatively can get in the way of reaching the goals you have for yourself. Thinking about your future can be a direct motivation for exploring and changing your thoughts. For instance, think about how you might feel when you reach your goals compared to how you feel when you experience yourself thinking, “I’m such a loser”. The two simply don’t go hand in hand. Yet, when you can change your negative self talk to match your goals, you’re more likely to feel confident and proud of who you are.
By examining your thoughts and changing the negative ones, you can almost immediately change your mood and behavior. You can feel stronger, more confident, and feel good about your life.