How to Challenge and Move Past Negative Self-Talk

We all engage in self-talk. There is a story about us that we tell ourselves every day. And all of us also experience setbacks and disappointments. For some of us, our setbacks turn into negative self-talk. Long term, this negative self-talk becomes destructive and harmful to our personal goals and our wellbeing.

Taking a moment to be aware of your self-talk allows you to take control of it when it moves in a bad direction. That allows you to make a purposeful change that moves you away from a victim mindset to a player mindset. It also moves you toward a state of mind anchored in happiness.

Covid and Negative Self-Talk

Through many recent interactions, I noticed people struggling with uncertainty, disappointment, and rejection. I see frustration and helplessness around me as we move from a Delta Covid crisis into a new Omicron Covid crisis. And I see the struggles with living in a hybrid work world. Offices are kinda open, but lots of people still live in a remote virtual interaction.

Remote interactions can be fulfilling, but they are limiting. It’s easy to fall into an us-vs.-them mindset as you lose your connection to what other people (especially company leaders) are doing beyond your virtual interactions. Trust erodes and, in the gap and uncertainty, it is easy to create negative stories that feed anxieties. As people experience disappointments, I see this manifesting itself in behavior strongly related to negative self-talk.

Our self-talk has huge implications for how we feel about ourselves and move through the world. Positive self-talk allows us to accept and grow from challenges, to see a world filled with wonder and hope. With negative self-talk comes doubt, which can be a setup for defeat.

We do have a choice in how we handle the setbacks we experience. If we are not paying attention to ourselves, they have the power to feed negative self-talk through feelings of frustration and doubt. Or they have the power to make us grow, learn more about ourselves, and understand what it takes for us to be happy.

Experiencing Negative Self-Talk

You know what negative self-talk looks like. As humans, we’ve all experienced it. Doubts about ourselves, our value and self worth, and even imposter syndrome are all connected here.

I believe negative self-talk and living a victim mentality are closely connected. Live in negative self-talk too long and it will feed itself. It creates a destructive circle that moves us into a victim mindset.

Shawn Crowley wrote about the difference between the Victim and Player mindset. The victim mindset focuses on things we feel we cannot change, things that happen to us that we believe have a negative impact. The different mindset is that of a player. The player recognizes that there are forces at work they don’t have control over except how they feel and the actions they take based on their feelings.

The player mindset is one that moves us in a direction that provides a positive meaning to our work, our relationships, and how we feel about ourselves.

Handling Rejection and Disappointment

I recently was watching Daniel Pink’s masterclass series on To Sell is Human with a colleague as part of her sales training. He has an excellent segment on Buoyancy: Develop a Resilient Mindset in the context of dealing with rejection as a salesperson.

I believe what he shares there can apply to how you deal with your negative self-talk. The key idea Daniel shares is related to rejection. As human beings, it is devastating to us. What really matters is the story you tell yourself around your failures.

People who tell the right story to themselves are resilient and can move past rejection. And, interestingly enough, all of this is in alignment with mindfulness practices that have gotten lots of attention.

Challenging Your Negative Self-Talk

First, it is important to take a moment of self-reflection. How are you feeling about an event that just occurred? What self-talk are you giving yourself? How are you explaining what happened to you?

Daniel calls this your Explanatory Style and states that many of us take this in a direction that is debilitating and inaccurate. He then describes the three P’s: Personal, Pervasive, and Permanent.

When we are rejected or disappointed, we tend to say, “It’s all my fault. I did something wrong.” We make it personal. He states that most likely this is inaccurate, and you need to look for ways it is not personal.

We may also say something like, “This always happens to me.” That makes it permanent, and that’s simply not true. There have been moments when things went well for you.

Finally, we might say, “This is going to ruin everything.” This is the ultimate failure we feel sometimes. Most things don’t ruin everything, so it’s important to check yourself here.

So, the next time you start having negative self-talk, ask yourself, is it:

  • Personal (probably not)?
  • Pervasive (no)?
  • Permanent (nothing ever is)?
  • Finding Your Resilience

    Negative self-talk tricks us into thinking we are bad or a setback is permanent. Or, that it is some reflection of our character. And this can move us into a victim mindset. This limits our thinking and our ability to help others and lessens who we are. A healthier approach is to step back from the situation and challenge our self-talk with the three P’s. It’s important to take control of our self-talk and move in the direction of a player mindset. Focus on acceptance, gratitude, and hope for the future. The biggest challenges we face are inside of us, and mastering our self-talk will lead to a happier you.