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3 steps to overcoming self-negative talk

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

You wake up in the morning, brush your teeth and look in the mirror. What do you see? Do you like what you see? Or do you spend the next five minutes poking, prodding, and criticising what is looking back at you?

Some of us are our own worst critics, we are overly tough on ourselves to the point where it can affect our mood, energy level, and ability to function normally.

Self-criticism can bring “yes, but” into our lives which can be a very negative thought process. For instance “It’s great that I lost weight but I’m bound to put it all back on again!” You can find yourself focusing on the negatives of a situation and not looking for the positives. So let’s look at some things we can do to change our mindset.

1. First of all, like anything, recognising there is a problem is the first step. Try and notice yourself having these negative thoughts, is there a particular scenario that causes them? Are you particularly more negative about one aspect of your life than another?

2. Try and identify where these negative thoughts stem from. For instance, were you teased at school for being overweight? So even though you have lost the weight your thoughts still revert back to the time when you hadn’t.

Wounds and scars from our past affect our future. We need to learn how to recognise this and deal with it. A lot of the time negative self-talk can also be a defence mechanism. The old saying “Expect the worst and you won’t be disappointed” applies to this. It’s a way of avoiding disappointment, hurt, or failure. We need to break this habit!

3. CBT or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a form of therapy that I sometimes use with a client that gives you an understanding of an experience, event, or idea from a different point of view. If you tend to look at things negatively you will not tend to see the positive side. So you’ve lost some weight and that’s great but your head keeps telling you that you will put it all back on again, whereas you need to train your brain to tell yourself that it’s great that you’ve lost the weight, and well done you! If you dwell on the fact you may put it back on you are more likely to as your self-esteem will become low and that could lead to comfort eating!

Let me help you to pause and pay attention to what kind of things you say to yourself. Then use the three-step technique to replace those negative thoughts with positive ones. It may not be easy and we can work on it together, but it can be done and then the morning look in the mirror will not be such an unpleasant one!

Jimi D Katsis is a Bristol based consultant psychotherapist at specialising in recovery from trauma, depression, and anxiety

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