Strategies for Stopping Negative Self-Talk
You, like me, were probably taught growing up to speak kindly and positively about others. My mother drummed this lesson into me as a teenager, a principle that I then passed on to my children: “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”
Most of the time, it’s fairly easy to treat others with kindness. However, you may often struggle to apply the same courtesy to yourself.
Therein lies the crux of the problem: your inner critic. It’s that negative voice inside that can’t wait to tear you down and reminds you that you will never measure up.
The good news? You have the power to stop your negative self-talk.
Why is this necessary, especially for business leaders? Because the journey to success is far from smooth sailing. The challenging dynamics of being an entrepreneur and leader — combined with the heavy expectations you place on yourself — create a perfect storm.
You’re programmed to work hard and fight for what you want, pushing through obstacles to attain your goals. Yet when failure inevitably strikes, you transform into your own worst enemy, bashing yourself with unforgiving criticism.
Don’t Hold Back
The voice of the inner critic — often amplified in times of stress and failure — speaks loudly within you. Psychologists label this as ‘automatic negative thoughts’ (ANTs). From ‘all-or-nothing thinking’ to ‘fortune-telling,’ these patterns feed self-doubt and perpetuate a destructive cycle.
I know this from personal experience. During a particularly difficult period, I battled against my own inner critic, which held me responsible for a failed marriage and predicted a bleak future.
However, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to mute the inner critic, and it starts with understanding one simple truth: Every individual, regardless of their success or happiness, struggles with negative self-talk. It’s a universal struggle, not an isolated one.
Giving power to negative thinking and creating destructive narratives only hinders your progress. The key isn’t to suppress these thoughts, but to transform the way you engage with them.
Tame Your Inner Critic
To help you navigate these turbulent waters, here are seven steps to eventually conquer your inner critic:
1. Pay Attention: Tune into your self-talk. Notice the patterns and the nature of your thoughts, whether they are supportive or harmful.
2. Keep a Log: Just as you would record your food intake to create successful dietary habits, keep a thoughts journal to assess the frequency and severity of your negative self-talk.
3. Confront your Critic: Analyze your negative thoughts and challenge them with logic. Redirect ‘fortune-telling’ thoughts with proactive plans.
4. Release Negative Thoughts: Recognize your negative thoughts, but know that they can be the product of an overactive mind. Choose to let them go rather than dwelling on them.
5 Affirm Yourself: Replace self-criticism with positive affirmations. View failure not as a personal shortcoming, but as an opportunity for growth.
6. Meditate: Incorporate meditation into your daily routine. This practice can help refocus your attention, enabling you to let go of intrusive thoughts.
7. Be your own Best Friend: Treat yourself with the same compassion you would extend to a dear friend. Respond to your inner critic with kindness and encouragement.
It takes a commitment to see change and win against your inner critic. Choose to eliminate negative self-talk and replace it with positivity. Practice this consciously every day, and with time, you will find the voice of your inner critic fading.
Janelle Bruland, CBSE, is the founder of MSNW Group, LLC and CEO of Legacy Leader LLC. She is also a best-selling author, speaker, and high-performance coach who inspires others to live impactful and successful lives. Bruland authored the award-winning book, The Success Lie: 5 Simple Truths to Overcome Overwhelm and Achieve Peace of Mind.