Friday, April 5, 2013

What is Self-Talk and Negative Self-Talk

Sorry I’ve been a little absent this week. So much going on to tell you about! Excellent things!

I’m going to post quite a lot of excellent resources to help us Challenge our negative self-talk; recognize common errors in our negative thinking patterns; understanding the link between thinking and feeling. All courtesy of REACHOUT.COM (Get Through Tough Times). I’ll do this in 3 different posts but I’ll post them all today and link them all together so they’re easy to read through. 

The link between thinking and feeling

Have you ever worried about something that upset you for a few days, only to realize that if you change how you think about the problem, you can start to feel better?

Changing the way you think will change the way you feel

Things go wrong at times. People let us down. We make mistakes and can become disappointed. Whether we get upset about it and how upset we become depends largely on the way we think about those situations. Sometimes we can make ourselves feel pretty miserable even when our situation is not that bad, simply by thinking in a negative, self-defeating way.

What is self-talk?

As we go about our daily lives, we constantly think about and interpret the situations we find ourselves in. It is like we have an internal voice that determines how we perceive every situation. We call this inner voice our “self-talk,” and it includes our conscious thoughts as well as our unconscious assumptions and beliefs.

Much of our self-talk is reasonable, for example: “I’d prepare for that exam,” or ”I’m really looking forward to that game.” But sometimes our self-talk is negative, unrealistic or self-defeating, for example: ”I’m going to fail for sure,” or ”I didn’t play well. I’m hopeless.”

Negative self-talk

Negative self-talk often causes us to feel bad, and can make us feel hurt, angry, frustrated, depressed or anxious. It can also make us behave in a self-defeating way. For instance, thoughts like ”I’m going to fail for sure” might discourage you from working hard when you are preparing for your exams, and you might actually fail as a result.

Remember: The way you interpret events has a huge impact on the way you feel and behave.

The ABCs of self-talk

The relationship between your thoughts, feelings and behavior can best be explained by looking at the ABCs of your self-talk.

A is for activating situation

The activating situation is a situation that causes you to feel bad. An activating situation could be a party where you don’t know a lot of people, a stressful time in school when you’re overloaded with essays and assignments, or a time when you made a silly comment that you might later regret.

When you identify the activating situation, it’s important to stick to the facts. For example: ”I tried on my jeans and they were too small,” rather than ”I tried on my jeans and I looked so disgusting and ugly and fat;” or ”Sally said ’hi’ to me and I blushed and looked away,” instead of ”Sally said ’hi’ to me and I made a total idiot of myself.”

B is for beliefs

Beliefs make up self-talk, thoughts and assumptions that we make about a situation. Identifying self-talk can sometimes be tricky. This is because it is so automatic that you might not even be aware of what’s going on in your own mind.

When something happens and we feel upset, we assume that situation has made us feel this way. But it’s our beliefs about the activating situation, and not the situation itself that makes us feel the way we do.

Our thoughts largely determine the way we feel, for example:

Your thoughts might be: “I’ll never figure out what I want to do after I finish school.”

Your feelings resulting from these thoughts might be anxiety, depression, worry, and stuck.

C is for consequences

The consequences of our beliefs are how we react to them, including feelings and behaviors.

Feelings are emotions like sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, embarrassment, joy, excitement or stress.

Behaviors are the actions that stem from those feelings, like communication, withdrawal, asking for help, going for a run, staying in bed or raiding the fridge.

We often blame ourselves when things go wrong, compare ourselves to other people in a way that makes us feel inferior, exaggerate our weaknesses, focus on failures and predict that the worst will happen. Thinking negatively about situations makes you feel bad, and it can also cause you to behave in an unhelpful way.

Negative self-talk can also affect your self-esteem. When you feel down, it is likely that you’re hard on yourself, and you might criticize and judge yourself unfairly. The worse you feel, the more negative your self-talk is likely to become.

Take this scenario:

Here’s an example to illustrate the ABCs of self-talk.

Activating situation:

You get your exam schedule.


“I’m not going to be able to do this.”

“I’ll fail and the whole thing will be a disaster. My parents will be so disappointed in me.”

“I won’t be able to pass the class, and then I won’t be able to get a good job. I’ll end up a loser.”

Consequences (feelings and behaviors):

You feel stressed, panicky, and have butterflies in your stomach.

You can’t bring yourself to sit down and study. You lose focus.

You sit down in front of the TV and eat a box of cookies.

What you can do to prevent the cycle of negative self-talk

The best way to understand the connection between A, B and C is to see how it applies to your own situations. Why not give it a try?

Think of a situation in the last two weeks when you have found yourself feeling bad. You might have been feeling upset, stressed, angry, sad, depressed, embarrassed or guilty. Describe the situation in a ”stress-log,” and make sure you cover the ABCs.

One of the most important skills you can develop to deal with stressful situations is to identify your self-talk. A ”stress-log” covering the A, B and C of the situation is a useful tool to help you challenge the negative or unhelpful aspects of your thinking, and replace them with more reasonable and helpful thoughts.

Check out the fact sheets on Challenging negative self-talk and Common thinking errors for more info on how to challenge the negative or unhelpful aspects of your thinking.

Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions. By: Dr Sarah Edelman and Louise RĂ©mond Foundation for Life Sciences (2005)


And those Fact Sheets are exactly what we will be talking about next.  My self-talk is terrible. I’m my worst critic and my own worst enemy. There’s no question about it. If we can’t learn to love ourselves, how can we possibly learn to believe that anyone else could love us? It’s time to change that inner monologue.

As Promised... Here are the links to my posts with those Fact Sheets and articles:

Challenging Negative Self-Talk

Common Thinking Errors Leading to Negative Self-Talk

1 comment:

Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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