Negative self-talk is the voice in our head that criticizes and questions our actions. It is a form of self-sabotage, which makes it difficult to overcome. On the surface, self-sabotage seems like it would be helpful – after all, how can we improve our skills if we don’t know where we need to improve? However, the self-sabotaging voice in our heads is negative, harsh, and unhelpful. We can’t control negative self-talk and it will only make it harder for us to improve.


Instead of listening to the negative self-talk, we need to recognise it and begin to replace it with more helpful, positive messages. Several simple strategies can help us get started.


1. Recognise your negative thoughts


You have to first recognise that it’s happening. If you’re not actively listening to your own thoughts and the words you let out, you won’t know what to work on. Recognising that it’s happening is the first step in changing your thinking habits, so be sure to listen to yourself.


Another thing to watch out for is what kinds of things trigger these reactions in your brain. If there’s a certain person who always seems to set off your negative thoughts, it may be best to avoid them if possible (although this isn’t always practical). If certain activities cause these feelings, try to avoid doing them unless necessary.


2. Ask yourself if they are true.


If your negative self-talk sounds anything like mine, it’s often punctuated by phrases like “I’m not good enough,” “People don’t like me,” and “I’ll never be successful.” But are those statements actually true?


Here’s the thing: We all tend to assume that our thoughts are 100% accurate. The truth is, your thoughts aren’t always right; they’re just thoughts, after all. And so much of what we think is influenced by how we feel at any given moment—which is constantly changing!


So before reacting to your thoughts, take a second to question them. Ask yourself whether there’s any evidence that those beliefs are true or false, or somewhere in between. If the thought is true, then ask yourself whether it’s helpful to think about it in this way. If the answer is yes, then there’s nothing wrong with this self-talk (even if it is negative).


For example, if you have a job interview coming up and you’re thinking about how nervous or unprepared you are for it, then this may be true and helpful for you to think about. You may need to remind yourself to prepare for the interview or practise your answers to common interview questions so that being nervous doesn’t prevent you from putting your best foot forward.


3. Replace those thoughts with the positives, or with nothing at all.


The thing is, as long as you keep thinking these thoughts, they will keep coming back. The more we think about something, the stronger and more habitual that thought becomes. Think of it like a muscle memory: If you practise playing the piano every day for a year, those neural pathways are going to get stronger and stronger until playing the piano becomes automatic.


In the same way, if we practise thinking negative thoughts all day long for years on end, those thoughts become automatic and we don’t have any control over them—that is unless we work on developing new neural pathways in our brains by practicing more positive (or at least neutral) thoughts.


First, let’s talk about what it means to think positively. It means that you start to look at things from a brighter perspective and that you expect good things to happen throughout the day. It doesn’t mean that you have unrealistic expectations that are impossible to meet—it simply requires a change in perspective. Once you’ve made this small change in how you view life, things will simply start going better for you.


For one thing, other people will respond much more positively to you once they feel the shift in your attitude. When someone sees that you are optimistic and expecting good things to happen, they will tend to feel more comfortable around you and begin to be more open with their own positive outlooks as well. Example. friendships become deeper and more meaningful when everyone is committed to bringing out the best in each other.


4. Create a mantra to repeat during difficult times.


One tool that can help get rid of negative self-talk is creating a mantra—a phrase or words that you repeat to yourself to shift your perspective and bring yourself back from the brink of despair toward the land of hope and optimism. It can be something as simple as “I am strong” or “I am capable,” or something more specific to the situation at hand: “Everything happens for a reason”.


It’s a simple tip and one that can be as long or short as you want. What I do is write down the mantra on a notecard and place it somewhere where I will see it every day, like in my wallet, my car, or on my desk at work. When bad things start to happen, I repeat the mantra to myself over and over and over again. By doing this I’m able to keep the bad situation from getting worse because even though bad things may be happening all around me, I’m not letting those things get into my head.


5.  Refocus your mind


A simple way to focus on something other than your thoughts is to simply focus on your breath. One technique is to count your breaths: inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, and exhale for four counts. This will force you to slow down the pace of your breathing and concentrate on something other than what’s happening in your mind.


Focus on another activity. Sometimes the best way to get out of your head is by doing something else entirely. The next time you find yourself feeling anxious or angry about something, go for a walk or work on a hobby that requires all of your attention—anything that will keep you from focusing on what’s going on in your head.


Practice mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness exercises are similar to breathing exercises in that they take your focus away from what’s going on in your mind.



As we learn to recognise and replace negative self-talk and replace it with positive, supportive messages, we can improve the quality of our thinking, which allows us to better address and deal with the situations we face in life. I have found this strategy to be especially helpful in reducing anxiety and stress, as well as improving confidence. 

By replacing the negative messages that cause us to think badly about ourselves with more encouraging thoughts, we can change negative thought patterns into positive ones and overall improve the quality of our thinking. And by doing so, we can transform our lives into something even better than before.