Many of us are given to having a stream of negative self-talk in our minds; questioning our abilities, disparaging our character, doubting the success of our future, and more. And sure, sometimes we do this because of deep childhood-rooted issues that maybe we should talk to someone about, but I also think we do this because it’s safer to take a position of ‘I can’t do it,’ or ‘it won’t happen,’ rather than having to having to risk hope and optimism, and potentially fail.

For the record, I am not a Pollyana, don’t-worry-just-be-happy type. That’s not really my bag. I have learned a lot about how to treat myself with respect because I used to be very good at being harsh and unrealistic with myself. For those who are naturally relentlessly cheerful, Godspeed. But, for the rest of us, here are a few thoughts on healthy and helpful ways to manage your inner monologue. 

It’s (Almost) Never All That Bad

One reminder that I find helpful is that any time I’m using language that expresses sole doom and gloom about myself or my situation, stopping to recognize that this type of thinking does not hold the full truth. The fact is, it’s virtually impossible for completely negative, pessimistic thinking to be entirely accurate, because life is more complicated than that. There is very little in this world that is black and white, despite our brain’s tendency to divide our circumstances and ourselves in that way.

Solution: Get in the habit of using and in your thinking. For instance, let’s say you don’t do so hot on a project at work. You may be tempted to think something like, ‘I can never get this right,’ or even, ‘I’m a failure.’ But the reality is that if you were a complete failure at your job or never got things right, you would not still be employed. The truth is that you need to figure out what steps you can take to do a better job on this project and you are doing well in other aspects of your position. Take time to recognize the mistake or error, but then also place it in the proper context: this performance wasn’t your best and you still have value as an employee.

Pessimistic Thinking Promotes Inaction

You may think you’re being more realistic by pointing out everything that is or could be wrong about yourself or a situation, that you’re ‘on guard’ regarding getting too comfortable or lax. But often, instead of protecting us, this type of thinking harms us. It allows us to not have to strive or try for anything. If we view our plans as destined to fail, if we view ourselves as perpetually incapable, then there’s no real reason to strive or try to succeed. Our pessimism becomes an excuse for doing nothing. We stay stuck.

Solution: If you find yourself thinking, ‘nothing ever works out for me,’ or ‘I’m probably not going to get what I want anyway,’ then it’s time to break this passivity (things just happen to you) and get much more active in your mindset. Start by thinking about what it is you really want to accomplish and what matters to you. Instead of focusing on what’s not happening, or what hasn’t happened, turn your attention towards what you want to happen. Then, sit down and create some SMART goals about how you can get to where you want to be.


Negative Thinking Eats Away at You

When you’re used to having negative thoughts running through your head, it can seem as though it’s not a big deal, or not really something it would benefit you to work on.  In reality, that disaster-focused thinking can quietly chip away at your confidence, self-esteem, and hope for the future.  You may find yourself feeling down or unmotivated, and being uncertain as to why, and all along this destructive chorus has been playing in the background, wearing away at you.

Solution: Call your own name.  It may sound weird, but research supports the idea that when we speak to ourselves by name, we are better able to be kind and positive with ourselves.  In using our own name, we get some distance from the problem at hand, and so our better to encourage ourselves, the way that we do for others.

While we may view our pessimistic thinking as simply being real, the fact is that it only tells a partial truth. It does not recognize our abilities or talents, or even happy circumstance. Further, this negative thinking can leave us paralyzed by inaction and indecision, too worried or doubtful to take the next step. Inject some truth into your inner dialogue by remembering and recognizing the positives.



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