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Negative self-talk can wreck your mental health. Here’s how to stop

Published on:29 December 2020, 09:22am IST
Bad mouthing yourself is not going to help you in any way. In fact, negative self-talk will destroy your morale and make you emotionally vulnerable.
Nikita Bhardwaj
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self talk
Be kind to yourself because negative self-talk is not good for your mental health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Ever ended up calling yourself ‘careless’ or told yourself ‘you can’t do this’? We all have days when we end up being too hard on ourselves. Those days, however, pass, making us realize we’re not ‘careless’ and we can do anything if we put our mind to it.

But, what if this negative self-talk lasts for a very long time? Well, it could be a sign that your mental health needs attention.

Why do people indulge in negative self-talk?

We spoke to Dr Rahul Khemani, a psychiatrist from Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai, who told us that we all have an inner voice that guides our behaviour. It is this voice that keeps us from breaking a traffic signal and even motivates us to abstain from eating that extra slice of cake for the sake of our health. It acts as a moral compass.

This inner voice can, however, become extremely negative. Over time, it can bring us down and hit our confidence. 

Negative self-talk
Negative self-talk can lead to depression as well. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The negativity only amplifies when we internalize negative messages we receive from others about who we are, how we should act and what we should feel. These are usually learned in childhood, but it can develop over time as well.

These messages are subtle and become a part of our thought process. For example, a child who is told that getting good grades is the only way to receive parental love will start believing that pursuing hobbies is a worthless pursuit. 

“Not addressing relationship problems is another prominent reason that leads to negative self-talk. Pushing your issues under the rug won’t make them go away. Instead, it will lead to stress and frustration. This, in turn, makes us question ourselves and becomes a breeding ground for negative self-talk. Poor health habits can also lead to negative thinking, and affect how we speak to ourselves. When we deny ourselves the care we need, we basically send out a message to our mental well-being that we deserve negativity,” Dr Khemani explained. 

Here are 5 reasons why you need to stop indulging in negative self-talk:

1. Negative self-talk can take away our ability to see opportunities. Being in the “I’m not good enough” zone is going to keep us from taking up new projects, new roles, and new relationships while ruining our existing relationships.

2. It limits our thinking. If you tell yourself you are not good at something, you are going to start believing it over time.

3. Perfectionism is a by-product of excessive negative self-talk. Perfectionists tend to believe that “great” is not as good as “perfect”. This creates a fallacy that perfectionism is actually attainable. Hence, it creates a feeling of perpetual dissatisfaction.

4. Negative self-talk can lead to depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation.

5. Constant self-criticism can make a person needy and insecure. A lack of communication and even constructive feedback becomes unbearable. The person takes on more blame for problems in the relationship than he or she should and it ends up creating an imbalance where one partner becomes more vulnerable or manipulative.

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Here ways to stop all the negative self-talk and improve your mental health:
  • Acknowledging that you do indulge in negative self-talk is the first step to change things. A way to do it is to make two columns of positive and negative self-talk in a journal. Write down your thoughts in the respective columns throughout the day. Analyse how you’re speaking with yourself and try to change the changes needed.
  • Ask yourself if you’d say the same sort of horrible things to your child or best friend. We often forget to show ourselves the kindness we show others.
  • Thoughts and feelings are not always reflective of reality. We have around 80,000 thoughts in a day, but a very small proportion of these is close to reality. It is skewed by subjective bias and your mood. 
  • It is easier to change the intensity of the negative thoughts rather than eliminating them completely. Keep in mind that “I hate….” can become “I don’t like…”; “I can’t do this” can become “This is challenging”.
  • Give your self-critic a name or think of it as a really sad stand-up. Learn to laugh at your silliness and be kind to yourself. 

Talk kindly to yourself and see your mental health improve!

Nikita Bhardwaj Nikita Bhardwaj

Six-pack abs are all that Nikita needs, along with her daily dose of green tea. At Health Shots, she produces videos, podcasts, stories, and other kick-ass content.