It takes almost no time to find articles and stories that will tell you about the good habits or motivational mantras of people who have achieved success in their chosen field.
But, as interesting and inspirational as those articles can be, they only tell half of the story.
Many people will read them and instead of being inspired, come away with a dejected and defeated feeling.
“I’ll never be like those successful people,” they say to themselves. “They’re way more committed than I am.”
That’s negative self-talk. We’re all guilty of it from time to time.
There are at least four different types of negative self-talk: filtering, personalizing, catastrophizing and polarizing.
Here’s a sample of some of the things we may say to ourselves — things that serve only to steer us off the road to success.
1. “This person is always doing this to me…”
This is two forms of negative self-talk in one sentence. It’s filtering because the speaker has filtered out anything positive about their situation and magnified only the negative. And it’s also polarizing, in that the person sees only bad or good (bad, in this case). There’s no middle ground in this sentence.
2. “Great, now my whole day is ruined…”
Catastrophizing is taking one negative situation and exaggerating its effects on the big picture. It could be something as insignificant as getting your coffee order wrong, and yet you’ll let it bring you down to the point where the expression becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3. “She/he does it just to upset me…”
This is personalizing, and it means that you’re making something all about yourself (or another specific person) even when it’s really not the case. Remember, most people you encounter really don’t have the time or the desire to go out of their way to target you and make your day miserable.
4. “I totally suck at this…”
Sure, you may run into difficulty with something, but you do yourself no favours when you characterize your situation as something that you “totally suck” at, with no allowance for the possibility that you truly aren’t as bad as you tell yourself.
5. “I’m always in trouble…”
No one is ever “always” in trouble, but thinking that means you will act like it, and acting like it may actually mark you as the type of trouble that no one wants to be around. You can change that!
6. “There’s no way this will work…”
Again, a comment like this leaves room only for negativity. And, why bother to do something if you’re already convinced that it’s doomed to failure? Don’t fall into that mind trap. Whatever it is, give it a try. The outcome may pleasantly surprise you.
7. “No one bothers to tell me anything…”
When you put yourself in the middle of whatever you think is wrong, it becomes easy to identify only with negative situations. Worse, you’re also minimizing your own importance to what’s going on around you. Instead, look for ways to be part of the solution.
8. “It’s impossible…”
We’ve all used this one, right? But few things truly are impossible, unless you convince yourself otherwise, which is exactly what this remark is designed to do. Think instead of why something is or should be not only possible, but probable.
9. “I’ll never be good at anything…”
It’s likely that most of us have been here at one time or another. There’s no allowance for the potential good that can happen. The truth is, we’re all good at something, and many things. Negative self-talk keeps us from focusing on those things. Don’t let it.
10. “They don’t appreciate anything I do…”
The thing you do might well be appreciated more than you know, but for whatever reason, you’re not seeing or hearing it. Rather than convincing yourself that your efforts are for naught, you could ask someone for feedback. They’ll notice and, hopefully, appreciate your initiative.
11. “Other people can do this… I’m such a loser…”
If you’re struggling with a particular task, you probably have different strengths that you could focus on instead. And you should consider that other people may not find things as easy as you think. If you find yourself in the same boat with someone else, you could work together to figure out how to help each other succeed.
12. “I’m completely alone and no one is ever there for me…”
It may seem like this at times, but you don’t want this to become another self-fulfilling prophecy. A poor attitude really does seem to succeed in keeping us walled off from other people, particularly people who could help us to find a way out of our rut. If you want a friend, you have to be a friend. Reach out. Ask for help if you need it.
Negative self-talk gets in our way, gets into our heads, and distracts us from our goals. It convinces us that there’s no point in trying, because we’ll probably just fail anyway. We’ve all experienced those feelings.
But we forget that failure is an important element of success. It teaches us what works and, equally important, what doesn’t work. It teaches us that nothing worth having will ever come easily.
You have the power to change how you talk to yourself, and what you say. Make an effort to avoid these and other destructive sayings. Be positive, and positive things will happen for you.
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