There are so many ways that your self-talk can add to your life or subtract to it. In this article, I’ll explain two types of mind games your self-talk can play with you: focusing on the negative while discounting the positive as well as mind reading. Let’s start with focusing on the negative while discounting the positive.

Both of these ways of talking to yourself lead to low self-confidence. But they can be changed.

Focusing on the Negative While Discounting the Positive

Dylan is pessimistic. He sees everything in his life through a negative filter and doesn’t see the positive at all. When he gets a poor performance review, all he can think about is what a terrible employee he is, how poor he is at his job, and how he is handing in substandard work.
This is a matter of seeing situations and people as being “half-empty” instead of “half-full.” To challenge this way of self-talk, make a concerted effort to highlight the positive instead of the negative. Think about what you’re doing right or what went right instead of what went wrong. Pat yourself on the back for doing a good job.

Of course, you need to be realistic and understand what to do better too. But don’t wallow in the negative; rather, see the positive that you’ve done in the past and can do in the future.

Negative self-talk: “This bad performance review means I must be terrible at my job. He’s right. I hand in substandard work and things will never get better.”

The rebuttal: “I’m glad my manager told me this. Now I’ll know what I need to change to do a better job.”

Mind Reading

Benjamin has a negative view of himself. Then he projects that negative view of himself as though it’s coming from another person. He thinks he knows exactly what the other person is thinking, and of course, it’s always something awful about Benjamin and puts him in a bad light.

Benjamin is at a party and is having a conversation with someone he just met. He notices the person yawns, and immediately Benjamin thinks, “I must be the most boring person here!” Benjamin thinks to himself that it must be all his fault, he’s uninteresting and lackluster in his conversation. This proves to Benjamin once again that he’s a dull person.

Although it is true that people sometimes make negative judgments about others, generally your assumptions about what others are thinking are probably exaggerated or patently wrong. Realize that you simply can’t know what others are thinking unless you actually ask the person what he or she is thinking. There may be other reasons why they’re acting or speaking the way they are that have nothing to do with you.

Instead of taking personally what other people say, don’t assume that everything is your fault. Realize that you don’t have the power to affect everybody very strongly. Everyone is in their own individual and separate world. You’re not the center of other people’s moods. You can ask people if they’re upset about something concerning you, but don’t imagine that you are the reason.

Negative self-talk: “He’s yawning when I’m speaking. I must be the most boring person here!”

The rebuttal: “I noticed he just yawned. I have no idea why. Maybe he didn’t get enough sleep or got up early.”

Exercise

Make four columns, one entitled “Negative Self-Talk,” one entitled “Error,” one entitled “Positive Self-Talk,” and the last entitled “Actions.” Under each column write out the negative thoughts about yourself in your mind, which pattern of error it is, a new thought that reinforces your self-esteem, and what new actions you’ll take as a result of changing to more positive self-talk. This exercise is also in the two articles: 1) labeling and comparing yourself with others, and 2) predicting a negative outcome and overgeneralizing.

Author's Bio: 

Vivian Harte is the co-author of Self-Esteem for Dummies in the Dummies series. She has helped over 12,000 people learn and use assertiveness skills during the last 14 years. She teaches online classes on assertiveness, self-confidence, and teamwork. She has a Bachelors degree in Sociology and a Masters degree in Public Administration. She taught college classes for many years in Tucson, Arizona. She has two grown children who are both successful. She lives in Tucson with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

She offers kits with articles, guided visualizations, and songs as well as online courses, group coaching and 1-on-1 coaching, and you can find out more about these at her website, self-esteem-for-me.com. Discover how to change your thoughts into positive and uplifting self-talk in her free kit Change Your Inner Critic into Your Best Friend.