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How Do You Spot Negative Self-Talk?

7 Ways to Leave Negative Self-Talk Behind

Listen to 17 minute coaching session mp3 file


In her coaching session, Laura spotted her sabotaging gremlin quickly, but that's not typical. Just as we breathe without questioning, we also interpret our situations without hesitation. We have an internal "voice" that comments on, and then determines, how we perceive our every circumstance. When this voice is critical, it is described as negative self-talk or the gremlin, as named by Rick Carson in Taming Your Gremlin. This voice is rooted in conscious thoughts as well as unconscious assumptions and beliefs.


What kinds of self-talk should you watch out for?

  1. Self-Limiting Talk. When we are self-limiting we may say things like, "I can't tell him how I feel" or "It's too hard to finish the project" or "I'm getting so fat!" Self-limiting talk creates a self-fulfilling prophecy because we stop looking for solutions and assume defeat. Instead of looking at our options, we tell ourselves that we can't handle the things that face us.
  2. Jumping to Conclusions. When we experience an uncomfortable situation, we make interpretations rather than simply stating the facts. For example, we'll say, "I tried on my jeans and looked so disgusting" or "Tom talked to me and I made a fool of myself" or "If I go to the gym, people will talk about me." When we jump to conclusions, we too often assume the worst and make fact out of what might be fiction.
  3. Habits of Speech. Our speech patterns can be so automatic that we don't even notice them. And though we may not even really mean what we say, it can have a negative impact on how we feel about ourselves. This may sound like, "What do you expect from a dumb blonde?" or "I'm so stupid!" This habit also shows up in the way we discount ourselves to others. For example, when someone tells us we look nice and we respond, "Yeah, right!" Though these detrimental habits may sometimes be disguised as humor, they aren't funny at all.
  4. Other's Thoughts Become Our Own. Some of our thoughts are planted by external sources such as our parents, spouse, colleagues, or friends. These well-meaning voices have clear expectations of us that become a part of our own self-talk. Though their thoughts can serve us, they can also become detrimental when we are unable to distinguish their ideas from our own. One sign of this form of negative self-talk is when we begin to hear ourselves say things like "You really shouldn't..." or "You ought to..." When other's thoughts become our own we begin to act out of guilt, rather than desire.

Stay tuned to the next blog - we'll explore strategies for rising above our negative self-talk...

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Coach Meg

Margaret Moore is the co-director of the McLean/Harvard Medical School Institute of Coaching.

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