“One you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you will start having positive results.”

[Willie Nelson]

Self-talk: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Do you talk to yourself – whether it’s out loud or just in your mind? Psychologists tell us that it is a perfectly natural practice. However, all self-talk is not created equally.

The bottom line is that we ourselves are the authors of our self-talk. Therefore, it is fully within our power to come up with a narrative that is empowering. Unfortunately, far too often, we do the exact opposite.

For the purpose of today’s discussion, we can separate self-talk into two categories – namely positive and negative.

Here are a few features of positive self-talk:

  • It is motivational
  • It improves attitude
  • It increases energy
  • It builds confidence
  • It’s focused on the present
  • It opens up possibilities and drives confidence


In contrast, negative self-talk…

  • Is self-defeating
  • Fosters anxiety
  • Feeds fear
  • Fuels doubt
  • Focuses on the future with a fatalism


Psychologists recommend that we use positive framing when engaging in self-talk. By that they mean that we should focus on what we want and NOT what we want to avoid. E.g., saying to yourself “Be brave!” is more effective than saying “Don’t be afraid!”

Another tip from the experts is to use the second or third person instead of the first person.  Here’s an example to illustrate that point (for those of us whose days of studying grammar are no longer visible in the rear view mirror):

“Joan, you got this!” is more effective than saying “I got this!”

Using the third person creates psychological distance and helps us to better face our challenges. Which approach do you typically use in your self-talk?

Six Steps to Reframe Negative Self-talk

Years of negative self-talk and deep-rooted insecurities often cause us to self-sabotage. The good news is that, since you are the author of the script used by your inner voice, you can rewrite it so that it better serves your needs. Here’s a process that you can use to do just that.

  1. Really tune in to what your inner voice is saying.
  2. Be more curious and less judgmental.
  3. Articulate the old belief – e.g. I can’t…. because…
  4. Reality check that old belief – Is there current evidence that validates it? (NB: not evidence from eons ago)
  5. Reframe that old belief ➡️ I can and will… because…
  6. Retrain your inner voice by affirming the new belief daily until you have fully internalized it.

Why not give it a try? And if at first you don’t succeed, keep working at it. After all, it took you a lifetime to build up those self-limiting beliefs. Don’t you owe it to yourself to put in the effort to free yourself from the burden that they represent?

The power truly is within you. So, choose today to master your self-talk and leverage it as a tool to help maximize your performance.

PS: Please like, share and comment and let’s bring to the surface the conversations we have been having on the inside. After all, self-awareness is a precursor to self-regulation.




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