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How we justify negative self-talk and why it's wrong

Many of us respond to common life experiences (i.e. making a mistake, failing, getting rejected, feeling guilty, not living up to your own expectations) by employing negative self-talk, or beating ourselves up in our heads.

However, the practice of negative self-talk has no utility whatsoever. It is harmful in ways of impairing self-esteem, confidence, and sense of empowerment, competence, motivation, and purpose.

So why do we keep doing it?

Here are the 5 most common justifications for negative self-talk and why they are invalid:

1. I'm just being honest with myself.

It is important to be honest with yourself and to explore mistakes you might have made in order to take responsibility, be accountable for your errors, and figure out what you can do differently next time. However, calling yourself names and putting yourself down does not add value. Even worse, it impairs your ability to learn the necessary lessons you could take from such experiences.

2. It will prevent me from having an inflated ego.

People with inflated egos often walk around looking down upon others. Overly self-critical people are far from having an inflated ego so this is simply not a risk factor for them.

3. It will prepare me for future disappointment or hurt.

By undercutting your own confidence, supersizing your insecurities, and sabotaging your motivation and determination, you are setting yourself up to make more mistakes and have more hurt.

4. It's an accurate reflection of who I am as a person.

The event causing your self-criticism reflects what you did (your actions), not who you are (your essence).

5. I deserve it.

Think of how you would speak to a friend if that friend had made a mistake. You probably wouldn't say "You're so stupid. You always find a way to screw it up." So why tell yourself something you would never even think to tell your friend?

Instead of negative self-talk, make what you "deserve" the same response you would offer a friend in the same situation. Remind yourself that you are human, we all make mistakes, and the best we can do is learn from those mistakes. By introducing yourself to self-compassion, you are combatting your negative self-talk.

Original article written by Guy Winch, Ph.D.