Negative self talk? Take a bath!

by Betty Lochner on November 2, 2010

The key to dealing with any kind of negative thinking is to realize that you are ultimately in charge of whether to listen to or agree with any thought. ~ Jack Canfield


Did you know that self talk studies (Gallup 2008) show that up to 70% of our daily self talk is negative? What? That would mean that only 30% of our daily self talk – our inner dialogue – is positive.

Negative  self talk can increase our stress, limit our potential and color our experiences with negativity. Why do we to that to ourselves?

Well, it starts when we are very young and get negative feedback from those around us whom we see as important – primarily our parents, friends, and teachers.  That feedback becomes what we believe about ourselves.  And, our beliefs can exist without evidence that they are accurate. Beliefs shape our self talk, which in turn affects our self esteem.

When I was in middle school, I had a music teacher who told me I couldn’t read music. Even though I went on to study music in high school and college, I always doubted my ability when it came to sight reading. I would tell myself that I couldn’t do it, and I was always right. I believed what she had said.

When we start to believe the negative comments we hear about us, regardless of whether they are remotely accurate, we begin to own them. Then, over time, we get really good at allowing  negative thoughts to take over. It just sort of snowballs from there.

So, how can we just stop it? How can we decrease our negative self talk and move to a habit of more positive self talk?

Take a bath!

To make self talk positive, we must change what goes into our subconscious. So, try this — when you catch yourself giving yourself negative feedback, take a bath.  I don’t mean literally (though that couldn’t hurt). I mean more figuratively. I mean take a mind break to a positive experience.

Take a break in your mind and recall an event where you were outrageously successful.  Think about how it made you feel. What were you doing, thinking, and feeling? Replay that event in your mind.  This will snap your mind into a positive mode and encourage positive self talk about what you are doing right then.

In short, we can begin to harness the power in our minds by taking an active role in deciding what to think, and increasing the positive messages we send to ourselves.

You may find at first this positive memory recall is difficult. But, with practice, the events will be easier to recall and use in your present situation. Remembering back to a time and experience when you were happy, successful, and fulfilled really will help you practice more positive self talk.  And, positive self talk is very powerful. Try it and watch how if feels.  Pretty good.

The next time you find yourself stressing about something or deciding you’re not up to a challenge, stop and take a bath. Recall a positive replacement and begin increasing your positive self talk.

Do you have other strategies for increasing your positive self talk? Please leave a comment and share them here! 


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dan Bornhoeft November 3, 2010 at 11:00 am

Read, read, read!

We have spent all the years of our life taking in negative input from our surroundings and our own self talk. We need to reprogram. The best way I have found to do this is through reading positive self improvement books daily.

Surround yourself with like-minded people.

We become who we associate with. Associate with those who are dedicated to self improvement and those who are headed in the direction you want to go. Minimize your contact with the average negative minded types who want to pull you down to their level.

Set Goals.

The average person has given up on goals. If you don’t know where you are going there is a good chance you won’t get there. Take time to figure out what you want out of life and where you want to be and develop clearly defined goals, with time frames attached, to get you there.

Find a vehicle that will help you achieve your dreams.

Most people spend 40+ hours a week working for someone else, in a job they may or may not like, in order to achieve the security of a paycheck and/or benefits they need live. If this is not in line with your goals and dreams then I have to suggest you are spending way too much time on something that is not getting you where you want to be. Once you have the self talk issue under control, take this huge conflict out of your life, step outside the box, explore your alternatives, grow and prosper.

Best wishes,


2 Betty Lochner November 2, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Yes, what we tell ourselves becomes who you are. Thanks for the additional resource!

3 Oli Hille November 2, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I agree that researchers have found that of the tens of thousands of thoughts a person has every day, a huge percentage are negative. Often we vocalize these statements and many times we don’t even realize it!

Consider the following:

“What an idiot I am.”
“I’m so stupid.”
“I’m useless.”
“I’m pathetic.”
“I suck at that.”

Then there is the more serious and often not vocalized negative self talk:

“I will never succeed.”
“Life is passing me by.”
“I will never achieve my goals.”
“Nice guys finish last.”
“I can never lose weight.”
“I’m ugly.”
“No-one likes me.”

The amazing truth about self talk is you gravitate towards and become what you say to yourself.

I talk about it in more detail on my site:

Oli Hille

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