Skip to main content

How to Stop Negative Self-Talk

May 30, 2011 01:56PM ● By Barbara B. Appelbaum

This year, some people decided to set intentions for a successful New Year, in lieu of making resolutions. If so, how’s that going? Perhaps you found it too challenging and gave up, or opted not to set any intentions at all. Either way, your life will go on, if you live intentionally or not. The more pressing issue is whether you want to spend your life reacting to life, or if you want to be proactive in creating it?

Remember the familiar saying, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it?” You cannot choose what happens to you, but you can choose your response to the situations you encounter.

In January, did you set an intention to lose weight? For the first month, this might have been relatively simple. Staying motivated at the beginning of a diet, especially when the first pounds seem to melt away, is easy. But what happens when you stray from that diet and the pounds creep back on? You may feel overwhelmed by a sense of failure and embarrassment. Then, you might respond to these feelings by drowning your pain with food.

You could find yourself stuck in a reactive pattern, because your inner voice won’t stop its negative messaging. How often do you beat yourself up about all the things you think you should do? Should have—shouldn’t have—if only—why didn’t I? These are all phrases you routinely tell yourself. When you express thoughts in a negative manner, it keeps you stuck and holds you back. When you tell yourself that you’re not good enough and that you’ve done something wrong, you learn to believe it. It’s tough to forgive yourself when you believe you’re not good enough.

When there's a song playing on the radio that you don't like, you quickly change the station to one that you like better. What would your life be like if you used that same technique when the self-talk in your head started playing negative noise? With the same ease, you can just change the station, or better yet, turn it off. Here are three concrete actions to help stop the negative self-talk:

Identify: What is the exact message? When is it the loudest? Where is it coming from? Answering these questions about negative self-talk will help remove the power it holds over you.

Acknowledge: Think about how this negative self-talk has served you in the past. Are there lingering feelings of failure that have carried over to the present? If the answer is yes, move onto the next step.

Replace: Once you’ve identified and acknowledged the negative message that has kept you from achieving success, it’s time to replace it with a positive message that you can hold onto as you move forward in life.

Allow yourself to believe that you are good enough, and when you notice that something doesn’t work for you, view it as an opportunity to grow. If this proves to be overwhelming, hire a coach to be your nonjudgmental accountability partner that will champion you to success.

How does stopping the negative self-talk tie into being intentional? When you are able to turn off the negative messaging and become clear about what you want, set positive intentions that allow you to make better choices. It’s never too late to change.

Barbara B. Appelbaum is a certified professional coach and owner of Appelbaum Wellness LLC, “Learn to Discover Choice, Live Purposefully and Be Well.” Visit online at to get your FREE special report.