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  • Writer's pictureTina Chan

How to Remove Negative Self-talk and Improve Performance in Life

Negative self-talk can have a significant impact on an individual's performance in different aspects of life, including self-confidence, decision-making, and personal growth. Negative self-talk can be a major obstacle to achieving optimal performance. Removing negative self-talk is not an easy feat, but it requires self-awareness, effort, and a willingness to change.


In my personal experience, I encountered negative self-talk when I decided to return to the workforce after being away for five years to take care of my daughter. I felt like my skills were outdated, and I was unable to do many things. But when I started my job as a management trainee, I realized that I was very capable and had a lot of resilience. This experience taught me that negative self-talk can hold us back from achieving our goals, and we need to change our mindset to believe in ourselves and our abilities.


Understanding Negative Self-talk


According to Dr. Fouts, negative self-talk is like a subliminal tape playing in the background of our lives. It can influence our decisions and actions, often in a negative way. For instance, if someone's self-talk is "I'm not good enough," they may doubt themselves and their abilities, leading to poor performance. Dr. Bradberry also notes that negative self-talk can be a vicious cycle, leading to more negative thoughts and feelings.


Here are a few examples of negative self-talk that many people experience:

  1. Impostor Syndrome: Feeling like you're not good enough or capable enough despite evidence to the contrary. This can show up as feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and fear of failure.

  2. Comparison trap: Constantly comparing yourself to others and feeling like you fall short. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and self-criticism.

  3. Negative self-labeling: Using negative labels to describe yourself such as "stupid," "lazy," or "worthless." These labels can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and lead to a cycle of negative self-talk.

  4. Catastrophizing: Assuming the worst-case scenario in any situation. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and overwhelm, and can prevent you from taking action to achieve your goals.

  5. Overgeneralizing: Making sweeping negative conclusions about yourself based on a single negative event. For example, if you make a mistake at work, you might conclude that you're a terrible employee and will never succeed.

To remove negative self-talk, we need to become aware of it and replace it with positive self-talk. Here are some tips from Dr. Fouts and Dr. Bradberry on how to achieve this:


Tip 1: Pay Attention to Your Self-talk

Dr. Bradberry recommends paying attention to your self-talk to identify negative patterns. This means listening to the words you use when you talk to yourself and being aware of how they make you feel. When you notice negative self-talk, try to replace it with positive affirmations. For instance, if you catch yourself saying "I'm never going to be able to do this," replace it with "I can do this if I put in the effort."


Dr. Fouts also suggests countering negative self-talk with positive self-talk. For instance, if you catch yourself saying "I'm not good enough," counter it with "I am good enough, and I have achieved many things in my life."


Tip 2: Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a practice that involves being fully present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Dr. Fouts recommends starting a mindfulness practice every morning. Begin by saying what you are grateful for, then practice your breathing: Take long, slow deep breaths while counting to 15 in your head, then count backward.


Mindfulness can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, including negative self-talk. By being more present and aware, you can catch negative self-talk before it spirals out of control.


Tip 3: Write in a Journal

Writing in a journal is another way to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, including negative self-talk. Dr. Fouts recommends writing down three positive things that happened throughout the day and your role. It can be as easy as bringing a smile to someone's face or being a really good listener.


Journaling can help you identify negative patterns in your thinking and provide a space to reflect on your emotions. It can also help you focus on the positive aspects of your life, which can counteract negative self-talk.


Tip 4: Hire an Executive Coach or Mentor

Sometimes, removing negative self-talk requires external help. Dr. Fouts suggests hiring an executive coach or mentor who can work with you on changing your mindset and self-talk. A coach or mentor can help you identify negative patterns, set goals, and provide accountability and support.


Working with a coach or mentor can also provide a fresh perspective and help you see things in a new light. It can be a valuable investment in your personal and professional growth.


Tip 5: Shift Your Mindset

Removing negative self-talk requires a shift in mindset. Dr. Fouts shares the example of a client who wanted to quit saying anything negative. She had a friend she asked to help hold her accountable and if she was being negative, the friend would say a code word they had decided upon. This example highlights the importance of having a support system and an accountability partner when trying to eliminate negative self-talk. It can be difficult to make such a significant change on your own, so having someone who is there to encourage you and remind you of your goals can be incredibly helpful.


In conclusion, negative self-talk can be a major barrier to optimal performance, but it is also something that can be overcome with practice and persistence. To overcome negative self-talk and low self-confidence, it's important to have high emotional intelligence. We can develop high emotional intelligence by paying attention to what we say to ourselves, starting a mindfulness practice, writing in a journal, and hiring an executive coach or mentor who can work with us on changing our mindset and self-talk. It's up to us to make the shift, and with persistence and support, we can move into a state of inner flow and optimal performance.


As Dr. Fouts notes, it all starts with a willingness to be honest with yourself and to acknowledge areas where you may be struggling. This can be uncomfortable, but it is an important step in achieving optimal performance. With practice and persistence, you can develop the skills and habits needed to overcome negative self-talk and achieve your goals.


It's important to recognize that negative self-talk is a common experience and is not a reflection of your worth as a person. It's simply a habit that can be changed with practice and awareness.


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