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5 Types of Negative Self-Talk and How to Stop Them

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

Use these practical examples to stop negative thinking in its tracks.

Person having negative thoughts

We like to think we’re optimistic, positive people. After all, no one wants to be considered a grump. Besides, isn’t that what we’re taught from the time we’re children, to smile and think the best of those around us?

In truth, we don’t always quite hit the mark. We might mean to be positive, but those negative thoughts have a way of creeping in, especially if we’re tired or anxious. Strong emotion has a way of derailing us, as do the negative influences around us. In short, we’re constantly being broadsided by negativity, and we can’t help but respond in kind.

How do we learn to recognise when our self-talk is turning negative and stop it before it gains a foothold in our lives? We start by learning how to identify the most common culprits.

Black and White Thinking

The minute you start using ‘all’ or ‘nothing’ statements, such as "everything is a disaster" or "nothing ever works out for me", you’re already falling into a negativity mindset. When this comes up, the best thing to do is to remind yourself the world doesn’t really work that way. In fact, there are more shades of grey than you might think. Try to come up with opposite examples of things that happened in the past to disprove these generalised statements.

Tunnel Vision

When you can only see the bad in everything, it’s no wonder you can feel lost in a sea of despair and negative self-talk. Here you see the world as only negative and seek out proof by pointing out every flaw or failure. This is defeated by rewording the statements as they come up. Look for the positive spin you can put on things.

"For many, negative thinking is a habit which, over time, becomes an addiction." – Peter McWilliams

The Disaster Plan

This occurs when you can only see the negative outcome in everything. When this comes up, accept that sometimes, failure happens. You can even use dire predictions to work out a ‘Plan B’ in case you need one, but also remember to remind yourself that there’s also a chance of success in what you try. There’s no reason to assume the worst.


In this, you assume you know what someone else is thinking, and it’s never good. You can address this by having an honest conversation with the person instead. Let them speak for themselves. They might even surprise you. Again, quit assuming the worst.

The Guilty Conscience

You messed up. Once. A long time ago. It’s time to let it go. For some people, their brains are experts at bringing up the past, regardless of how much time has passed or what they've done to correct the mistake. Here you need to remind yourself of the lessons you’ve learned and that you're a more resilient, informed, empowered and resourceful person today. Remember, the past is in the past. Look forward, see the possibilities. Let go of the rest.

The world really is a more wonderful place than you might have realised. When you let go of negative self-talk, you’re giving yourself the ability to try out a new frame of mind and see just how good things can be. Embrace positivity. Discover what the world has to offer!


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