Why Talk to Yourself Like You Would to Someone You Love


Think of the three people you love the most in your life. Perhaps it’s a parent, romantic partner, best friend, or sibling? Imagine you are asked to list ten negative characteristics and attributes about them and present them this list. Would you do it? If not, why not? If your loved one needed encouragement for a particular task or experience, would you give it to them or point out their faults? Likely you answered that you wouldn’t present them with the list or point out faults because you wouldn’t hurt someone you love. Am I right?


Are you willing to include yourself in the list of people you love? If you did, you might think differently about how you talk about yourself. Negative self-talk (inner dialogue) is very common for teen women today, with 7 in 10 girls believing they are not good enough or don’t measure up. You might be judging and crafting yourself while being kind, friendly, and forgiving towards others. You might be evaluating and measuring your worthiness based on seeking approval or validation from others. Do you talk to yourself like someone you love? “On terrible days, sometimes we forget our needs and treat ourselves like enemies,” says Joyful Through It All writers Cassandra and Jordan. “The inner critic in our heads starts to send us into a spiral of negative self-talk.” This internal dialogue destroys us when we have a hard time and need self-love the most! On days like these, the first step is to “talk to yourself like someone you love,” in the words of Brené Brown.


According to Healthline, self-talk can enhance your performance and well-being. For example, in sports, relationships, friendships, work, or school. Additional health benefits include: Increased vitality, Greater life satisfaction, Improved immune function, Reduced pain, Better cardiovascular health, Better physical well-being, Reduced risk for death, Less stress and distress. It’s unclear why optimists and individuals with more positive self-talk experience these benefits. However, research suggests people with positive self-talk may have mental skills that allow them to solve problems, think differently, and cope more efficiently with hardships or challenges. This can reduce the harmful effects of stress and anxiety.


Before learning to practice more self-talk, you must identify negative thinking. Healthline says this type of thinking and self-talk generally fall into four categories. Personalizing – You blame yourself for everything. Magnifying – You focus on the negative aspects of a situation, ignoring any and all of the positive. Catastrophizing – You expect the worst, and you rarely let logic or reason persuade you otherwise. Polarizing – You see the world in black and white or good and evil. There’s nothing in between and no middle ground for processing and categorizing life events. When you begin to recognize your types of negative thinking, you can work to turn them into positive thinking. This task requires practice and time and doesn’t develop overnight. The good news is that it can be done. A 2012 study shows even tiny children can learn to correct negative self-talk.


These scenarios are examples of when and how you can turn negative self-talk into positive self-talk. Again, it takes practice. Recognizing some of your own negative self-talk in these scenarios may help you develop skills to flip the thought when it occurs.

  • Negative: I’ll disappoint everyone if I change my mind.
  • Positive: I have the power to change my mind. Others will understand.
  • Negative: I failed and embarrassed myself.
  • Positive: I’m proud of myself for even trying. That took courage.
  • Negative: I’m overweight and out of shape. I might as well not bother.
  • Positive: I am capable and strong, and I want to get healthier for me.
  • Negative: I let everyone on my team down when I didn’t score.
  • Positive: Sports are a team event. We win and lose together.
  • Negative: I’ve never done this before, and I’ll be bad at it.
  • Positive: This is a beautiful opportunity to learn from others and grow.
  • Negative: There’s just no way this will work.
  • Positive: I can and will do my best to make it work.


Positive self-talk takes practice if it’s not your natural instinct. If you’re generally more pessimistic, you can learn to shift your inner dialogue to be more encouraging and uplifting. However, forming a new habit takes time and effort. Over time, your thoughts can shift. Positive self-talk can become your norm. These tips can help:

  • Identify negative self-talk traps. Specific scenarios may increase your self-doubt and lead to more negative self-talk. Work events, for example, may be challenging. Pinpointing when you experience the most negative self-talk can help you anticipate and prepare.
  • Check in with your feelings. Stop during events or bad days and evaluate your self-talk. Is it becoming negative? How can you turn it around?
  • Find the humor. Laughter can help relieve stress and tension. When you need a boost for positive self-talk, find ways to laugh, such as watching funny animal videos or a comedian.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Whether or not you notice it, you can absorb the outlook and emotions of people around you. This includes negative and positive, so choose positive people when you can.
  • Give yourself positive affirmations. Sometimes, seeing positive words or inspiring images can be enough to redirect your thoughts. Post small reminders in your office, home, and anywhere you spend significant time.


Positive self-talk can help you improve your outlook on life. It can also have lasting positive health benefits, including improved well-being and quality of life. However, self-talk is a habit made over a lifetime.


If you tend to have negative self-talk and error on the side of pessimism, you can learn to change it. It takes time and practice, but you can develop uplifting, positive self-talk.


If you’re not successful on your own, talk with a therapist. Mental health experts can help you pinpoint sources of negative self-talk and learn to flip the switch. Ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a therapist, friend, or family member for a suggestion.


If you don’t have personal references, you can search the database of sites like PsychCentral or WhereToFindCare.com. Smartphone apps like Talkspace and LARKR provide virtual connections to trained and licensed therapists through chat or live video stream.

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