Do You Struggle With Negative Self-Talk?

Yes, I do. I used to struggle with negative self-talk, actually. But this doesn’t mean I’ve overcome it completely.

About seven years ago, I still had negative thoughts about my own looks and body.
Adenike (2012, on a visit to the Silverbird Galleria, Lagos with my five siblings)

As a young girl, I never loved myself. I would look at myself in the mirror and say “you aren’t beautiful.” I had a standard of beautiful people and I fell short of that standard, sadly.

For me, “fine” people had beautiful smiles, dimples in their cheeks, long and silky hair, and bright, glowing skin. I never saw myself as having any of those.

When did my narrative change? I can’t recall exactly. But I knew that I carried this with me until my early twenties.

Now, I look at myself and say, “I am a beautiful woman created with powers to change my life and those around me. My natural hair may be stubborn but I love it even more. I may be slim and tall but it’s the “bestselling shape” as far as I’m concerned. My nails might not be long and pretty but they grow finely on my fingers and I love them.”

Studies have proven that we spend the most part of our lives talking to ourselves. Now, you might not hear yourself say “girl, don’t go there. Stay here.” or “why did you do that?”

Whether you’re scolding, avoiding, pretending, numbing, perfecting or exaggerating, negative self-talk is a bad guy.  

The truth remains that we speak to ourselves. You talk to yourself, whether in your head or aloud. And no matter what you think, your self-talk is either positive or negative.

How Does Negative Self-Talk Affect Your Life?

Do you often catch yourself uttering phrases like: “It’s all my fault.” “I should have known better.” “I’m an idiot.”?

Science states that 80% of our daily 50,000+ thoughts are filled with negative self-talk.

According to Jim Kwik, a brain expert who helps people master ways to unlock their quick brain and learn faster, negative self-talk projects on us.

In fact, the things we say in our minds are the actual things which program our brain. This implies that you are what you tell your brain. Your inner critic may often be louder than your own voice or the silence in your head.

The Holy Scriptures also says in Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”

James Allen must have believed the same thing; hence, the book title As a Man Thinketh. The self-help book looks at the effects of thoughts on your health, character, circumstances, and overall life purpose

Here’s the thing:

Your mind doesn’t know the difference between your good and bad thoughts. It only takes what you give to it. So, every time you say “I am broke,” your brain brings you circumstances that ensure that you remain broke.

Sadly, it applies to exams and actual life situations. When you say, “mo gbe” (a Yoruba phrase for “I am in trouble”), some form of misfortune follows.

If only we knew how terrible negative self-talk can be, we would be more careful with our expressions about ourselves, the people around us, and the society we live in.

The Case of Nigeria and the Popular Negativity

I am a Nigerian woman from Yoruba land. My parents are from Kwara while my husband is from Kogi. I grew up in Lagos, studied in Osun, and served in Ekiti.

Often, I travelled through Ogun and Oyo; so, you can say I have lived mostly in the South-western part of Nigeria. I’ve been used to a specific lifestyle – things being ugly and people often lamenting and complaining.

In my view years on earth, I have realized one thing about Nigeria. Some things have been better. Living conditions have worsened for the majority while things have gotten extremely better for many who wield power at the helms of affairs.

Amidst it all, I have learned one thing – instead of focusing on how bad things are, look at the good things.

What Triggers Negative Self-Talk?

Verywellmind agrees that negative self-talk has disastrous effects on the mind as well as the body. This means, in essence, that we, as Nigerians, remind ourselves of how catastrophic life has become over the years, we risk our sanity as well as health.

According to Brené Brown, an America professor of Social Work, you need to “talk to yourself like you would to someone you love.” I listened to her TEDTalk about the power of vulnerability and she emphasized the importance of feeling connected and allowing ourselves to be seen.

You might ask:

Where does negative self-talk come from? What makes us feel shame or fear about ourselves?

What makes you look at yourself and say, “I’m not good enough or rich enough”?

Let’s take a look at it. Many times, negative speech about ourselves or others is triggered by:

  • Life circumstances
  • The unwillingness to be vulnerable
  • Parents and teachers
  • Childhood experiences
  • People & relationships
  • Work environments
  • School and colleges
  • Societal conditions
  • Economic downslides
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Diseases and health problems
  • Religious negativity
  • And more!

I can go on and on with this list but one thing is sure:

When we speak negativity and say bad things about ourselves or others, we create a toxic mind, a toxic body, and a toxic body.

Jack Canfield also emphasized this relationship in his article about negative self-talk.

When you tell yourself you’re no good, your brain puts a stamp on that and keeps reminding you daily that nothing good can be written beside your name.

Isn’t this a sad story?

One of the most realistic negative self-talk quotes I found on Google (from Pinterest) says, “Your body hears everything that your mind says.”

If this is the case, what can you do to repair your thoughts and speeches so that they stop affecting your body the wrong way?

How can you move from negative thought to positive self-talk?

Positive Self-Talk Begins in Your Mind

Just as negative self-talk begins in your mind, positive self-talk also starts there.

Start your day believing that it will be good

As a child, I was used to the phrase, “manage.” It was a word that was ingrained in the minds of my siblings and me as we grew up. Whenever we were returning to the boarding house, we would usually be told, “Learn to manage.”

Inasmuch as we didn’t like the sound of it, we knew what it meant. We also knew that it was true as far as finances were concerned.

However, what I realized later in the university was that “learn to manage” reduced my chances of abundance. I had been living with a scarcity mindset for a long time and I didn’t know how to rewrite my story.

So, what did I do?

I developed a new motto: money will always come. My husband (who was my boyfriend at the time) wondered how I believed in this expression. It worked for me! Always!

I switched from the negative self-talk to the positive self-talk by telling myself that simple line.

And guess what? Those four words changed my life. Despite how well I managed my month allowance of ₦10, 000/roughly $28 (which wasn’t too bad at the time, considering the fact that I always had a budget), there were times when I just didn’t have anything anymore.

And in such time, money always came.

This is my story. What is yours?

How Can You Stop Negative Self-Talk?

Start with affirmations.

I’ve been reading Abundance Now by Lisa Nichols since the beginning of the year. I received it as a gift from my mentor and godmother, Dr. Mrs. Bola Oyerinde.

One big lesson I have learned from this book is how to use affirmations. Affirmations are the stories you choose to write about yourself. They are power statements which begin with “I am…”

Anything that follows I am is who you are.

Exercise on Affirmations to Fight Negative Self-Talk

So, here’s an exercise for you:

Below, you’ll find a list of 12 things which should summarize your life.

I’d like you to write anything you want about those areas of your life starting with “I am.”

Let me give you an example. In my affirmations which I wrote in my Journal 25 and pasted on my closet door, I wrote this about my family relationships (first) and friendships (next):

I am surrounded by real, loving, and supportive relatives who will keep being their best selves despite our differences.

 I am cherished and blessed with awesome friends who will go out of their way to help me grow and accept my hand of friendship whenever I reach out.

Now, view the list below:

  1. Physical body
  2. Family
  3. Friendships
  4. Any other close relationships like marriage relationship, work relationships, etc.
  5. Career/Education
  6. Social giving and Philanthropy
  7. Spiritual life
  8. Business and Investments
  9. Mentors and Support systems
  10. Playtime
  11. Personal Gifts
  12. Legacy to future generations.

When you write them, you might not totally believe in them already. They may feel beyond you and way above who you are right now. That’s what it should be!

Affirmations are confirmations of who you are or who you want to be. And if you don’t like what your present reality is, do you not have the power to change it?

It begins with your words.

Negative self-talk has never been known to do any good. It causes sicknesses, depression, and even death.

So, how much are you ready to lose to negativity and depressing thoughts? How long do you want to keep saying “the economy is messed up” and “nothing good can happen here”?

I’m not asking you to lie. No, that’s not the point.

I’m encouraging you to stay healthy and keep your body and brain sane by focusing on the good rather than the bad. also recommends that you spend less time on social media because these channels tend to breed self-criticism.

Have you ever caught yourself looking at a photo and thinking, “That lady looks so tall and feminine and I barely look like a girl.” or saying something like “everybody else has good life and I just never do anything right.”?

Such expressions are triggered by the “perfect life” we tend to believe others have. So, taking a break from social media can help you. And if you can’t take a break, cut it down a bit.

Other things that can help you include:

  • Forgive yourself for what you think you should be
  • Accept who you are – your weaknesses and all
  • Be kind to yourself so that you can be kind to others
  • Do things for yourself without expecting only a good result
  • Allow other people to see you for who you truly are – imperfect.  

What Does Ellen G. White Say About Negative Self-Talk?

Ellen G. White had a dream which she described in Steps to Christ (see pages 117-118). She talked about how she walked in a garden and the garden owner guided her through.

While she had focused on picking flowers and inhaling their sweet fragrance, another woman had dwelt on the briers that stood in her way. The woman cried out, “Oh, is it not a pity that this beautiful garden is spoiled with thorns?”

But guess what Ellen White’ guide had told her? “Let the thorns alone, for they will only wound you. Gather the roses, the lilies, and the pinks.”

Overall, Ellen G. White’s point in this final chapter of Steps to Christ is this:

It makes little sense to dwell on the things that aren’t perfect in your life. We know that the world isn’t perfect. Don’t try to be perfect, but don’t also crucify yourself for having flaws or weaknesses.

To illustrate this, I remember the recent killings of over 45 Muslims in New Zealand last week. While some consider this as a crime against Muslims, some call it an act of terrorism showing that Christians aren’t any better.

Well, I choose to see this as a crime against humanity. No religion celebrates or encourages the killing of another human being.

So, when such happen, it seems better to mourn the loss of human lives rather than attack religions or sects. Aren’t lives more precious than political or religious dramas?

Finally, fill your heart with the beautiful things in your life rather than the thorns and sorrows that will only hurt you further.

Take Home

Negative self-talk will not bring you the success you want. It won’t make you happier; neither will it leave you neutral. It will make you sad and sadder by the day.

Instead of loathing yourself or being angry about your inefficiencies, accept the fact that you aren’t perfect. You are enough. Encourage yourself with positivity rather than negative thoughts and affirmations.

Choose to love yourself because that’s only when you can love others.

Choose to forgive yourself of your mistakes and failed opportunities because that’s only when you can forgive others truly.

And if you’re a parent, allow your children to grow without following a script. It’s a tough world already. Let them enjoy their childhood without you having to rewrite standards to them.

More importantly, replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations.

You are doing great. Don't listen to your inner critic. (Donald Tong)

You are enough! Believe me. I’m not there yet but I’m a piece of silver in the fire. And the dross is falling off nicely.   

P.S: On the affirmations, I would be happy to write your affirmations and customize them to suit your reality of future expectations. I write for kids as well as grownups.

Last Friday, I created affirmations for my 10-year old mentee. And I’m sure they are helping her as she writes her exams this week.

Reach out to me. I’m excited to help.

Till you read from me again, All my love!

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