The root causes of depression and anxiety can be numerous and complex, but most therapists would agree that the ways in which we talk and relate to ourselves have a significant impact on our ability to either recover or stay stuck in a state of suffering. Negative self-talk is one sure fire way to perpetuate states of discomfort. The following list is a helpful guide for monitoring harmful tendencies.
1. Over generalization. We are all guilty of making overgeneralized statements, but wide-sweeping, critical, negative self-statements can be detrimental. “I’m no good,” “I mess everything up,” “No one likes me” are just a few examples of overgeneralized statements. Of course there are instances in our lives where we are going to fail and not everyone is going like us, but I challenge you to find the evidence where this is true 100% of the time.
2. Unkind self-talk. Not only do the previous examples demonstrate overgeneralization, but they also demonstrate a lack of self compassion. Would you tolerate someone else saying that you are no good or that no one likes you? The basic rule of thumb is that if it’s unacceptable for someone else to say to you, then it’s just as unacceptable for you to say to yourself.
3. Forecasting- similar to overgeneralization but with the added element of trying to predict the future; “This is going to be a disaster,” “I’m not going on this date cause she/he isn’t going to like me,” or “I’m not even going to bother starting this project because I know I’ll mess it up anyway.”
There are never any guarantees with our future successes or failures, but establishing a belief of negativity before you even try will only ensure increased struggles, unhappiness and anxiety.
Bottom line is that we need to be mindful of what we say to ourselves and how we say it. If you are willing to self-check your self-talk, then you stand a chance of not falling victim to the false power that words sometimes hold over us.