Years ago I assumed that the critical way I talked to myself was simply me being realistic, and accurate and candid. I was simply a truth teller, who could see myself — my faults, flaws — clearly.

And yet I didn’t talk to others in this way. I wouldn’t dream of it.

But for some reason I thought I deserved this tough love approach, barren of compassion. Mistakes were the end of the world. My body was grounds for constant bashing.


Margarita TartakovskyMargarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.

Editor: Nadeem Noor


Some of us might not even realize the terrible way in which we talk to ourselves. It’s so automatic, so common. It might feel like another part of your daily routine. Like waking up. Like brushing your teeth. Like walking.

Or we think we deserve the harsh words. We’re too big, after all. We made a huge mistake, after all. We tend to overeat, after all. We can’t stay on a diet to save our lives, after all. We’re lazy, after all.

Negative self-talk only keeps us stuck, spinning our wheels, sinking deeper and deeper into the mud and muck. Calling ourselves stupid over and over doesn’t help us learn from a mistake or see anything clearly.

It paralyzes us. It keeps us ruminating about our inadequacies with no forward movement or growth.

But here’s a fact (an actual one): It doesn’t have to be like this. We can create a kinder dialogue. We can talk to ourselves in a patient, supportive, empowering way. Each of us has the permission to do so.

These are some examples of hurtful (or unhelpful, unhealthy) and healthy self-talk.

Hurtful Self-Talk

  • I should be able to get everything done.
  • I shouldn’t feel like this.
  • Only weak people get anxious.
  • I can’t handle this!
  • I’m such an idiot.
  • I’m disgusting.
  • I’m worthless if I can’t do this.
  • Wow, can I be any stupider.
  • I can never do anything right.
  • I don’t deserve happiness, peace, love, a good job until I earn it by losing weight, gaining weight, getting muscular…

Healthy Self-Talk

  • What can I do to improve this situation?
  • I am upset. Really upset. But I’m going to try to be kind instead of cruel.
  • Everyone struggles.
  • What do I really need?
  • I really need to talk to someone I trust. Instead of berating myself, I’m going to call that person right now.
  • Where is this anger really coming from?
  • It’s OK to feel what I’m feeling.
  • How can I do this?
  • What new skill do I need to learn?
  • What do I want to do?
  • I can appreciate my body and myself, and have cellulite, stretch marks or parts I don’t like.
  • I’m not needy. I’m starving.

I know that our self-talk is a very complex issue. And you might not feel like you have a choice in how you talk to yourself — that the terrible thoughts just start spilling out. And often they do.

But if we can just pause after a specific cruel thought, take a breath and then say something healthy, helpful or even neutral, we’re already doing something different. We’re already practicing a new habit. Because that’s ultimately the key: practice.

When unhealthy words start swirling in your brain, add healthy statements to the conversation. And keep adding them. Because, over time, they’ll begin dominating your inner dialogue, and your daily routine.

They will become like waking up. Like brushing your teeth. Like walking.

Courtesy: PsychCentral