Be Your Own Best Friend

“Recent research has found that individuals can be identified as ‘Positive Energizers’ or Negative Energizers,’ and the difference has important implications in trying times. Positive Energizers create and support vitality in others. They uplift and boost people. Interacting with positive energizers leaves others feeling lively, inspired, and motivated. In contrast, negative energizers deplete the good feelings and enthusiasm of others. They sap strength from and weaken people. They leave others feeling exhausted and diminished.”

The concept of being your own best friend can also be thought of as protecting your own roots—from yourself. We are talking about negative self-talk, our critical inner dialogue, the nasty things that we often think about ourselves.

We all have an inner critic. At times this little voice can actually be helpful and keep us motivated toward goals—like when this critic reminds us that what we’re about to eat isn’t healthy or that what we’re about to do may not be wise. However, this little voice can often be more harmful than helpful. This is known as negative self-talk, and it can really bring us down.

What Is Salty Negative Self-Talk?

Negative self-talk can take many forms. It can sound grounded (“I’m not good at this, so I should avoid attempting it for my own personal safety,” for example) or it can sound downright mean (“I can never do anything right!”). It may take on the feel of being a realistic appraisal of a situation (“I just got a C on this test. I guess I’m not good at math.”), only to devolve into a fear-based fantasy (“I’ll probably fail this class and never be able to go to a good college.”).

Basically, negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities and reach your potential. It is any thought that diminishes you and your ability to make positive changes in your life or your confidence in your ability to do so. Because of this, negative self-talk can not only be stressful, but it can really stunt your success.

The Toll of Salty Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk can affect us in some pretty damaging ways. Studies have linked negative self-talk with higher levels of stress and lower levels of self-esteem. This can lead to decreased motivation as well as greater feelings of helplessness. This type of critical inner dialogue has even been linked to depression.

The following are more negative consequences of negative self-talk:

Limited thinking. You tell yourself you can’t do something, and the more you hear it, the more you believe it.
Perfectionism. You begin to really believe that “great” isn’t as good as “perfect,” and that perfection is actually attainable. (In contrast, mere high achievers tend to do better than their perfectionistic counterparts because they generally less stressed and are happy with a job well-done rather than picking it apart and zeroing in on what could have been better.
Feelings of depression. Some research has shown that negative self-talk can lead to an exacerbation of feelings of depression. If left unchecked, this could be quite damaging.
Relationship challenges. Whether the constant self-criticism makes you seem needy and insecure or you turn your negative self-talk into more general negative habits that bother others, a lack of communication and even a “playful” amount of criticism can take a toll.

One of the most obvious drawbacks of negative self-talk is that it’s not positive. This sounds simplistic, but research has shown that being heliotropic, and Being the Sun, is good for your health, a great predictor of success and overall happiness.

For example, one study on athletes compared four different types of self-talk (instructional: where athletes remind themselves of specific things to do to play better, motivational: self-talk that keeps people on-task, positive, and negative) and found that positive self-talk was the greatest predictor of success. People didn’t need to remind themselves how to do something as much as they needed to tell themselves that they are doing something great and that others notice it as well.

How to Minimize Salty Negative Self-Talk

Here are some different ways to reduce the self-talk in your daily life:

Catch Your Critic

Learn to notice when you’re being self-critical so you can begin to stop. For example, notice when you say things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a good friend or a child.

Remember that Thoughts and Feelings Aren’t Always Reality

Thinking negative things about yourself may feel like astute observations, but your thoughts and feelings about yourself can definitely not be considered accurate information. Your thoughts can be skewed like everyone else’s, subject to biases and the influence of your moods.

Contain Your Negativity

If you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, it helps to contain the damage that a critical inner voice can cause by only allowing it to criticize certain things in your life, or be negative for only an hour in your day. This puts a limit on how much negativity can come from the situation.

Think Like a Friend

When our inner critic is at its worst, it can sound like our worst enemy. Often, we’ll say things to ourselves in our heads that we’d never say to a friend. Why not reverse this and–when you catch yourself speaking negatively in your head–make it a point to imagine yourself saying this to a treasured friend. If you know you wouldn’t say it this way, think of how you’d share your thoughts with a good friend or what you’d like a good friend to say to you. This is a great way to shift your self-talk in general.

Replace the Salt with the Sun

This is one of the best routes to combating negative self-talk: replacing it with something better. Take a negative thought and change it to something encouraging that’s also accurate. Repeat until you find yourself needing to do it less and less often. For example, reframing that which first appears negative to us by saying “I get to…” rather than “I’ve got to…” From “I have to go to work” to “I get to go to work.” This works well with most bad habits, and it’s a great way to develop a more positive way of thinking about yourself and about life.

Fortunately, with a little work, and a little self-kindness, this habit can be broken. Work towards being you own best friend. You are worth the effort.

Continually Challenge Your Salty Negative Self-Talk