How To Work With Negative Self-Talk

It is a well-known fact that every healthy human being has an internal dialogue. This could be in the form of actual language or it could be more abstract, involving imagery and symbols. Either way, everyone has some way of talking to themselves. Though it may seem self-evident that the quality of a person's self-talk has an important connection to the quality of a person's life, like most forms of introspection it was not well understood by science until relatively recently. 
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog
negative self talk
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog

Explore the different types of negative self-talk, how to identify and overcome triggers and limiting beliefs leading to the negative internal dialogue with the help of cognitive restructuring. Also, discover guided meditations along the way for turning around negative self-talk.

Positive Or Negative Self-Talk: Why It Is Important How We Talk To Ourselves

Nowadays, it has been well-established that training in positive self-talk reliably improves mental health and performance outcomes. It seems that even subtle shifts of language in one’s internal dialogue can have surprisingly profound effects. A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that simply switching from first-person pronouns to third-person pronouns during self-talk can help to regulate one’s thoughts, feelings and behavior, particular while under social stress. The study was particularly geared towards individuals suffering from social anxiety and the technique was found to be just as effective for them as for the control group.

Keep on reading and learn about the different types of negative self-talk or meditate on your self-worth while intentionally letting go of the inner critic:

  1. Self Love & Compassion Brittany Turner 7:27

Clearly, there is an art to harnessing one’s internal dialogue for personal growth. One important factor in manifesting this ability is identifying different types of negative self-talk so that you can take action towards creating new mental pathways.

Read more: Discover what it means to observe, heal and free your inner child.

Types Of Negative Self-Talk

Identifying negative self-talk is one of the most important elements of CBT, or Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, a framework for psychological treatment that has gained prominence in the past couple decades.

David Burns is one of the most popular exponents of CBT, and in his self-help classic “Feeling Good” he outlines ten different types of negative self-talk which he calls “Cognitive Distortions.”

They are as follows…

All-Or-Nothing Thinking

If something doesn’t go exactly according to plan and you see it as a total failure or a complete tragedy rather than appreciating the nuances of the situation, then you have fallen victim to all-or-nothing thinking.


This negative self-talk is characterized by the use of the words “Always,” or “Never.” When a discouraging event prompts you to see it as part of a permanent trend or an unchangeable aspect of your personality, then you are engaging in over-generalization.

Mental Filter

A mental filter is when you encounter an event with both positive and negative aspects only to focus on the negative events while discounting the positive. If you run a business that receives mostly positive reviews but you choose to only acknowledge and give mental space to the negative ones, you are setting yourself up for a truly pessimistic outlook.

Discounting The Positive

A similar distortion to the mental filter, however, in this case a positive event is acknowledged but explained away by external factors. For example:

“My boss only gave me a good review because he doesn’t want to pay for my training.”

Jumping To Conclusions

Jumping to conclusions comes in two forms: mind-reading and fortune-telling. Mind-reading is when you assume that someone is having negative thoughts or intentions towards you without clarifying or inquiring directly. Fortune-telling is when you predict a negative outcome to an event that could realistically turn out in a variety of ways.


Magnification and minimization is what happens when the relative importance or likelihood of an event is skewed in your mind to reflect poorly on them. For example, breaking a 5-dollar glass at work could seem like an enormous mistake when in reality it’s not such a big deal.

Emotional Reasoning

Emotional reasoning is interpreting your emotions as facts. This often manifests in the form of jealousy. If someone assumes their partner is cheating on them simply because they’re jealous, this is an example of emotional reasoning.

“Should” Statements

When your self talk tends towards how things “should” or “ought” to be different or better than they actually are it takes you away from simply appreciating the positive aspects of what’s really going on.


Labeling is connected to both over-generalization and all-or-nothing thinking. Labeling can be particularly insidious if it starts to form the image of your own identity and can lead to other distortions.

If after making a mistake at work, you call yourself a “failure,” it’s not long before you might start discounting the positive and minimizing your accomplishments because of your identity as a “failure.”

Read more: How we define who we are is the basis for determining the status of our strengths and talents. Explore the importance of constructing a healthy sense of identity to manage daily tasks.

Personalization or Blame

Taking other people’s negative actions, moods or life events personally is a common cognitive distortion. Even worse is the habit of blaming them on yourself when in reality they may be caused by events that are beyond your control, have nothing to do with you, or even their own cognitive distortions.

Keep on reading and explore how to stop negative self-talk or diminish the fuel for your critical self-narratives and offer yourself compassion with this guided meditation:

  1. Healing The Source Of The Inner Critic: The Wounded Child Dr. Candice Creasman 10:20

How To Stop Negative Self Talk

Albert Ellis was a psychological pioneer who developed a psychotherapeutic system known as REBT, or Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy, way back in 1955. This would eventually influence the development of CBT a couple of decades later.

While CBT expanded on many of the concepts employed in Ellis’ work, one of the main principles of REBT is still commonly used today. This is the ABCDE model of cognitive restructuring.

The ABCDE Model

The ABCDE model is a step-by-step method of exploring and overcoming negative or limiting beliefs that inform one’s internal dialogue. It goes as follows:

A: Activating Event

Nowadays this would be referred to as a trigger. An event in the world causes a psychological response. Identifying triggers that lead to negative responses is the first step to overcoming them.

B: Belief

Before the event triggers a response it is processed and mediated by the observer’s beliefs. These beliefs can be rational or irrational. Negative or positive. Identifying irrational or negative beliefs is crucial to working with negative self-talk.

C: Consequence

The belief triggers a consequence. Negative or irrational beliefs tend to trigger negative consequences, generally in the form of emotions, sensations or further negative thought processes.

It should be noted here that the idea that triggers cause negative consequences due simply to irrational beliefs is an old-fashioned way of thinking. Research into trauma has indicated that once a trigger has been internalized the response can become far more automatic, operating directly on the nervous system. This doesn’t discount the ABCDE method as a useful tool however, as negative or limiting beliefs clearly do trigger negative consequences, it’s just that it may not be as useful when dealing with deep, unresolved trauma.

D: Dispute

If one is holding an irrational or limiting belief, it is important to dispute that belief and work towards replacing it with a rational or positive belief. Mindfulness meditation practice is a particularly effective way of addressing this stage, as it gives the practitioner the tools to dispute irrational beliefs by simply seeing and accepting things as they are rather then disputing them through a process of internal conflict.

E: Effect

Observing and appreciating the effects of transforming your negative self-talk into positive self-talk is key to making it habit. Positive consequences are a way to motivate you to engage in this new way of thinking more regularly and eventually internalize it.

Read more: Explore different ways of identifying emotional triggers and how to be less reactive.

Start Observing Your Emotions To Conquer Negative Self-Talk

The ABCDE is clearly a powerful tool for working with negative self-talk. However, psychotherapy has changed quite a bit in 50 years. It is no longer thought that negative emotions are only caused by irrational beliefs. For example, is it irrational to feel anger or sadness at the suffering of a loved one?

This is why techniques like the ABCDE method are best used in conjunction with a meditation technique that allows the user to simply observe their emotional state without necessarily trying to change it and developing a sense of acceptance and self-distance along with a more rational process of psychological inquiry.

At last, this is a powerful meditation for anyone interested in understanding the self-critical voice that lives within all of our minds. Through curiosity and understanding we shall cultivate some perspective around these persistent and re-occurring thoughts. Through this perspective we can reduce the grip these thoughts have over us and encourage liberation in our thinking.

  1. Understanding Your Self-Critical Thoughts Fleur Chambers 20:16

Meditation. Free.