We have all been there. Walking down the street and for some reason, whether it is our reflection, a comparison of someone else, or something else, a negative thought pops into your head. It could be something like, “Ugh, I hate how I look today,” or something as minor as, “I am so stupid for parking so far away.” These negative thoughts are common and negative self talk is especially common for women and in relation to their bodies.
According to a survey taken by CBS News, “97% of women report having one negative thought about their body each day”. Negative self talk affects women of all shapes and sizes and DoSomething.org reports that, “Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape.”
These statistics are staggering and tell the story of millions of women who feel insecure, unhappy, and uncomfortable in their bodies. This insecurity results in constant negative self talk in women. This negative self talk can sound like:
“I am so fat, I need to lose weight.”
“There is something wrong with me and my body.”
“I am so stupid, why did I eat that?”
That just scratches the surface of negative self talk that can plague women. So let’s deep dive further into self talk and how you can find ways to stop the cycle of negative self talk, and start feeling accepting and confident in your body and within yourself.
Types of Self Talk
First, it is important to understand the different types of self talk. These definitions are pulled from mindfulness sites and psychological journals, but the examples I have tailored to focus on self talk in relation to your body.
Filtering: You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones.
For example, someone at a party compliments your outfit. You go home and note all the people who didn’t compliment your outfit, thinking that they must think that you looked terrible, and forget the positive compliment.
Personalizing: When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself.
For example, you are not asked to be in the bridal party of a close friend, you tell yourself it is because of your body and how they must hate it as much as you do. Note that you have no evidence of this, but you have personalized the situation and the reasoning for why without evidence.
Catastrophizing: You automatically anticipate the worst.
For example, you are preparing to go to a family event, you anticipate that everyone will hate your outfit and comment negatively on your body and that it will ruin your day.
Polarizing: You see things only as either good or bad.
For example, you see your body as good or bad based on its size or weight. You then use that good or bad assessment to speak down to yourself and your body. “My body is bad because I am not as thin as I want to be, so I am a terrible person and don’t deserve joy.” There is no middle ground. You feel that you have to be perfect or you're a total failure.
Ways to Combat Negative Self Talk
The first step in combating negative self talk is to recognize that you are doing it. Once you catch yourself thinking or speaking negatively about yourself, your next step is to stop it in its tracks. Take a breath and say or think STOP.
From there, you have some options. You can either sit with the negative thought and try to pinpoint what brought you to that toxic and unkind moment. This will help you better understand what is really going on and what is at the heart of your negativity. If sitting with the thought is not an option in the moment, then I would suggest using a mantra to counteract the negative talk.
A mantra helps you reframe your self talk and transition from negative to neutral or positive. A mantra can be something as simple as, “my body is deserving as it is,” or, “I am wonderful as I am.”
Another option can be to make time to journal about the thoughts that come up and how they make you feel. Journaling can help you reflect and get to the heart of what is happening and why you feel that way.
Creating a Mantra
A mantra can be a powerful tool for you to go back to over and over again. It is a great way to stop negative self talk and reframe your mindset. Here is how to create a mantra:
Write down a negative thing that you say about yourself.
Then write down a motivating or positive phrase that counteracts the negative.
Repeat the mantra until it bears strength. Cross out the negative thing you originally wrote down.
Use that mantra whenever negative self talk creeps in.
Here are some mantra examples:
“Everyone makes mistakes, it is okay.”
“My body is worthy as it is.”
“I am strong, I am deserving.”
“Life happens, I still deserve to enjoy it.”
I would recommend using language that feels comfortable and common to you to get the best use out of a mantra.
I hope you have walked away with a better understanding of self talk, and how you can reset your negative self talk and self thought patterns to lead a more positive life. Hopefully this also gives you the tools you need to start rethinking your relationship with your body and how you talk to yourself.