Negative Self Talk and Goals

She’s your inner critic. She will ruin your best intentions, give you plenty of excuses and leave you filled with doubt. From the moment you set your goals and throughout your journey, you will be on her radar. She will show her face in the forms of procrastination, drama, distractions, fear of failure and indecision, all of which play to her strengths. If you want to prevail, you will need to keep her in check. She is your negative self talk.

Anyone with true aspirations is her target and unfortunately overly passionate, self conscious people are most vulnerable. By staying focused on the goal and not her, you will have a better shot at staying on course. Build up consistent steps for your journey, develop mental fortitude and practice resiliency and go with confidence, knowing that she can’t defeat you.

How will you develop this mental fortitude? Or practice better resiliency? Will you have to step way out of your comfort zone at some point? Probably. Will you have to overcome some obstacles and not allow them to become excuses? What is it that you want? How can you prepare yourself for the number of ways “she” may show up in your life?

Negative self talk is something I have been working on in therapy. The first and biggest challenge that I had was knowing how my self talk was coming out. This is where the 10 cognitive distortions come into play. I have copied them at the bottom of this blog post so that you can read through them if you wish and maybe take a look at your behaviors and see how these fit into your life.

I struggle most with should statements, and labeling. I have learned how to recognize and really try to work on this. But I am constantly thinking I should do more, be more, etc.

It may surprise you to know that many cognitive theorists have emphasized a strong link between what people say to themselves and their behavior. Studies suggest that this inner dialogue can affect a person’s emotional and behavioral outcomes, bringing on anxiety and negative thoughts during a presentation, completing a project or a performance. Look below and see if any of these cognitive distortions and your way of thinking may be sabotaging your goals.

Patterns of Cognitive Distortions:

These are 10 common cognitive distortions that can contribute to negative emotions.

They also fuel catastrophic thinking patterns that are particularly disabling. Read these and see if you can identify ones that are familiar to you.

1. All-or-Nothing Thinking: You see things in black-or-white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure. When a young woman on a diet ate a spoonful of ice cream, she told herself, “I’ve blown my diet completely.” This thought upset her so much that she gobbled down an entire quart of ice cream!

2. Over generalization: You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it. A depressed salesman became terribly upset when he noticed bird dung on the windshield of his car. He told himself, “Just my luck! Birds are always crapping on my car!”

3. Mental Filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors a beaker of water. Example: You receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical. You obsess about his reaction for days and ignore all the positive feedback.

4. Discounting the Positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they "don't count." If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well. Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.

5. Jumping to Conclusions: You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion. Mind Reading: Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you. Fortune-telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. Before a test you may tell yourself, “I’m really going to blow it. What if I flunk?” If you’re depressed you may tell yourself, “I’ll never get better.”

6. Magnification: You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities. This is also called the “binocular trick.”

7. Emotional Reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel terrified about going on airplanes. It must be very dangerous to fly.” Or “I feel guilty. I must be a rotten person.” Or “I feel angry. This proves I’m being treated unfairly.” Or “I feel so inferior. This means I’m a second-rate person.” Or “I feel hopeless. I must really be hopeless.

8. “Should statements”: You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. After playing a difficult piece on the piano, a gifted pianist told herself, “I shouldn’t have made so many mistakes.” This made her feel so disgusted that she quit practicing for several days. “Musts,” “oughts” and “have tos” are similar offenders.“Should statements” that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general lead to anger and frustration: “He shouldn’t be so stubborn and argumentative.” Many people try to motivate themselves with should and shouldn’ts, as if they were delinquents who had to be punished before they could be expected to do anything. “I shouldn’t eat that doughnut.” This usually doesn’t work because all these should and musts make you feel rebellious and you get the urge to do just the opposite.

9. Labeling: Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” You might also label yourself “a fool” or “a failure” or “a jerk.” Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. Human beings exist, but “fools,” “losers,” and “jerks” do not. These labels are just useless abstractions that lead to anger, anxiety, frustration, and low self-esteem. You may also label others. When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, you may tell yourself: “He’s an S.O.B.” Then you feel that the problem is with that person’s “character” or “essence” instead of with their thinking or behavior. You see them as totally bad. This makes you feel hostile and hopeless about improving things and leaves little room for constructive communication.

10. Personalization and blame: Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. When a woman received a note that her child was having difficulties at school, she told herself, “This shows what a bad mother I am,” instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her, she told herself, “If only I were better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.” Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy. Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem: “The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.” Blame usually doesn’t work very well because other people will resent being scapegoated and they will just toss the blame right back in your lap. It’s like the game of hot potato – no one wants to get stuck with it.