While I do not think there is necessarily one secret to improving your life, I do believe that if you want to be happier and healthier, the first thing to tackle is how you talk to yourself. As I have written before and said many, many times: Your words are powerful.

What you think and say about yourself matters — and, of course, knowledge is power. So, acquaint yourself with negative self-talk, begin the practice of talking yourself out the negative and into the positive, and watch the incredible changes in how you feel about yourself and your life.

What is negative self-talk?

Anything you say or think about yourself that is not very nice, supportive, or loving.

Can I get an example?

Sure thing — I am lazy. I am so stupid… why did I do that? Even sneakier phrases like: Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I did that! What was I thinking???! Or: I should be better at this. I shouldn’t have slacked off so much/eaten that cake/said that.

Easy rule of thumb? “Should” phrases and anything you say or think that makes you feel low or bad about yourself is probably negative self-talk.

Why stop it?

Sometimes it can feel like berating yourself will be motivating — if you’re hard on yourself you might think that you’ll learn “x” was unacceptable and do better next time. I know I’ve thought that — if I really beat myself up over procrastinating on this assignment THEN maybe next time I won’t procrastinate. Experience says… that’s not how it works 😉 The truth is, when you’re critical of yourself, you just bring yourself down.

And hey, it’s okay. We all negative self-talk from time to time, so try not to criticize yourself for that either!

What can I do?

Affirmations! Affirmations are kind of like the opposite of negative self-talk; they are all about saying kind, loving things to yourself ❤

I like to think of banishing negative self-talk in three steps:

  1. Become more aware of how you are talking to yourself (and about yourself!). When you recognize yourself saying mean things about yourself or spiraling into a critical frenzy, pause and take a breath.
  2. Don’t make yourself wrong for thinking or saying the negative things! Recognize and observe — no judgment.
  3. Reframe. Reframe. Reframe. Try your best to turn around whatever negative things you are thinking or saying into a positive statement or affirmation.

For example, if you’re thinking: I am such an idiot, I cannot believe I was not better prepared for class today. Things went horribly and it’s my fault — I should’ve spent more time preparing.


Things didn’t go exactly how I would’ve liked them to today.

It would’ve been nice if I prepared more, but I didn’t and that’s okay: I am doing the best I can in each moment.

Even though x,y,z happened and I feel disappointed, I love and accept myself exactly as I am.

A great thing about affirmations is that you don’t even have to 100% BELIEVE the affirmations when you start saying them — The more you say them, the more you’ll start to believe them and the happier you’ll be. Instead of getting stuck in a cycle of negative self-talk you’ll be able to take a breath, smile, and move onward and upward.

Personally, I love to write positive affirmations on colorful post-it notes and put them everywhere. You can find them on my counter, my mirrors, in notebooks… stuck to my wallet! They are such lovely reminders throughout the day that I am amazing just the way I am. And, of course — so are you

Here you can check out some affirmations from the queen of affirmations, Louise Hay. I also highly recommend her books…. all of them.

Originally published at medium.com


  • Kirsten Lee Hill, Ph.D.

    Researcher, Creative, Entrepreneur

    Kirsten Lee Hill, Ph.D. is an expert in creatively leveraging traditional research expertise to support community-driven change, and has worked with global leaders in innovation such as Virgin Unite and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Kirsten partners with people and organizations with inspiring ideas for how to change the world so they can leverage the powers of research and personal wellbeing to advance their cause. She also inspires changemakers to embrace gracefully breaking rules through her podcast, Graceful Rulebreakers.