How to Overcome Negative Self-Talk

When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” – African proverb.

All wars are tragic. But perhaps most damaging, is the war against the person in the mirror. You can walk away from fighting someone, but you can’t run away from yourself.

Frustration is birthed from inconsistency in life. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out where to even begin addressing problems. But just like treating any sort of contamination, addressing the root source is the solution; Beginning with the person in the mirror, here’s how to overcome five areas of major inner frustration:

1. A Fluid Identity

Life is made up of the past, present, and future. Much fulfillment is found in who we are and what we do. But when meaning and identity is rooted in the past, we can become trapped; if we place it the future we create anxiety; if we’re isolated in the present we become stagnant.

There’s a lot of buzz about “living in the moment,” while that’s important, our brains can’t help but dig into the past, and think about our future, trying to construct a roadmap for our life.

Balance is created when our meaning and identity is process-oriented rather than goal-oriented; seeing ourselves as continually shaped rather than a finished product. That frees us from holding onto glory days of the past, or placing too much hope in a fixed future. Instead, our identity is fluid, as it should be, in growth, change, and iteration.

2. Broaden Your Blueprint

Inner-turmoil comes when experiences don’t match expectations—when the dream job turns out to be a drab. Although we can’t always control outcomes and circumstances, we can shift our perceptions. And it’s not being delusional about reality, it’s reframing a situation to see the positives.

Tony Robbins calls them our life-blueprint (expectations) and life-conditions (experience). Frustration comes when they’re on completely different pages. When our blueprint says we must look like Brad Pitt or Angelina, our life conditions will likely fall short. It doesn’t mean we can’t have high expectations and goals to look good, it means to broaden the blueprint, and find joy in other parts of our body. We overlook many things that bring happiness; our standards should make room for the little things as well as the grand ones.

 3. Forgiveness

The inability to forgive creates an emotional cramp and prevents wounds from healing. We place too many conditions on forgiveness. It doesn’t mean being peas and carrots with that person again. It doesn’t even mean you need to see them; otherwise, how else does one forgive someone in another country or who’s passed away? And if an apology is absolutely necessary, forgiveness would be impossible for many.

Coming to a place of forgiveness is an emotionally liberating and healthy experience. Recognizing that nobody is perfect opens up the door for empathy and releases emotional shackles. It doesn’t justify any wrongdoings, but compassion dissolves bitterness, and allows us to move on.

4. Beliefs and Behaviors   

It’s the epitome of conflicting behavior—hypocrisy—to do the very thing spoken against. If your boss makes salary cuts, then gives himself a raise, the psychological pain is literally having the wind taken out of you; dopamine levels take a massive dive, and our body’s threat-stress response is sparked.

It’s the same when we’re the culprit—cursing at drivers who text, but ignoring our own tapping fingers. When our behaviors are inconsistent with our beliefs, our brain chemicals respond with frustration. Cultivating self-reflection and awareness is key; recognizing our cognitive bias, that we’re far more critical of others than of ourselves, enables us to turn our critical lens onto ourselves, and make sure our behaviors become consistently with our beliefs.

5. Silence the Impostor Syndrome

It’s that voice inside your head undermining and belittling everything you do. Even despite evidence of your abilities, you’re convinced you’re not good enough.

The inability to properly appraise and appreciate our potential creates conflict; it holds us back from doing things we’d excel in. Psychologists say it’s our limbic “reptilian” brain, the part that controls our fight-flight mechanism. The negative mental chatter is an attempt to keep us safe in our comfort zone.

Fulfillment comes with growth and achievement, which necessitates breaking comfort zones. Recognizing the negative chatter as a defense mechanism with good intentions—albeit not always helpful—is key to moving forward, and dissolving the inner-conflict of not living out your passion and potential.