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Shift Self-Talk: Don’t Listen to What Anxiety Says About You

It's important to shift your self-talk when you're anxious because anxiety can (and usually does) make us painfully hard on ourselves. Any type of anxiety typically brings harsh self-judgments in the form of labels and negative self-talk. Often, it occurs so automatically and frequently that we almost get used to it and come to accept it as truth.

How does anxiety talk to you about yourself? Do you say things to yourself such as, "I'm an idiot," or, "I ruin everything," or, "I sound ridiculous?" Anxiety creates this negative self-talk that feels real because it's coming from your own mind, but that doesn't mean it is at all accurate. It's time to shift how you talk to yourself.

How to Shift Self-Talk

Get Curious and Aware: What Does Anxiety Say to You about You?

Harsh self-criticisms pop up naturally as an extension of anxiety. Often, they occur so automatically and frequently that we almost get used to them and come to accept them as truth. Negative labels and anxious thinking serve to continually increase anxiety and decrease self-worth. 

The goal is to shift the words you use to describe yourself. However, if anxiety has been berating you for a long time, you may have come to believe these mean words without question, assuming that they're accurate. "I'm worthless" might feel more fitting than "I'm valuable." There's a way to change that, though, so you not only begin to describe yourself with positive labels but you actually start believing them. 

Begin by getting curious and fostering awareness about your negative, anxious self-talk. Once you're aware of how much anxiety says it and what, exactly, it is saying, you can progress to the heart of the change. 

Start paying attention to yourself--your true, full, complete, and real self. Notice things you do, strengths you possess, talents you have, roles you take on, and how you interact with others (not just the human foibles and faux pas that anxiety highlights but the actual, well-rounded picture). This might feel uncomfortable at first because anxiety makes us loathe paying attention to ourselves. You can do it, though. Observe yourself despite discomfort. 

Observe Yourself and Shift Self-Talk (Instead of Listening to Anxiety)

Actively keep track of what you observe about yourself. Catch yourself being the person you really are and the person you want to be. 

Avoid the anxious tendency to find your faults and label them. When your mind does go there (anxiety is stubborn, after all), neither listen nor argue; instead, turn gently back to seeking the good in yourself. Simply observe and gradually open your mind to the possibility that there's more to you than negative labels created by anxious thoughts. 

The next step is to use your observations to change your thoughts about yourself. Write down a negative, anxiety-based, harsh label. Counter it by adding a positive label or description based on your observations. Add examples to reinforce to yourself that this positive label is realistic and accurate. You might use a column format or a mind map to do this. 

For example, you catch anxiety calling you annoying after a meeting at work. What did you objectively observe about yourself? "I'm annoying and overly talkative" might transform into "I'm helpful," based on your example. "In the meeting, I did talk a lot, but it was because I had ideas for a solution. My colleagues liked my suggestion, and we're implementing it." 

As you do this over time, your self-talk will shift, and along with it, so will your thoughts about yourself. Even when anxiety does chime in with its negative judgments, it won't be as bothersome because you've replaced them with realistic, positive beliefs. Your realistically positive self-concept will be your default mindset.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2021, August 12). Shift Self-Talk: Don’t Listen to What Anxiety Says About You, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, September 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2021/8/shift-self-talk-dont-listen-to-what-anxiety-says-about-you



Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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