How to Spot the 4 Types of Negative Self-Talk

It’s not uncommon for many of us to have thoughts and conversations running inside our heads. It could be your to-do list for the day, a random observation about your surroundings, or it could be your own self-talk.

Self-talk is defined as the dialogue you have going on inside your head. It can be either positive or negative, encouraging, or distressing. If caring for yourself was a road trip, self-talk would be considered your navigation system. And like most people, you probably live with a mixture of both positive and negative self-talk.

The tricky part about negative self-talk is that it can take many forms. Here are four of the most common categories of negative self-talk and how you can combat them:

Type 1: Personalizing

Have you ever had plans get canceled and you automatically think it must be because of you? Or perhaps a coworker brushed you off and you thought it was surely because they must not want to be around you?

Personalizing is a type of negative self-talk where you blame yourself for anything that goes wrong. Whenever a bad situation occurs, it must be because of you.

Type 2: Catastrophizing

There’s something to be said about preparing for the worst. The difference between preparedness and catastrophizing is that you take it a step further. When you catastrophize, you automatically anticipate the worst. 

For example, your local coffee shop gives you the wrong latte, and you now believe that the rest of your day is ruined. You expect the worst, and no amount of logic or reason could convince you otherwise.

Type 3: Magnifying

It’s a beautiful Saturday, so you decide to tackle the yard. You weed, prune, and mulch. You rake away any remaining winter leaves and spend the whole day trying to get your yard in shape. Neighbors pass by and compliment you on the amazing work you’ve done. But that evening, all you can think about is how you didn’t get the gutters cleaned out or finish trimming up that one shrub.

This is considered magnifying or filtering. It’s when you take a certain situation and remove all the positives. Instead of the beautiful work you accomplished, all you see are undone tasks and your shortcomings. 

Type 4: Polarizing

This is when you see things as either black or white, good or bad. There’s no middle ground to process or categorize. You either have to be perfect or you’re a total failure.

Practice Positive Self-Talk Daily

These examples may feel extreme, but negative thoughts can invade your mind in much more subtle ways. The good news is that cultivating positive thinking is possible and relatively simple. It takes practice, but it’s absolutely possible to create new internal dialogue habits. 

Here are a few tips to get you going:

  • Get moving. Exercise is known to bust stress, curb anxiety, improve your confidence, and boost your mood.
  • Surround yourself with positivity. Hanging around other negative people can increase your stress levels and make you feel more agitated – talk about a huge hit on your mental health! So, make sure that the people you surround yourself with are supportive and positive.
  • Start practicing. If your thoughts are mostly negative, see how you can put a positive twist on them. For example, promise yourself that for every negative thought, you will respond by thinking two positive ones! Remember to be gentle and kind to yourself – you’re learning a new skill!

Start Today

Creating new habits takes time. While you won’t transform into an optimist overnight, making small steps each day will soon get you there. Doing so will help to lessen the inner critic and may even help you appreciate the world around you more.


You can start making changes today, one thought at a time.

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