“If you weren’t such a loser, you’d be able to quit drinking. But you can’t, because you’re weak.”
“No one cares about you. If you fell off the face of the planet, no one would even notice.”
“You might as well stop trying. Every time you try you just screw everything up beyond repair.”
Would you ever talk to anyone this way? No? Well, chances are, if you are currently in recovery or if you are still suffering at the hands of an active addiction, you have talked to yourself this way more than once. This is called negative self-talk; not only does speaking to ourselves this way exacerbate our misery and emotional discomfort, but it can actually hinder our recovery from substance abuse and other mental health concerns. Most of us speak to ourselves day in and day out, essentially keeping a running dialogue within our own minds. There are times when we question our actions and our behaviors and doing so on occasion is completely normal – and often productive. For example, say we accidentally cut someone off in traffic and they honk their horn at us angrily. We might ask ourselves, “Why would you do that? You need to pay better attention, you could’ve gotten in a wreck!” We aren’t always happy with our own personal performance, and that’s fine. So long as we acknowledge where we need improvement and move right along.
Negative self-talk, however, involves internal dialogue that is actually damaging to us and to our psyches. Negative self-talk destroys our self-esteem and involves us consistently telling ourselves things that simply aren’t true. For example, if someone cuts us off in traffic and honks at us angrily, engaging in negative self-talk might look like saying to ourselves, “See, look at that. You can’t drive. Everyone hates you. You should just head home and lock yourself inside, because you’re an absolute loser.” Because many of us are so used to engaging in negative self-talk whenever something goes wrong, it can be difficult to change this pattern of thinking. It takes time and effort. Fortunately, positive self-talk is a tool taught in most inpatient treatment centers. At Chapel Hill Detox, we believe in teaching our clients the tools they need for long-term success and sobriety during the very first stage of the treatment process – medically monitored detox.
10 Common Examples of Negative Self-Talk
Here are several examples of negative self-talk that we likely engage in on a daily or near-daily basis.
- “I’m not worth recovery.” Telling yourself that you aren’t worth recovery kills your motivation and wrecks your self-esteem. The truth is, of course, that you simply don’t feel worthy right now because you are in the throes of a disease that strips you of your will to live. Once you have a little bit of sobriety under your belt, we guarantee that you will remember just how worthy you are.
- “There is no point in trying to get sober.” This sentence completely robs you of your personal power. Additionally, it simply is not true. If you’ve been feeling this way, try making a list of all of the reasons to get sober. Some obvious reasons include the mental and emotional well-being of your loved ones, your own physical, mental and emotional health, your future and the ability to work towards personal goals.
- “Other people can get sober, but I’ll never be able to.” There will be times where you can’t do something that you set out to do, however, anyone is capable of getting and staying sober. Recovery is a viable possibility for anyone who is willing to try and go to whatever length possible. It isn’t easy, but it is completely possible – try to stop disempowering yourself!
- “Nobody likes me.” The truth is, of course, that you do not like yourself right now. You’re internalizing this feeling, just know that it will go away with time.
- “People say you can do anything you set your mind to, but I know for me that just isn’t true.” Okay, so maybe you won’t become an astronaut at age 35, but there’s a big difference between achieving an outlandish and unreasonable goal and simply getting sober. Getting and staying sober is an attainable goal that you are more than equipped to achieve.
- “Maybe I’ll start off strong, but I’ll never follow through.” Not with that attitude. When you say things like this to yourself, you are setting yourself up for failure before you even get started.
- “I’m not good enough.” It isn’t uncommon for men and women who are struggling with active addiction to believe that they are inadequate. When we feel this way, and when we say things like this to ourselves, we end up discouraging ourselves long-term and preventing ourselves from reaching our full potential.
- “My life is never going to change or get better.” You truly get out of life what you put into it. You have all of the power inside of you to change and improve your life. All you need is a little willingness and a major shift in attitude.
- “If I’m not perfect, no one will like me.” Perfectionism is a common plight of the addict and alcoholic. Over time, you will recognize and accept the fact that you are perfectly imperfect.
- “No one cares about my opinion because it really doesn’t matter.” Yes, period it does. This statement is drenched in low self-esteem, and it stems from feelings of unworthiness – feelings that will be effectively tackled the longer you stay sober.
The first step to changing these negative patterns of self-talk is catching yourself whenever you start to say something unkind. Pay attention to the way you think.
Positive self-talk is basically the flip of negative self-talk. It’s pretty self-explanatory. When we begin to talk to ourselves with more kindness and compassion, we allow ourselves the opportunity to heal on a thorough inauthentic level. It’s not always easy to change our inner narrative, especially when we’ve been talking to ourselves partially for years and years. However, there are many benefits of making the switch to positive self-talk. Not only does doing so improve our overall mental and emotional health, but it helps to reduce stress, helps to boost resilience and self-confidence and helps to build better interpersonal relationships. Below are examples of positive self-talk, followed by some strategies that could be beneficial when you are attempting to change the way you speak to yourself.
Positive Self-Talk Examples
- The fact that I tried shows that I have courage, and I’m proud of myself for trying.
- Even though I didn’t get the result I wanted, I learned from my mistakes and I have a better grasp of what to do next time.
- I can’t control the way that other people view me or think of me, but I can control the way that I view myself.
- Looking back, I can see how far I’ve already come. I might still have a long way to go but I’m definitely making progress.
- I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for.
Positive Self-Talk Strategies
As previously mentioned, the first step to addressing negative self-talk and switching it to positive self-talk is noticing when you are engaging in these detrimental thinking patterns. Once you identify the negative things that you tend to tell yourself on a daily basis, switch them out with positive affirmations. Rather than say to yourself, “If I’m not perfect, then I’m failing,” say something like, “I’m getting better and better every day.” Check in with your emotions whenever challenges arise. Is the way that you’re talking to yourself making you feel good or bad? Keep in mind that changing old ways of thinking will not happen overnight. Allow yourself some wiggle room, and continuously acknowledge the fact that you are doing the best you can.
Chapel Hill Detox – A Necessary Initial Step
At Chapel Hill Detox, we focus on providing our clients with a safe and pain-free withdrawal while working to install them with the coping mechanisms and life skills they need to maintain long-term sobriety. For more information on our comprehensive medical detox program, or for more information on positive self-talk, please feel free to reach out to us today.