How To Stop Negative Self-Talk: 3 Instantly Applicable Tips From 3 Powerful Psychology Books

How To Stop Negative Self-Talk Cover

When is your negative self-talk at its worst? For me, it commonly deteriorates when I play video games. They bring out both the best and worst in me at the same time. One minute I’m having fun, learning new skills, and feel completely in flow, the next I berate myself for missing a turn in a race, pressing the wrong button, or losing to an opponent I know I could have beaten.

In theory, video games are completely inconsequential if you just play them for fun — but if they make you more mean to yourself in other areas, say work, for example, that can be a problem.

“I’m such an IDIOT! How could I miss that typo on the last slide? I am so screwed!” Chances are, no one else will even notice your mistake — but now you’ve damaged your self-esteem, and it could take some serious time to repair it.

Today, I’d like to share 3 tips from 3 great books with you on how to prevent, stop, and better handle negative self-talk. Here they are:

  1. Practice temporal distancing for softer self-assessments.
  2. Identify your core complaint so fear won’t take over.
  3. Be your own caregiver to gain space from suffering.

I found these tips on Blinkist, by the way. They’re from a guide called Stop Negative Self-Talk*, curated by Dr. Rheeda Walker. Blinkist is one of the world’s most popular book summary services with over 6,500 non-fiction titles summarized in 15 minutes in audio and text. You can read our full review here.

They also condense podcasts, curate collections, offer spaces to chat about books, and put together guides like this one, meant to help you achieve a very specific goal. Alright, here goes the first tip!

1. Practice Temporal Distancing for Softer Self-Assessments

In Chatter, Ethan Kross explains everything you need to know about the little voice in your head. One technique he suggests for calming negative chatter and being more compassionate in your self-assessments is called “temporal distancing.”

In essence, temporal distancing is nothing more than imagining yourself in the future, looking back on today. You might feel extremely stressed about that less-than-perfect presentation you sent out right now, but what will you think about this day when you reflect on it 1, 5, even 10 years from now? Well, chances are you won’t even remember it! And if you do? You’ll probably conclude that it no longer matters at all.

When you kick yourself for some mistake, remember that failure always feels worst in the moment. Look to the future, and you can easily see that, a few weeks or months from now, today’s mess-up won’t have been a big deal.

Guides are a new feature on Blinkist, by the way. Experts curate little 3-5 minute snippets from books, podcasts, and their own work into a mini-course that’ll help you achieve a specific outcome. They even include recaps, exercises, infographics, and resource lists.

In this one*, Dr. Rheeda Walker, a clinical psychologist and professor, walks you through several short but powerful steps on improving how you talk to yourself. It’s amazing how much progress you can make on a big issue like negative self-talk in less than an hour! Start a risk-free trial and give it a go.*

2. Identify Your Core Complaint So Fear Won’t Take Over

In It Didn’t Start With You*, Mark Wolynn explores how family trauma shapes us and what we can do to break the negative patterns we’ve inherited. A major remedy is discovering and using “core language,” a set of vocabulary you can use to openly and objectively talk about your trauma and its solutions.

For example, your “core complaint” describes your big recurring fear, like “I’m on a slippery slope with these cookies here, and if I don’t stop now, I might end up on another binge.” Similarly, your “core sentence” describes the outcome you are worried might happen if you give in to your core complaint, like “Unless I learn to better manage my food intake, I’ll gain a ton of weight and get serious health problems.”

Simply by describing your fear and worry as if you were talking about someone else, you’ll prevent them from clawing further into your brain. They’re powerful pausing functions that can help you make better decisions when emotions are running high.

If you want to go through the full guide, check out Stop Negative Self-Talk on Blinkist*. With a risk-free 7-day trial through our affiliate link*, you’ll also get 35% off if you keep your subscription, a free extra membership to give away to a friend, and a lot more!

3. Be Your Own Caregiver to Gain Space From Suffering

In Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff talks about the art of being your own best friend. One idea? Give yourself a hug, pat on the back, or offer some comforting words.

Does that sound weird? Of course it does. We struggle to perform comforting actions for ourselves that we do without blinking for others because it splits ourselves in two: Instead of just taking on one consistent role — either the one of caregiver or care-receiver — we’re performing both at once!

That sure is unusual, but it’s also why it works: When you tell yourself that you’ll do better next time after you fail, you are separating yourself from your suffering. You’re showing yourself that you are more than just the victim who’s in pain — you’re also still capable of helping someone who is down.

For some more details on this and the other lessons, you can take the full mini-course “Stop Negative Self-Talk” on Blinkist*. See the remaining chapters, audio lessons, and a practical exercise when you start a free Blinkist trial*, and unlock a lot more!


Alright, let’s quickly recap what we’ve learned about stopping negative self-talk:

  1. Practice temporal distancing for softer self-assessments. Imagine how you’ll feel about a tough moment years in the future, and you’ll remember most bad situations aren’t a big deal.
  2. Identify your core complaint so fear won’t take over. Describing your fears and worries in plain words robs them of a great deal of their powers.
  3. Be your own caregiver to gain space from suffering. Be a good friend to yourself and offer comforting words and gestures to remind yourself that you may be in pain but never pain itself.

If you enjoyed these lessons and want to learn more about negative self-talk and how to defeat it, check out the guide on Blinkist*.

They also offer plenty of other guides helping you achieve certain things, from boosting your productivity to being a good remote leader to building resilience and inner strength:

I hope you’ll take a look, and remember: The voice in your head can tell you to win, but it can never make you a true winner — only you can do that, and sometimes, it’ll require turning that inner voice off.

May you always be nice to yourself, and I hope I’ll talk to you soon!

Last Updated on June 13, 2023