Self-Talk: 3 Steps to Develop a Positive Voice in Your Head

Self-talk refers to the dialogue that goes on in our minds. Learn 3 steps to transform your self-talk from negative to positive.

Imagine you had someone walking around with you 24/7 whispering in your ear. Think about the impact their voice would have on your day-to-day life.

If they were constantly hyping you up, then you’d feel like a champion. But what if they were always nagging and tearing you down? Do you think that would have a negative impact on your mood?

Well, the truth is we do have something like this. Only the person always talking in our ear is ourselves, also known as self-talk or our internal dialogue.

What is Self-Talk?

Self-talk is the conversation that goes on within our minds during all waking hours of the day.

There are two distinct forms of internal dialogue, positive and negative, both of which have drastically different effects on our moods and behavior.

We are becoming increasingly more aware of the impact these two forms of self-talk have on the mind.

When allowed to run rampant, negative dialogue can lead us down a dark path towards fear and depression.

Conversely, when positive self-talk is mastered, a person is overcome with a sense of confidence and joy for life.

Let’s take a deeper look at the side effects of negative self-talk, the benefits of positive self-talk, and some examples of each.

Side Effects of Negative Self-Talk

Negative self-talk is toxic.

It clouds the mind with thoughts of inferiority, fear, and low value.

The way this type of dialogue makes us feel is almost indescribable. It’s crazy to think we would do something like this to ourselves.

But the reality is we do, and it’s almost as if it’s naturally that way and we must work to reverse it. Whether it evolved as a survival mechanism or something else, negative self-talk has no place in our lives today.

Just take a look at the side effects this type of internal dialogue can have on our lives.

  • Pessimism: you only see what you can’t do and all the ways things can go wrong.
  • Depression: constantly talking down to yourself takes a toll on the mind and leads to depression.
  • Anxiety: thinking negatively all the time makes you anxious that things are going to go badly, so the mind stays in a constant state of anxiety.
  • Perfectionism: by talking down to yourself, it never seems that what you accomplish is good enough. This leads to perfectionism and the feeling that we are never quite perfect.
  • Low Self-Confidence: after a while, negative self-talk takes a toll on the mind and you begin to believe this voice. Your confidence will drop day by day until you hit rock bottom and have no confidence whatsoever.
  • Low Self-Worth: similarly to self-confidence, our self-worth will fall each day as we continue to talk down to ourselves. Self-worth is so important to success and happiness, but by being consumed with negative self-talk you are never able to cultivate a high sense of value.

Examples of Negative Self-Talk:

In a post written on the website, Dr. John Amodeo gives a very nice list of negative self-talk examples. If you’d like to read his full article, check it out here.

  • “I’m not worth it”
  • “There is no point”
  • “I can’t”
  • “Nobody likes me”
  • “I’ll never be good enough”
  • “I’m not smart enough”
  • “I’m so stupid”
  • “I can’t believe I did that”
  • “I’m such a loser”
  • “I’m worthless”

These are just a few examples of the many forms negative self-talk can take.

Do any of them resonate with you? Have you been hearing such phrases repeated in your own mind?

If so, no need to worry. Next we will look at the benefits of positive self-talk and how we can change our internal dialogue from negative to positive.

Benefits of Positive Self-Talk

While it may seem like a bunch of positive thinking mumbo jumbo to some people, I can attest to the power of positive self-talk.

I am well aware of the initial pushback many people have when talking about positive thinking and talking yourself up. It seems a little cheesy and I completely understand.

But all it takes is for you to push past that initial feeling of embarrassment and stay consistent with this for a while and your brain will begin to be reprogrammed.

Can you imagine how nice it would be to always have a positive voice in your head cheering you on, helping you to always feel supported?

That is just one of the many benefits positive self-talk can have on your life. Here is a full list of the benefits you can expect once you begin to change your internal dialogue:

  • Increase in self-confidence
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Improved immune function
  • Increase in energy
  • Less stress
  • Reduced physical pain
  • Greater satisfaction in life

Any one of these benefits can have such a profound impact on our lives, that it makes it seem silly not to develop this form of thinking.

If you want some more information on the benefits of positive self-talk, check out this article written on

“Can you imagine how nice it would be to always have a positive voice in your head cheering you on, helping you to always feel supported? That is just one of the many benefits positive self-talk can have on your life.”

Examples of Positive Self-Talk

  • “I can do this”
  • “I believe in myself”
  • “I love myself”
  • “Everything will be okay”
  • “I am confident in myself”
  • “I can do anything”
  • “I love to learn”
  • “I am in control of how I feel”
  • “My life has value”
  • “I love being alive”

Now that you’re aware of the benefits positive self-talk can have on our lives and have had a glimpse at what it may look like, the next step is to reveal how you can begin working on altering your internal dialogue.

How to Develop Positive Self-Talk

Altering our internal dialogue means reprogramming the subconscious.

Being constantly aware of our thoughts is very difficult and tiring to do. So, if we rely solely on this conscious awareness to try and counteract negative thinking, we will fall short.

As soon as our focus drifts from our thoughts, the negative thinking that is wired into the subconscious will creep back up.

One of the reasons I am pointing this out is to make you aware of the time it may take to accomplish altering self-talk.

Let’s say you’re 30 years old. Then you’ve had 30 whole years of programming that has defaulted to self-talk of negativity. So, it may take more than a week to reverse. Not 30 more years, but at least a few months.

I just know from my own experience that once you begin working on positive self-talk, it can be frustrating when negative self-talk begins to reappear. Just stick with it and you will begin to notice little by little the change in your internal dialogue.

Okay, now let’s get down to business. Here are 3 easy steps that you can start today to begin changing your internal dialogue from negative to positive.

Step 1: Recognize Negative Self-Talk

The first two steps are not going to be the actual reprogramming work but are just as important. Here you will prep your mind for step 3 by becoming more aware of your thoughts and the type of negative thinking that is going on.

Step 1 involves recognizing the forms of negative self-talk that currently go on in your mind.

The examples I presented above are the most common forms I have found of negative thinking, but everyone is different.

You must find what it is that you say to yourself on a daily basis that can be considered negative.

Keep a Journal

A good way I have found to begin recognizing negative thinking is to keep a journal of negative thoughts.

Either carry around an actual journal, or what is most feasible is to just keep it in the notes section of your phone.

As soon as you feel yourself forming a negative thought, stop and write it down. After several weeks of this, it will become much easier for you to immediately recognize these types of thoughts.

Step 2: Become More Aware of Your Thinking

I know it seems ridiculous, but most of us are not actively aware of our thoughts.

We go through our days so programmed and focused on external situations and people that our own thoughts are not a priority.

In order to change our thinking, much like step 1, we must develop a strong awareness of our thoughts.

There are two activities I have discovered that really help with this: meditation and writing.

“We go through our days so programmed and focused on external situations and people that our own thoughts are not a priority.”


There are many forms of meditation, and whole books are written on the subject. For simplicity, I am going to introduce the easiest form for beginners that I myself am currently using.

It is called mindfulness meditation. Unlike many other techniques, it requires no special mantra or formal training.

All you need to do is get into a comfortable seated position with your back straight.

Feel free to sit on the floor or in a chair, whichever is more comfortable for you.

Now, close your eyes and begin to take deep breaths in and out. Focus on your breath with each inhalation and exhalation.

Now, as your mind begins to wander, which it will, do not try to control it. Simply observe the thoughts that come into your mind and allow them to float by like a cloud in the sky.

The whole time, continue to pay attention to your breath and keep a steady rhythm of in and out.

And there you go! You’re meditating.

It can seem a little odd or scary if you haven’t done anything like this before, but it really is a great tool to gain a better understanding of your mind and thoughts.


The second activity that I love when it comes to gaining a better understanding of ourselves is writing.

I write once in the morning and once in the evening. This process allows me to empty my thoughts on paper and really see where my mindset is.

Daily writing was first introduced to me while reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. It is a fantastic book that teaches us so much about ourselves and the creativity within each one of us.

In her book, Julia discusses morning pages, a process of jotting down whatever comes to our mind first thing in the morning.

While the concept seems quite simple, it is profound in benefit.

I prefer to include an evening writing session as well, just to get my mind clear at the end of the day.

After performing this activity for a while, you will begin to develop keener insight into your own mind, and why the thoughts you have been there.

Step 3: Reprogramming with Affirmations

With the previous 2 steps allowing you to gain a better understanding of your thoughts and mind, it is now time to work on reprogramming the internal dialogue.

Our brains thrive on repetition, which is why it is important to perform this step daily to gain the greatest benefit.

Back in step 1, we discussed how to recognize the negative self-talk that goes on in your mind.

What you’re going to want to do is take the list of the most common negative phrases you say to yourself and write out the inverse of that statement.

For example, let’s say you’ve noticed that you use the phrase “I can’t” a lot. You would then write the affirmation “I can.” Yes, this is a simple example, but you get the point.

Once you have compiled a list of affirmations, it is time to put them into practice.

Every day read the list out loud to yourself once in the morning and once at night. With this exercise, your brain will begin to reprogram itself, and the automatic dialogue will shift from negativity to positivity and encouragement.

Final Thoughts

The way we speak to ourselves is so important but often overlooked. I am not sure why it is, but the default setting for our brains seems to be that of negativity.

However, that does not mean we can’t change the little voice in our heads.

It may take some time and work, though the work is not really that hard at all. With a little consistency and effort, anyone can change their internal dialogue.

By following the 3 steps I have laid out here, I truly believe that you can shift your self-talk and finally be the supporter that you deserve.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and it has been helpful in explaining the importance of our self-talk and how you can change it for the better.

What is your self-talk currently like? Do you feel it is more negative or positive, and have you worked on it at all in the past? I would love to know your experience, so please leave a comment below.

Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

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Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

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