Re-frame Negative Self-Talk

Self-talk that works for you, not against you: How to re-frame negative self-talk.

When starting something new – a new job, a new business, a move to a new city – there is often excitement.  As a result, you feel energetic, happy, and full of life.  You share your excitement with friends and family.  Maybe, you go out to celebrate.  Then, your world settles down and you get to work on your big adventure.  Soon after, there’s trepidation.  Or you may feel overwhelmed.  Your negative self-talk begins.  You wonder if you’ve made the right decision and you start to think, “Oh boy, what did I get myself into?”  When this starts happening, it’s time to re-frame your negative self-talk.

New leaders often feel this way and it’s a feeling I remember having.  There’s so much to know and so much responsibility.  Leadership in its infancy is a beautiful time, however, it may also be a time filled with some fear, at least for me it was.  I remember thinking that I would never become a great leader.  The truth is that we are all evolving as leaders, whatever stage we’re at.  Shake off those negative feelings, take a deep breath to let go of that fear and tell yourself that it’s going to be okay.  You’re learning.

In other words, re-frame that negative self-talk into a phrase that works for you.  So, how do you re-frame your negative self-talk into self-talk that works for you?

Step 1: Begin to recognize negative self-talk.

You may find your inner chatter box heavily at work. Start to hear what you are telling yourself throughout the day.  What are you finding?  Do you hear what you are saying to yourself? It might be shocking.  You may not realize how mean you can be to yourself.

Maybe someone said something to you once and you’ve internalized it.  Or, it’s just scary to put yourself out there and your brain is trying to protect you from feeling fear.  Your brain has a way of trying to protect yourself from something unknown and often reverts to patterns you’ve learned early on.  That protection is quite instinctual, but it may not be serving you anymore and may be holding you back from something extraordinary.

Does it sound something like this? “I’m stupid.” “I don’t belong here.” “I’ll never learn all that I need to learn.” “Success won’t happen for me.” “I don’t deserve this.”

If you are recognizing some of this self-talk, you are NOT ALONE!  We all do it.  Even the most successful people still catch themselves at it – just go to YouTube or Google and search “re-framing negative self-talk.”  You’ll find oodles of resources to re-frame your negative self-talk.

Step 2: Be curious, open, and ask yourself questions

Once you start to really hear what you are saying to yourself, challenge those statements. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • What is my evidence that this is true?
  • Is there evidence that this isn’t true?
  • Where did that comment come from?
  • What happened to me to think in exactly that way?
  • How can I change that story?

Consequently, we often say things to ourselves, but may not challenge our own assumptions.  Start questioning.  Begin to wonder.  Challenge yourself to re-frame your negative self-talk.

Step 3: Re-frame your negative self-talk into something positive

Building this mental muscle will help you live a more fulfilling life, while still focusing on self-growth. For example, “I’m stupid,” can be re-framed to “I will do the work to figure this out.”


I’m stupid. → I will do the work to figure this out.

I don’t belong here. → I have worked hard to get where I’m at and I do belong.

I’ll never learn all that I need to learn. → I love learning and challenges and know I can work hard to learn what I need to know.

Success won’t happen for me. → Succeeding is about progress and I will put in the work day by day, bit by bit which will over time, lead me to success.

I don’t deserve this. → I have worked hard to get here and will continue to work hard” or “I deserve this as much as the next person” or “I have put in so much time and effort, of course I deserve this and I will continue to work to be all I can be.

In Conclusion

Above all, re-framing negative self-talk into self-talk that works for you can be daunting, but hang in there. It’s worth it. Know you are not alone. You can do this! It might take time and patience, but self-talk that works for you, not against you is an important tool to learn. More importantly, be kind to yourself along the way.

Discover Your Positive Intelligence

The better we get to know ourselves, the better we communicate and the better leaders we become.