Challenging Negative Self-talk
Changing the way you think about things might not be easy at first, but with time and practice, you’ll get better at it. Give it a try—it’s worth the effort! With practice, you can learn to notice your own negative self-talk as it happens, and consciously choose to think about the situation in a more realistic and helpful way.
Dispute the self-talk. Disputing your self-talk means challenging the negative aspects of your thinking. Doing this enables you to feel better and to respond to situations in a more helpful way.
Once you start examining your thoughts, you’ll probably be surprised by how much of your thinking is inaccurate, exaggerated or focused on the negatives of the situation.
A good way to test the accuracy of your perceptions might be to ask yourself some challenging questions. These questions will help you check out your self-talk and see whether your current interpretation is reasonable. Recognizing that your current way of thinking might be self-defeating—and prevent you from getting what you want out of life—can sometimes motivate you to look at things from a different perspective.
Ask yourself these four main types of questions:
1. Reality testing
• What evidence supports my thinking? What proof is there that my
thinking is false?
• Are my thoughts factual, or are they just my interpretations?
• How can I find out if my thoughts are actually true?
2. Alternative explanations
• Are there any other ways that I could look at this situation?
• What else could the situation mean?
• Is this situation as bad as I’m making out to be?
• What’s the worst thing that could happen? How likely is that?
• What’s the best thing that could happen?
• What’s most likely to happen?
• Is there anything good about this situation?
• Will this matter in five years?
4. Goal directed thinking
• Is thinking this way helping me feel good or achieve my goals?
• What can I do that will help me solve the problem?
• Is there something I can learn from this situation to help me in the
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.