Why Positive Thinking isn’t Working for you.

How do you talk to yourself? Is it mostly positive or negative?

What comes to mind when you think about negative self-talks? Probably all the ways you don’t ‘measure up’, or how your failing and what an absolute awful person you are. Was I close? This is our inner critic, it likes to disguise itself as ‘perfection’, it likes to tell you that there is nothing wrong with having high standards, right?

We convince ourselves that this is just the way we are, saying things like ‘my negative self-talk’ or ‘I always talk badly about myself’. And this is the problem. Like some kind of sadistic act of self-love, we typically talk about it as if we own all these awful things that run in our minds and if we just think more positively then all will be well. But let me ask you this, has thinking more positively helped you at all? Has this inner critic suddenly shut its trap? I will guess that nothing much has changed with just a healthy dose of positive affirmations.

This is the biggest problem with how we view negative self-talk. We think we do it to ourselves. But truth be told, these negative messages were given to us. When we peel away the layers of that inner critic, we discover that we didn’t create it. These messages are gifts from all your experiences in life. These gifts can come from your early childhood or teen years. They can also come from your adult life, all the things you’re ‘required’ to measure up to; having that happy home with a white picket fence and healthy marriage, all the pressures that come with being ‘good enough’ and working towards this idea of ‘perfection’. All the hurtful things the critic says to you are things that other people have said to you, messages you received as a child, pressures from culture, or assumptions you’ve made about what other people think. You didn’t create these messages, these negative views of yourself. They were given to you and that pesky inner critic has taken all of it in just to recite it back to you on a daily basis. And when you’re feeling particularly vulnerable, it will shout them at you – kicking you while you’re down.

Do you know who the biggest influencer of our inner critic is?

It’s the media (big shocker). The media has a massive influence as it creates standards of beauty, belonging, attraction, sexual expression and generally how we need to be in order to be perfect. And guess what? The media has the biggest trick up its sleeve – it’s ALWAYS changing, so you will NEVER get to perfection. But remember, perfection is an illusion.

So what do you do to try and eliminate the negative Nancy in our heads?

We attempt to think positively, in hopes that switching our train of thoughts will make things better. But, if I’m being honest, it doesn’t work. If it worked there would be only one self-help book to change everyone’s life and I would be out of a career! Moving from negative to positive is nearly impossible. It’s swinging from one extreme to the other, and our brains can’t manage that change, they’re not meant to.

Do you know what is possible? Moving to a neutral space.

Stop trying to swing the pendulum from one end to the other and instead work on getting the negative self-talk to a neutral stand point. It’s simple but requires consistency, but it works! Instead of saying something like ‘I’m so fat, I am disgusting, no one would love me’ challenge it with ‘I have a body that is capable of amazing things, my body works, I’m going to move my body’. Notice how we aren’t flipping it to a positive but moving it to a neutral place. Humans don’t do well with drastic change, we just aren’t wired for that. We like to take things slow, especially when it comes to change and that makes it more long lasting. Go to a neutral space – trust me when I say that it works.

It won’t easy and you can’t expect your inner critic to like going to this neutral place – in fact, it will come at you stronger.

Try this exercise:

Imagine your inner critic taking human form – who is it? does it have a gender? what does it sound like? what does it look like? does it remind you of someone? In doing this, you can actively engage with your inner critic and take your power back.

Write about this critic, describe what form it takes and how it likes to take over. Then write out all the ways you can challenge it (from a neutral space) and take back control!

My inner critic is an older women. Dressed real classy and always smoking so her voice is a bit raspy. She likes to tell me all the ways in which I’m not enough and how I could always be more… more of anything. I will chat with her and say her opinion is not welcome and she needs to shut up!!

Are you challenging your inner critic?

Check out my latest Coffee Talk “The Pesky Negative Inner Critic” for a deeper discussion on the topic.

Journal Prompts

  • What does the inner critic say to me? How does it derail me?
  • Where do the messages come from that fuel the inner critic?
  • In what ways can I rebel and take back control?
  • In reducing the influence of the inner critic by 10%, what would I gain?


Looking for some extra guidance in facing your inner critic? We know it can be rough to go at it alone, and the beauty of life is that you don’t have to. Contact us today and book an appointment with one of our experienced therapists. We offer in-person and virtual counselling.

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