10 Negative Self-Talk Patterns

We all do it.

Even the most positive of people.

We listen to that internal critic and start to think some self-defeating thoughts.

When we start to listen to distorted thinking patterns then we start to say them and then before you know it we are living them.

This is what Jack Singer (2010) says in his brilliant book The Teacher’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide: 77 Proven Prescriptions to Build Your Resilience.


He lists ten negative self-talk patterns that you may just recognise:

1. All or nothing

This is a binary way of looking at the world – it’s either black or it’s white, it’s good or it’s bad. It’s a type of perfectionist thinking where a mistake leads you to think you have failed.

2. Magnification

Keeping things in perspective is not always easy but in this distorted thinking pattern then you amplify and intensify what has happened and commonly use words such as terrible and awful.

3. Mind reading

Sometimes you can totally misread a situation and when that happens you have convinced yourself you are the one to blame. If someone has been the slightest bit grumpy then you will think it’s something you’ve done or said.

4. Catastrophising or Fortune-telling

You know the situation: your head teacher wants to have a word so you think it’s becauses/he wants to sack you.

5. Having to be right

Being wrong and admitting to it isn’t something you are good at. You stubbornly stick to your guns even when you know you aren’t right.

6. I Should, I Must and I Have To

You say to yourself that you have to be able to perform multiple roles because that’s your job. You blame yourself for not doing something and you beat yourself up unmercifully and start thinking you are incompetent.

7. Mental Filter

This is tunnel vision. Even though you might have loads of positive things happen to you during the week then you focus on the one negative thing that happened.

8. Overgeneralisation

If you have something bad happen to you then you start to believe that it is the start of a never-ending pattern of similar episodes. This over-exaggeration of reality really isn’t healthy.

9. Blaming

Something might not go your way and you might have messed up but rather than accept responsibility you immediately look for someone or something else to blame.

10. Emotional reasoning

It’s easy to draw the wrong conclusion based on your emotions at the time but that’s what we do.

Singer (2010) advises that we challenge our thinking and dispute it. He says,

You don’t have to believe your negative and scary thoughts. Thoughts lie; they can mislead you, tease you, and frighten you. Just because they cross your mind doesn’t make them true.

Keeping any negative self-talk in check is important because it is quite possible to make these ways of thinking habits. Looking at the examples above, which do you most identify with and recognise?

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