5 Ways To Practice Positive Self-Talk That Feels Genuine

As much as we hear about the impact of positive self-talk, having the ability to implement it into our lives isn't always easy for everyone. What people don't understand is that a positive self-image isn't something you can just manifest into being part of your life, or convince yourself of by reading lists of positive affirmations. There's far more to it than that, and implementing it into your life actually involves quite a bit of work. It's about recognizing that negative things happen which can lead to negative thoughts, and that's something to acknowledge. This is opposed to what many others do: glossing over it with positive self-talk that not only feels inauthentic but might even border on toxic positivity.


What makes positive self-talk so essential are the health benefits that come with it. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of those benefits include lower rates of depression, a longer life span, higher rates of resistance to illnesses, improved psychological, physical, and cardiovascular health, as well as reduced risk of death from a variety of diseases like cancer. Positive self-talk also aids in creating better coping skills for when things in life become difficult, which they inevitably will.

In other words, when you learn how to practice positive self-talk in a way that feels real, and not like you're tricking yourself into believing something that you actually don't, you're giving yourself a necessary gift: a gift of mental and physical health.


Listen to what you say about yourself

Because self-talk is the unspoken inner voice we have in our mind at all times, it's important to hone in on what your thinking looks like and feels like and to do so in a critical manner. If your thoughts about yourself are more negative than not, notice them and ask yourself why. What is it about you, either from the inside or from an outside source, that is driving you to have this negativity bouncing around your brain? 


While you may not be able to answer that question right away, or even answer it the same way every time, it will at least give you pause to reframe the negative internal dialogue you're up against. In taking a step back from that conversation with yourself, you can analyze ways to change your approach to how you talk to yourself and think about yourself.

Acknowledge your negative thoughts

In order to get the most out of a positive self-talk framework, you need to acknowledge your negative thoughts — they really are inevitable sometimes — and sit with them, as opposed to immediately trying to fight them off. No one can outrun a negative thought within minutes of it popping up, so sitting with it, embracing it for what it is, and normalizing the fact that these things exist is the best approach. Then let it go.


"You can have a negative thought, notice it, and then move on," applied body image researcher at the Centre for Appearance Research Nadia Craddock, Ph.D. told Glamour. "We all have our own ways of getting out of our heads, so it's worth exploring what strategies feel best for you — is it calling a friend, immersing yourself in work or a fun project, going on a walk, playing your favorite song on blast?"

When you create an outlet where you can recognize and drop that negative thought pattern, you learn to let it go in a more effective way that inevitably strengthens your grasp of a positive self-image.

Be honest with yourself and the words you choose

If want your positive self-talk is going to be genuine, then you need to be honest with yourself and know your limitations — this is where daily affirmations tend to fail people. Waking up every day and reciting how you're special, how much you love your body, and similar things, only works if you truly believe it. If you don't believe in what you're saying to yourself every day, then you're lying to yourself.


In lying, you're forcing a belief that you simply don't carry on certain days, defeating the purpose of positive self-talk as a whole. To make it feel more authentic, don't look in the mirror every morning and say, "I'm great," but instead say, "I'm working on feeling great about myself." Don't make blanket statements about how much you love something about yourself; rephrase it so you acknowledge you're a work in progress, and hold space to treat yourself with tenderness.

In the same vein of choosing different words to enhance your self-talk, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that saying "I don't" versus "I can't," acknowledges your limitations and gives you more control in a positive way. When you tell yourself that you can't do something, you immediately take away your opportunity to learn, grow, and evolve. If you tell yourself that you don't do something, it's a choice you've made and resonates positively with you; one that you can change if and when you're ready.


Start small

If it's likely that many parts of your life need a bit more positive reinforcement, you'll want to start small by focusing on one area, then moving on to another area in your life when you're ready. Engaging in self-talk that covers a massive scope of areas in one sitting — your career, your personal life, your insecurities about your looks, your fears about relationships, and everything in between — isn't just daunting, but you're not being specific enough. For example, positive self-talk geared at your career is different than the language you'd use for your self-esteem; each area needs to be catered to in its own way.


"Some people tend to fall into black-and-white thinking: Everything is all good or all bad," licensed psychotherapist Whitney Goodman, LMFT told Well + Good. "When we work on our self-talk, we can view the gray in situations. Sometimes there is a lot of bad and good, but this flexibility allows people to access their coping strategies and find what works for them."

That's why each area in your life that needs positive self-talk should get its own conversation. Lumping everything in together as if it's all either black or white won't just be overwhelming, but the attention and effort won't be there — meaning neither will the benefits.

Treat yourself as you would a friend

One of the best ways to practice genuinely positive self-talk is by treating yourself exactly as you would a friend. When negative and defeatist thoughts come to your mind, or you think you're not equipped to handle something, ask yourself what would you tell a close friend in the same situation. Would you discourage them and tell them they lack the necessary skills to accomplish something? No, you wouldn't. You'd support them, encourage them, and point out to them all the reasons they will succeed at whatever it is they're doubting themselves about. This is the same way you should broach your own self-talk. As the Mayo Clinic advises, when it comes to harnessing positive self-talk, a simple rule to follow is to never say to yourself what you wouldn't say to someone you care about. Be just as encouraging, kind, and loving to yourself as you would a friend.


Mastering positive self-talk that feels genuine isn't something that you'll achieve overnight. But with enough time and practice, you'll get there. You just need to put in the conscious work.