from the Blog

Reframing the Message – Negative Self Talk



What is this craziness going on in our heads?

What is it with these inner voices and negative ‘self talk’?


  • I can’t . . . .
  • I never . . . .
  • If only I . . . .
  • I am just . . . .


Theses are just a few examples of the voices and self judgement that sometimes occur in my head. What about you?

Last week I had the opportunity to facilitate a breakout session for Leadercast CoMo on the topic of the inner voices in our head. Based on the interest and response at the session, negative ‘self talk’ is pretty normal and certainly worthy of our discussion.


Our inner voice is a culmination of memories and feedback that we have received throughout our lives. The development of our inner voice starts at an early age. Our memory banks store everything that we have experienced before today. As life happens, we reach back into our memories to provide guidance to determine the proper course of action – what we should or shouldn’t do. This is so automatic that we seldom recognize it occurring. These memories or thoughts are the impetus for the ongoing chatter in our minds – describing, judging, and comparing.

Some of it is good, and while the self talk means well, an awful lot can be negative and counterproductive.


  • As youngsters the inner voice was pretty reliable as things were pretty simple – good things were rewarded and there were consequences for bad things. The feedback that we received, mostly from our parents or caregivers was reasonably consistent.
  • As we got older the rewards and punishments were not as consistent and sometimes even misplaced. For example – how many can remember being punished by your parents for something that a sibling did. Yeah, it’s happened to all of us – at least a dozen times. Receiving punishment for an action you did not commit got filed away in the memory banks with everything else. Your trust levels changed and you may have started to evaluate the issue of fairness.


Your inner voice relies on and is developed based on your memories and associated logic. It is always looking in the past and projecting assumptions into the future – thus keeping you from experiencing the present.

When we were young the logic rules we created were based on the rewards and punishments given out by others. As adults we often do not receive these rewards and punishments. In a vacuum of feedback our minds begin to make things up or fill in the gaps. We find ourselves reading things into what people say. Depending on where our head is, we begin to misinterpret communications, sometimes questioning the motives behind conversations, emails, texts, and voice mails. Without feedback we continue to try to please others based on thoughts, or rules, from the past.


How do we Reframe this Negative ‘Self Talk’?

  • Relabel your self talk as Thoughts – not Facts. Your thoughts are just personal points of view limited on your experiences and memories.
  • Reframe negative ‘self talk’. Remove the absolutes – never and always. Consider adding the words ‘Up until now’.
    • I can’t . . . becomes . . . I can.
    • I’m too old . . . becomes . . . age is just a state of mind.
    • I never . . . becomes  . . . this could happen.
    • I’ll have more time when . . . becomes . . . let’s schedule a time to start.
    • I could never . . . becomes . . . up until now I couldn’t.
    • and my favorite – It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.
  • “Always Build Up – Never Tear Down”. Borrowed from Kent Julian, speaker, author, and coach. Kent encourages us to practice gratitude to other people AND with ourselves. Focus on positive ‘self talk’.
  • Tell yourself a New Story. Transition from limiting stories to empowering stories. What you focus on tends to gain momentum and grow stronger. Positive thoughts attract positive thoughts and positive momentum.
  • Make time for Personal Development. Invest in yourself. Take advantage of webinars and seminars. Engage a coach, mentor, or accountability partner to help.
  • Journal. The act of writing serves to slow down the momentum of negative thoughts. You can evaluate your thoughts in a more rational and level headed way.


I want to share a short video clip (1.5 minutes). It’s not necessarily about self talk or inner voices, but is a great example about reframing a message. I am certain that you will make the connection.


Video by


This Week’s Challenge

  • When you find yourself getting into a negative ‘self talk’ mode, pull out your journal (or just a clean sheet of paper). Practice some uplifting thoughts – reframe the negative talk with positive talk.
  • Challenge yourself to tell a new story.


. . . . go have an Awesome Week!

Tom Trabue