We all have an inner voice, but how we use it makes a big difference to how we feel and behave.

Positive self-talk can cultivate healthier mindsets and make you more successful in life and sport. Negative self talk can undermine our confidence, derail our goals and impact on all areas of our lives and wellbeing.

Tiger Woods never says: “I hope I don’t hit my next golf ball into the woods.” 

Venus Williams never says: “I don’t think I’m very good at tennis.”

Yet how many of us talk to ourselves like this:

  • I know it won’t work.
  • It’s just no use.
  • I never have enough time.
  • I never know what to say.
  • Everything I touch turns to crap.
  • It’s just how I am

The sporting champions certainly have fears and doubts, like every other normal human being. The difference between them and other successful people is they don’t listen to their fears and doubts – they replace them with positive self-talk.    

Positive self-talk is a habit you have to develop, just as much as negative self-talk is a habit you have to stop. Give yourself permission to be successful, starting now, and use positive self-talk to help predict a positive outcome.


Here are a few ways you can manage your internal monologue. Practise them and find out which techniques work best for you and use them daily until it’s changed your inner voice.

1. ➡️ Watch for the self-talk statements about yourself.

The first step is to pay attention to your self-talk and identify anything that is negative. Chances are it’s an ingrained habit and you won’t be able to change your negative self-talk without noticing it first.

2.  ➡️ Monitor the self-talk of people around you.

Sometimes it is easier to see the impact of negative self-talk by noticing its effect on other people. Obviously, you won’t be able to listen in on their inner self-talk, but people often speak their self-talk out loud: ‘I’m just not good at those sorts of things,” “I haven’t got time to deal with that,” “I’ve always wanted to do that, but I just don’t have what it takes.” How does their self-talk limit them? Do they stop doing things they want to do? Do they avoid new behaviours that might be helpful or just plain fun? Can you see that you do similar things?

3. ➡️ Stop it in its tracks. 

Once you’ve learned to notice your negative self-talk, you can work on actively resisting it when it occurs. Set up an internal signal, such as a command like “Cancel!” or “change!” which tells you to stop the negative self-talk.

4. ➡️ Challenge it

Use questions to challenge it whatever the belief is. For example, ‘Who says that’s true?’ ‘How do I know that’s true?’ ‘What do I mean by that?’ ‘Where/when/who specifically? ‘What would happen if I could? 

(These are what in NLP, we call meta model questions – helping you get more specific and in this scenario they will start to plant seeds of doubt).

5. ➡️ Changes the tense. 

Take what you are saying in your head, then reword it so that it’s in the past. Use a new positive phrase in the present tense as if the change has already taken place.  

6. ➡️ Put it in the third person

 Rather than “I’m a failure” – change it to “she is a failure” – this just puts some distance between you and the comment you are making. Similarly use third person for positive statements: ‘Come on Brian, you’ve got this’.

7. ➡️ Insert a ‘but’  or a ‘yet’.

Putting a ‘but’ in a statement, cancels out what came before it and focuses the mind on what comes after it – e.g. I’m such as mess, but I’m a great person. You can do the same with ‘yet’. “I just can’t do this’ becomes “I just can’t do this yet”. It sends the message to your brain that you will be able to do it in the future.

8. ➡️ Mess around with the sound of the voice

  • Turn down the volume of your negative self talk until it completely disappears. 
  • Change the speed of your negative self talk to either a very fast or slow pace. You can make it so fast or slow you just can’t understand it or so it becomes so weird sounding you just can’t believe it.
  • Change the sound of your negative self talk voice to the voice of Homer Simpson, Fred Flintstone or your favourite carton character. It makes it impossible to take it seriously.
  • Put the voice in a sealed box or locked drawer so the voice can’t escape. Put insulation around it so you can’t hear it.

9. ➡️ Make it an object and distance yourself from it

When you notice an unpleasant emotional state—such as worry, anger, or frustration— separate yourself from it by seeing it as another thing or person. Hold it at arm’s length and observe it impartially. Acknowledge it with something like, “Hello frustration, I see you’re active today.” This simple acknowledgment relaxes the parts so you can face the real hardship—whatever triggered them in the first place.

10. ➡️ Reframe the phrase

Substitute a positive affirmation for your negative self talk. For example, if you find yourself saying “How could you do such a stupid thing?” Reframe it as “I grow as a result of learning from my mistakes”. Play around with how to reword your typical negative phrases to find out which ones work for you. Find alternatives that give you energy. 

Give this a go and let me know how you get on. If you get stuck or need more guidance please get in touch. 

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