Use These 3 Words to Kick Negative Self-Talk

A simple perspective switch

Alexander M. Combstrong
Forge
Published in
2 min readOct 22, 2020

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Credit: Martin Novak/Getty Images

Maybe these thoughts sound familiar:

“I feel really nervous. I shouldn’t be so nervous.”

“I really messed up. I can’t do anything right.”

“I feel like I don’t fit in.”

“I’m being really lazy today.”

I have these types of pesky thoughts often. When we’re having a hard time, our brains usually don’t do much to help. Many of us are prone to negative self-talk: We mentally kick ourselves when we make mistakes, feel out of place, or don’t get as much done as we’d planned. We basically punish ourselves for being human, which means we’re punishing ourselves all the time.

But one day, when I was feeling particularly self-critical, I caught myself doing something that made me feel better. I tacked on three simple words to my negative thought:

… as humans do.

You can add these words to any judgment. Let’s try it with the thoughts above.

“I feel really nervous… as humans do.”

“I really messed up… as humans do.”

“I feel like I don’t fit in… as humans sometimes do.”

“I’m being really lazy today… as humans sometimes are.”

When you add these words, you’re stopping your brain from believing that the negative feeling is a personal failing. You’re reminding yourself that everyone feels inadequate and anxious and just “off” sometimes. You’re shifting your perspective — a core tenet of cognitive behavioral therapy, which I practice regularly — to cut yourself some slack.

And research shows that self-compassion doesn’t just matter in the moment; it can promote greater life satisfaction and emotional intelligence, while lowering rates of depression and anxiety.

I use the words “as humans do” regularly now whenever I’m having a critical thought, and they always help. Add the phrase to your mental toolkit. Allow yourself to be messy, afraid, and imperfect — like all humans are.

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Alexander M. Combstrong
Forge

Research-backed ways to change your life for the better. Out now: The Confident Introvert’s Handbook. Actor/screenwriter. Forge, Better Humans, Mind Cafe.