The Importance of Challenging Negative Self Talk

Hi friends! I’m getting back into the swing of things here in DC after my trip to Nashville for FNCE. As you know, I’m running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco with ClassPass in a week and a half, so my first order of business once back in town was one final long run!

mt vernon trail running

I arrived back in town on Tuesday evening, and Matt and I had a fun dinner out that night with friends, so to get me out of bed and moving I made sure I had someone to meet on Wednesday morning for a run. Thankfully my buddy Sokphal was up for it. :)


I wanted to get in 10 miles to make sure I was feeling strong and ready for the race next weekend, so I figured I’d do as many miles with Sokphal as she wanted to and then finish out the rest on my own. We set out (along with a high school friend of Sokphal’s that we ran into and had fun running/chatting with) along the Mt. Vernon Trail, enjoying the views as usual.

running on the mount vernon trail

We did an out and back and around mile 5.5 I said farewell to Sokphal and her friend and then ran over Memorial Bridge to finish out the run on my own.

view from the washington monument of the lincoln memorial

I felt a little tired/stiff, but it was a nice morning and it was fun to be out and about on an adventure. I allowed myself to walk some and take stretching/photo breaks, too. Running is supposed to be fun, after all… don’t forget that. :)

brooks shoes and lincoln memorial

Finished it out! 10 miles, done. Proud of myself for getting this in!

10 mile training run

After the run, I raced back home to tackle the work that I got behind on while traveling, and then late afternoon I headed off to coach Girls on the Run.

At yesterday’s Girls on the Run practice we talked to the girls about the importance of challenging negative self talk, and I wanted to write about that here on the blog as well because it’s important for all of us, too! Working on changing negative self talk to positive self talk is something that I work with a lot of my AnneTheRD clients on, actually, because it influences the choices we make in regards to food and exercise, too. Negative self talk is basically when you find yourself saying something mean to yourself – whether it’s “I can’t do this” or “I hate xxx part of my body” or “I am a failure because I ate xxxx or slept in and skipped my workout.” It’s unfortunately something that has become very typical for our society – in large part, I think, because of all the diet messaging and articles that tell you that if you eat something that’s not perfect, you’re a failure, or that if you just tried harder and weren’t so lazy, you’d have the body you wanted. It makes me really sad to hear people – in particular women – make negative comments like this about themselves. Not only is it bad for them, but it can also be contagious. If someone else makes a negative comment about themselves/their body/feeling guilty about eating something or being “so bad” for eating something, it’s almost understood that others in the group will also say something negative in solidarity. Remember that scene in “Mean Girls” where all the girls say something bad about their bodies and then look at Lindsay Lohan’s character and wait for her to do the same thing?

And not only is it contagious, but we start to really believe the negative things we say to ourselves and this will show in our actions. If you tell yourself that something sucks or is going to be terrible, it will be. If you tell yourself that you’re a failure/ruined everything for eating a cupcake, then you really believe that you are, and you’re likely to just eat the whole rest of the box because the rest of the day is ruined anyway, right?

Here’s the good news: we have the power to choose to talk to ourselves in a much more kind and positive way – and by not feeding into the negative self talk, you’ll inspire others around you to be more positive, too. The first step is to just start noticing when you’re negative self talking, whether internally or out loud. You might be surprised by how often it happens. Then, try to work to turn that around into something more positive. This can be hard at first, and it might be helpful to pretend you are talking to your best friend instead of yourself – we tend to be a lot kinder to others than we are to ourselves. The more you practice this, the easier and more natural it will become for your default self talk to be positive. We can’t change what happens to us, but we can change how we react to it. And remember that cupcake? Instead of feeling bad about it, slow down, enjoy the experience, and savor it. Now there’s no need to eat the rest of the box, because you haven’t ruined anything – you’ve just given yourself a treat and moved on with your day.

Do you ever notice yourself negative self talking? How do you work to change it?


  1. 1

    Oh I negative self-talk like a champ. It’s been a constant struggle for well over 11 years, bc when I was in rehab in 2004, that was a big thing i had to focus on. and i still focus on it, because if i dont watch how i speak to myself, it is a very fast tailspin out of control.

  2. 3

    I am working on my book discussing the things that I’ve learned in recovery that are applicable to everyone and this is definitely one of them. Practicing affirmations, which may feel unnatural or silly to start, is actually a great way to cancel out all the negative self talk!

  3. 5

    Thanks for this post Anne :) ! A much needed reminder to be nicer to ourselves

  4. 6
    Roadrunner says

    Wonderful admonitions, Anne. And great getting in the long run!

  5. 7

    I have a problem with negative self talk. I catch myself doing it all the time. I need to work on this.

  6. 9
    Charlsie N says

    It’s funny that this is your topic of the day. I’ve always had a huge problem with negative self talk. Last night when I was working out I noticed myself telling myself I couldn’t do moves in Insanity. I told myself that was a lie and pushed myself to do the moves. I did them and felt great about it!!!

  7. 11

    Since I started running, it’s helped with negative self talk. Running you learn that your mind is stronger than your body and you can transfer that in other areas of your life. If I’m going up a hill, my first thought is never “this is so amazing!”, usually like “UGH, this is going to take so much energy…I’m going to be panting at the end.” But, you take those hills like a champ Anne. I’ve channeled my inner Anne at times because I’ve noticed you’re very good at positive talk, especially at the end of runs. And if all else fails, I like to tell myself “you’re awesome, you’re awesome! Keep it up!” :)

    Fun morning run! :) <3

    • 12

      Totally agree – running has been HUGE for me with positive self talk and transferring it to other areas of life. You’re right – I love that it teaches you that your mind really is stronger than your body! Positive self talk makes such a big difference on runs – especially once you’re tired. Just remembering why you’re out there and that it’s supposed to be fun goes a long way. Thanks for being such a great running buddy! <3

  8. 13

    Hi Anne! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for over a year now, so first want to thank you. I too am a GOTR coach up in NJ and love this lesson! This is a perfect example of how I feel that somethings I wonder if I’m getting more out of the lessons than the girls, but am so happy they’re being exposed to such important information. Best of luck on your race and thanks again!

    • 14

      Thank you for reading my blog and for the sweet note! I agree — I wonder how much of this is getting through/will stick with them, but every little bit helps. :)

  9. 15

    I loved coaching GOTR because the lessons are relevant for the tweens and the adults too. Negative self-talk is unfortunately a part of my life, and I have tried and tried to get past it. I make progress and then slip. An eye-opening thing happened recently. I was at a store with my 12 year old daughter who is at an achingly beautiful moment in her life. She has lost her little girl chubbiness but is not yet a full-fledged teen – long coltish legs and slender figure. We were looking at a striped t-shirt which she tried on and looked adorable in. She asked me “does this make me look fat?” I wanted to cry hearing that come out of her sweet mouth and said something like “nothing could ever make you look fat. you are so beautiful.” When I gathered my thoughts and asked her about it later, she said that she asked because I had told her before that I though horizontal striped made me look wide. A lesson for me about negative talk – it impacts more than just me!

    • 16

      This is a wonderful lesson, Angie – thank you for sharing! You are so right — it certainly impacts those around us. Good for you for working to change your mentality – for both yourself and your daughter!

  10. 17

    Thanks for pointing me to this post, friend! Exactly what I needed to read today <3

  11. 19

    Inspiring post! and a great reminder :)

  12. 20

    In my early 20’s I realized I was the only person I had to live with for the rest of my life-i could hate myself or be kind and love myself. I choose to be kind, love myself and take care of myself and work very hard to achieve my goals. Taking the kind approach and being my own number one cheerleader has saved me from falling into the negative self trap many times and only for a short time if I start talking negative to myself.

  13. 22

    What a great post! The topic of self-talk is SO important. As an Eating Disorder counselor I talk to my clients about this all the time! Most of them have never realized just HOW MUCH they’re engaging in negative self-talk almost every hour of the day. I have my clients work on what’s called a Thought Record to identify these thoughts as they come up throughout the day. We then work on changing the thoughts, just as you’ve suggested here. Great post and I am so glad to see there is a program out there working with younger girls on correcting destructive thoughts, as well!

  14. 24

    Thanks for this! I tend to get down on myself easily and feel like I don’t have my life together often even when it’s only small things going askew. Like I’m not running as much as I used to, but still eating like a marathoner (uh, hello, I’m 33 weeks pregnant, I’m allowed to take it easier and eat some extras!) or that something at work went slightly awry (common around here haha) and I totally about my abilities. But that’s stilly! It’s life and nothing’s perfect. We just all need to keep it in mind and relax. :)

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