How to Let Your Self-Talk Defeat You

self-talkJanuary is when our eyes optimistically turn to the year ahead. What will I accomplish this year? What are my dreams? What do I want to change? However, new-year’s resolutions rarely address the persistent obstacles that sabotage our efforts. One major roadblock to change is what coaches call self-talk: the messages we habitually or unconsciously tell ourselves about who we are and how life works. Below are eight common self-talk messages. Maybe one is defeating you!

1. Believe in Your Limitations

Nothing protects you from disappointment more than your belief in your limitations. Why expend all that effort exercising self-control or building a new habit when you know you’ll fail in the end anyway? Just let yourself go: you’ve been living with the consequences already, so why not just let it slide for another year? Don’t expect so much of yourself, and you won’t feel so bad when you don’t get it.

Are these thoughts part of your self-talk?

2. Keep Being Driven

You’ve accomplished a lot. But in your darker moments, it still feels empty. You find yourself striving for more, even though what you have attained hasn’t turned out as satisfying as you thought it would be. Don’t stop pushing! The things that seem just out of reach—your father’s approval, business success, recognition, the sense of pleasing God—they’re just around the corner! Being driven has gotten you this far, so now is not the time to change your self-talk. You just need to try a little bit harder. If anyone can make this work, you can. And when you do, it will prove to the whole world how worthwhile you are.

3. Waste Your Life

Life is tough. In fact, it is so tough that just thinking about it is a downer sometimes. Making friends or getting involved in church might some add spice to life, but relating to people is so much… work. So keep distracting yourself! TV is a reliable way to get some instant enjoyment without having to invest energy in people. Or stay up late playing computer games—it always feels good to beat the computer. Or get lost on the internet! Jumping from one link to another can let you avoid an odious task for hours. And porn is a great option if you feel down and need some cheap gratification. You’ll probably feel even worse when you’re done, but those few moments where you feel good may be the highlight of your day.

4. It’s Not Your Fault

Maybe this is the year the people around you will finally change. I know, I know, conflict is always a two-way street. But your side is a bike path and their side is like rush hour on I-80. I mean, the things you have to put up with! It’s amazing you are as gracious as you are. So stick to your self-talk guns: after all, you’re in the right. If they apologize first, you’ll make the same gesture. And if not, keep letting them know they have a problem. It may be that the shaming, the sulking, the anger, or the passive-aggressive behavior they deserve (and are getting) from you is the thing that will finally lead them to repentance.

5. You Don’t Need Help

All your life you’ve lived by the law of self-sufficiency: “I can do it, and I don’t need help.” You’re the prototypical American, the rugged individualist, the can-do leader. Asking for help is for sissies. Just because your marriage is lifeless, the kids are drifting away or the debt is mounting doesn’t mean you should go running to your small group for help. This kind of stuff can happen to anybody—just tough it out and things will eventually turn around. You aren’t any worse than anyone else. As long as you can hold things together on the outside, your self-talk says, there’s no need to admit your how weak you feel sometimes.

6. Nobody Understands You

If people really knew your heart, they’d get off your back. People somehow develop these overblown expectations of you, when all you are doing is trying to help. And then when they get disappointed, for some reason it’s all your fault! I mean, you did as well as anyone could given the circumstances. Things changed, and there was really no reasonable way to give them exactly what you promised. How about a little flexibility?!? Clearly they don’t understand you or the demands on your life. It’s best to just ignore that kind of off-base criticism and move on. They just don’t understand your heart.

7. Put Up or Shut Up

You are facing some tough issues in life: problems at home, conflicts in the workplace, and more. But you’re a survivor. Probably God is just using this to teach you patience. So just put your head down and keep on going. Don’t think too much about what your situation means, or how to change it: that’s a distraction you can’t afford. And that nagging sense that maybe its your problem? If you start paying attention to those doubts, they’ll just drag you down. This isn’t a learning experience, no matter what anyone else says: it’s about survival. If you just keep your nose to the grindstone and keep slogging ahead, you can put up with almost anything.

8. Do It Right

Heaven's Perspective
A great resource for rewriting your life story from heaven’s point of view!

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and you are committed to excellence; to doing it right! Why do people have such a hard time with this simple concept? For instance, every problem has a best solution. Every decision takes you down a right or a wrong path. If you make the right choice, God will bless you. If you choose wrong… well, you’ll just get to eat the fruit of that poor decision. The consequences of doing it wrong are pretty high, so it is no wonder you feel fearful and get all tied up in knots whenever you face a major decision. You’d look like a big, fat failure if you did something wrong—at that’s what your self-talk says. The safest course of action is to analyze everything exhaustively before you do anything, minimize risk, and above all, make certain you do it right.

Is that Your Self-Talk?

Does one of these paragraphs sound like your self-talk? If so, here’s a question to ask yourself: What if, instead of continuing to cope with this thinking pattern, this negative self-talk, I could eradicate it? What if in 90 days it was gone entirely from my life? Take a few moments and envision what life would be like if you were no longer fearful, or no longer were driven, or you let go of having to look like you have it all together. What would that be like? This could happen in your life. Why not try?

Tony Stoltzfus is the author of Heaven’s Perspective, a great resource for aligning your self-talk with God’s view of you. His books and coaching resources are available through