Your Self-Talk – Is it Friend Or Foe? – Part One – How Negative Self-Talk Develops

As humans, we come equipped with internal speech, also known as self-talk. This self-talk helps us “think about our thinking”, think about events, think through problems and also tells us to do or not do certain things. It’s a necessary component in our maturation and in our learning and helps us to become self-reflective and self-regulating. Those who have delays in this developmental area have a difficult time staying on track and following through and in curbing impulses and following the rules. So, when it serves in this capacity, self-talk is definitely our friend. 

It is when when we use self-talk as a weapon against ourselves that it can turn into a formidable foe. As we were not born negative, how does negative self-talk develop? 

English Romantic Poet William Wordsworth wrote “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting. Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come.” 

We still hold onto some of this glory throughout our early years. We have many moments of expansiveness, jubilation and pride in self as we accomplish what seems to us then to be monumental tasks.

Our environment – if it is a “good enough” environment – gives us lots of good feedback when we are very young children. Babies are almost universally liked and doted over. Toddlers are deemed adorable as they begin to do the things that will eventually become routine. Pre-schoolers steal hearts as they say the funniest and most uninhibited of things.

But several factors start to happen to change this scenario.

First, through maturation, we ourselves begin to play by the rules. If you ever play a game with a child before the age of seven, rules can be fluid or pretty much non-existent and what we term “cheating” abounds (e.g., counting several spaces as one, moving one’s piece closer to the end of the game board). By seven, children let go of mostly symbolic play for the big kid world of games with rules. So, after seven, we have a clear sense of what is real and not real and what is acceptable and unacceptable.

Second, the same behaviors and uninhibited utterances that once were thought of as precocious become less acceptable as we enter into early school years. We just aren’t that cute any more and we can receive a lot of negative feedback from our environment when we cross the line of what is socially acceptable. And many adults, forgetting what it is like to be five or six, can come down pretty hard on kids who are just being who they are…kids. Kids, in turn, internalize negative messages and are not yet equipped to deal with their feelings in a constructive way. 

Third, after the age of seven, we develop defense mechanisms like denial, projection, somatization (getting a stomach ache when you don’t want to go to school) and displacement (not being able to express our feelings and taking them out on others). Prior to age seven, children’s feelings always come out in behavior…what you see is what you get. But after seven, because we can now (unconsciously) use defense mechanisms, we begin to move farther and farther away from our true selves in order to remain loved, secure or hang on to self-esteem. (For example, if I really said what I think and feel, people would be angry with me and I would no longer be loved.) 

In addition, before the age of seven, we are unable to accept or reject anything consciously. We have, by that point, internalized many of the values, beliefs and norms of our family and culture. We’ve also internalized much of the negative feedback.

By the time we are consciously able to accept or reject input from the environment, negative input may feel familiar and it may seem warranted. Or we may have a feeling it is not accurate, but we second guess ourselves anyway. Over time, we develop too many filters over our true selves and can lose ourselves in the process. 

And so negative self-talk can become part of who we are and it can keep us from being who we truly want to be. Fortunately, because negative self-talk is a learned behavior, we can learn new behaviors to override it .

Learning to over-come negative self-talk can help free up the energy you need to become more of who you truly want to be and accomplish the things you long to do. Kate Sanner is the CEO and founder of Vivacity. She has been a psychotherapist with children and women for nearly twenty years. Now as a coach, Kate helps a woman on the verge of doing great things to take the leap into the life she has been dreaming of…whether it’s starting a business, writing a book or fulfilling a life long ambition. Once a woman has made the jump, Kate then provides tools and resources so that a woman can continue to take herself to new levels and to maximize and monetize all her efforts for continuous growth, financial gain and success. She is also a podcaster, Ezine publisher and internet radio show host. To get a FREE copy of Vivacity’s “The Think and Play BIG System”™, a 10 Step, 46-page guide- a value – that shows you how to bring your vision for your enterprise into reality and onto new levels, go to and fill in your first name and primary email address in the box in the upper right hand corner, then click on Yes, Send My System Now.