Ditch the Negative Self Talk

For a long time I’ve listened to a refrain in my head that goes:

“I’m failing. Failing. Why can’t I do better?”

Those words persist, but I would never say those words to someone else.

That’s what I’m unloading this week, and I’m willing to share about it so that someone else won’t feel so alone.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Thanks for your thought-provoking comments, Rachel. I think just about all of us, myself included, hear those words “I’m failing/I might fail” in our minds sometimes. I especially get that thought when I’m about to embark on something adventurous, and I’m learning to recognise that it’s often just a sign that I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and engaging with life. This is a good thing, and I’m learning to keep moving forward anyway.
    Kim @ Extra Organized´s last post…Rotating cleaning tasks

  2. I am getting better at the “self-talking”. Although a lot of it is “shut up and DO it, will you”. I know I can do things, it’s just a matter of taking that step off the ledge. I’d still be working in a job I loathed if I didn’t listen to the evil nagging voice in my head!

  3. Thanks, Rachel :) I never outgrow my need for this sort of reminder. I have definitely come a long way, but I still need to put that quote on my fridge!
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s last post…7 Books That Changed My Life

  4. Ha! So many times when I meet with people, I ask them if they would apply the same standards to others that they apply to themselves. The answer is always no- we are harsher on ourselves than with anyone else. (Except maybe my husband… I’m pretty harsh on him sometimes).

    Good words!
    Katherine´s last post…Really Hitting that Wall Hard

  5. Beautiful. I had a friend tell me the other day she wanted to have an “unconditional relationship” with herself. Such important sentiments, I think. The things we say to ourselves have real and lasting effects. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I think this is a great reminder. I also think personally I need to be as gentle with the people close to me as strangers. Doesn’t it always seem we are the toughest on the people who we love the most, and who love us the most? Being gentle is such a nice way to put it. Thanks for sharing. Have a fabulous day!

  7. Years ago I was standing next to a friend and I made a negative comment towards myself. She responded, “Stop making fun of my friend!”

    Nowadays I lead a group of Jr. high ladies. And, I use the same line when they are down on themselves. :)

    I think you are right on the money with how we can sometimes give more grace to others than we give to ourselves.

    Nice reminder!
    ~ Dana
    Cooking at Cafe D
    Dana @ Cooking at Cafe D´s last post…Our Jimmy John’s Kitchen (Part 3)

  8. A great idea! I’m very guilty of the same thing.
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm´s last post…A Bookworm’s Debate: WHEN To Get Rid of Books?

  9. So true. I try to let go of all the guilt, pay less attention to the mommy wars, and stop comparing myself to others. Striving for perfection is striving for failure.
    Jessica @ Stay at Home-ista´s last post…Yearly Collage Frames

  10. YES!!!!
    Thank you for sharing.

  11. Have you ever read “Throw Out Fifty Things” by Gail Blanke? She talks about all kinds of mental decluttering in there. It is a fabulous read, and I would highly recommend it.

  12. So needed this today. It’s going in my journal!

  13. Marsha Calhoun says:

    I believe I will try this for a day (if I can); I’m so in the habit of relishing my own self-talk because I can be brutally honest with myself as I can be with no other person, and perhaps I have gone a bit too far and missed a chance to respond to my own kindness.

  14. the same words run through my head so often (and even when i’m too busy to be aware of the words, the emotion is there). what i need to realize is that, while i may not be succeeding at the things i think are a measure of success, i’m succeeding in all kinds of other more important areas. it’s a matter of readjusting my focus. for example, i feel like a failure if i haven’t cleaned or organized or accomplished something in a way that i can point to and say, “there’s what i did today!” but are the kids clean, fed, happy, and loved? does my husband feel like he’s coming home to a family who missed him that day? would God see me as a success for doing what he’s set in front of me just for that day? i need to redefine success and failure.

    • This is very good, Melinda. Trying to just see and focus on what God has set before us this day. Redefining success and failure – thank you for sharing that.

  15. I have a problem with negative self-talk too. My blog post just today was about talking myself into a positive mood. I think most of us feel so isolated inside our thoughts. We think everyone else is upbeat and positive all the time and we’re the only one down on ourselves. Or at least that’s the way I feel. Thank you for sharing. It lets me know I’m not the only one. :)

  16. Oops, I didn’t see that I could leave a link to my latest blog post until I had hit the “submit” button. So here it is.
    Sherry @ A Happy Valentine´s last post…Monday, Monday

  17. We are ALWAYS harder on ourselves. I look at you and think “Wow. She is doing such a wonderful job as a parent, wife, and human being in general. I wish I could be better at all of that.” You may look at someone else and say the same thing. We never think we are doing good enough. Thank you for making making me realize that no one is perfect. :-)

  18. Error/mistake/failure are practically cuss-words these days. We don’t like mistakes. I learn very best from my own mistakes. Once I’ve realized this, I have started to like my “bad” qualities. I pride myself being so smart that I occasionally learn from others’ mistakes. I share my experiences, including failures, in an attempt to help others, so they won’t make my mistakes.
    The sky is the limit: I am trying to make good mistakes that lead my family to a better place.

  19. I totally get this. Working on it in my own life. xoxo
    Kika@embracingimperfection´s last post…On asking for help – and the dreaded FOOD LOG

  20. Rachel, I don’t see a way to share your posts – on facebook, for example. Am I missing it?
    Kika@embracingimperfection´s last post…On asking for help – and the dreaded FOOD LOG

  21. Thanks for the words of encouragement! I continually think that I am not doing my best…at work, at home, with the kids. I’m in the middle of a divorce after twenty years of marriage, I had to file for bankruptcy after my husband ran us into thousands and thousands dollars of debt. I’ve lost my home, my credit rating, and several friends recently.
    It is a challenge everyday just to get out of bed ( I have a moderate case of fibromyalgia.) I think I’m harder on myself than anyone else…….I just have to remember that liFe is going to go on, no matter what. Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy your articles.


  22. Must be a good day for this topic. Just read this one on another favorite blog (Be More with Less) with more on the same theme: http://www.bemorewithless.com/2012/kill-inner-clutter-before-it-kills-you/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BeMoreWithLess+%28Be+More+with+Less%29

    Thought you might find it helpful.
    (Sorry for the long URL!)
    Rita@thissortaoldlife.com´s last post…Bathroom RenovationDoing it the 12-step way

  23. Thank you, Rachel! This refrain has been playing in my head very loudly since November…not great, especially when the sun goes away (I’m in Germany). I love the quote you included and also the reminder that this thinking is also clutter.
    Mary Biskup´s last post…Hello, Monday

  24. It’s funny, as I read your post… All I kept thinking is how on earth can she think that??? Having just spent the last couple of weeks reading through your amazing archives (thank you so much for dedicating yourself to your writing… I feel ive actually grown as a woman as I’ve digested them) I find it hard to believe something like that could be thought inside your head … In my mind of course you’re far from failing- you’re a glorious success at life!

    … We do all think these things ourselves but would never say them to someone else

    • Tee hee her – I could even comment properly!

      …so why do we say then to ourselves?? I don’t have the answer but my Granny told me that you can’t take notice of silly thoughts like that. Number one reason – we are not our thoughts! Thoughts are often just a collection of whimsical musings that flutter through our minds after collecting all sorts of trash on the way (from society/tv etc). Thank you for being brave and admitting what everyone had to deal with sometimes! I for one, will definitely be spending tomorrow being gentle with myself! Fiona,x. P.s. I absolutely love your blog!!!!

  25. I really needed this. I had a rough night last night and I just decided to take on a huge life-changing goal…I need as much positive self-talk as I can get.

    Thanks, Rachel!

  26. Hello Rachel, I popped over to see you because you were nominated as someone’s “blog crush” on Vintage Revivals. I can see why you were listed there. I’ve enjoyed my visit! I can tell you’re great at organization because even your blog has an organized, tidy feel! I love this quotation & also the light fixture you made yourself. Very cool.

    Warmly, Michelle

  27. Beautiful sentiments, Rachel. Very timely. I can definitely relate. Dealing with issues, myself, right about now. I have my little “pity party” — look at it — then think ‘this is not helping anything.’

    But it does help to acknowledge whatever it is and whether I can do anything about it myself. Things come to mind when doing chores sometimes. (I suppose that’s part of being gentle with oneself.)

    I don’t sit, worry or beat myself about stuff I have no control over. I’ve learned to leave it in God’s hands.

    Maybe it’s a delayed after the holidaze kind of malaise that gets flushed up kind of a thing.

  28. This is one of my major focii this year. I was a buggar for it. This week however, major perspective has been given to me in the form of a friend of a friend who lost her husband, and son within 4 months. WE are raising money for her at http://www.mycause.com.au/mycause/raise_money/fundraise.php?id=50028 if anyone is able to stop by, if not that’s cool too. Her story is at http://www.lisajking.blogspot.com

    My theory now is that if she has had to contend with that, I HAVE NOTHING, NOT ONE SINGLE THING, TO MOAN AND BE NEGATIVE ABOUT.

    Thanks for listening.
    Tasmanian Minimalist´s last post…New Product Review Up MUST SEE !

    • Sorry to hear that. It’s sad — and it does put things in the proper perspective. But the reality is that we all will have our crosses to bear at some point. It’s part of living.

      The thing is… do we let it consume us or do we slowly pick the pieces up and keep moving forward?

      I think how we deal with minutia prepares us for other issues.

  29. I really love that – I put it on my blog and linked back to you. What a great idea to give ourselves a little credit. I’m all about encouraging others – I need to encourage myself sometimes, too…

  30. I struggle too with negative thoughts about myself. My appearance, my relationships with others. Always second guessing the quality of my craft work. Some days, nothing is good enough. I have to take control, shut it down, drown it out. Paint a smile on my face even when I don’t feel like smiling.
    Donna´s last post…Quilted Postcard Mug Rug

  31. A long time ago I came across a lovely quote which I use as a mantra sometimes: treat yourself kindly, as if you are your elderly aunt. Take your hand and be gentle to yourself.
    Margo´s last post…Sunday Dinner and Dark Days10: Leg of Lamb

  32. Thanks for your honesty. In blogging, we try to be chipper and positive in our posts about the things we accomplish, but there is certainly space for self-growth and honest reflection on how we are feeling. There is more to us than our to-do lists.
    Rachel´s last post…Dark Days 8: Spinach Goat Cheese Flatbread and a Giveaway!

  33. This is a useful idea, especially for women….especially women with small children. It’s hard to keep from comparing yourself to the “mom next door”. You know the one who has the perfect body, the clean house, the ironed clothes, and the gorgeous husband. If you stop judging yourself it’s likely that she thinks the same thing about you too.
    Shawna @ CheekyChicFamily´s last post…The Lengths We Go

  34. My sister passed along this post to me…
    Thank you for sharing this encouragement – this is definitely a refrain I’ve had playing in my head often in the past several months.
    andrea´s last post…when things are broken and ugly

  35. You know I am confident that if I could turn around my negative self talk, it would be much easier to unload the other things that I need to! Thanks for posting this. I really needed to hear this now.

  36. Tracy (@fromthekiwigirl) says:

    Hi Rachel,
    Yes its hard to be gentle with yourself..why?
    If we carried a mirror attached to the front of us and saw what we look like, facial expressions, respond to harshness from others, how we hurt others, would we be so brutal or would it make it worse? Would it make us accountable, more forgiving?
    I thank God for getting me through a very life changing ordeal and still going through but with the help of others such as the http://www.prayforme.com.au/ team, I know I have strength to go on. When I talk to God every negative thought disappears. I’m not always diligent with this process and catch myself out…exercise, running does it for me as well to chase away those dark times. Two days without it and I’m down on myself and eating KFC. So thank you Rachel for thoughtfulness and sharing.

  37. Wow Rachel, I swear you have a sixth sense about what so many of us are going through and thank you for sharing such eloquent and insightful thoughts. I so look forward to your posts and love to read all the comments. One especially stood out, loving ourselves unconditionally! That really stood out for me, I truly love everyone in my life unconditionally but I had to stop and think, am I doing that for myself? NO! Well, like I tell my children, today is a new day and anything’s possible. I am my own worst enemy but I’m working on that and thank you Rachel and all of you wonderful women for sharing your comments.

  38. Hi Rachel,

    Wonderful words to live by! Thank you for reminding me. :-)

    It can be so easy to overlook the shortcomings of others but it is so true that we tend to be hard on ourselves for the same shortcomings. But one of the wonderful things about growing older (I’m in my 50’s now) is that I have found I have softened quite a bit…growing much more patient with myself.

    Maybe it just comes from the fact that sometimes I’m just to tired to be hard on myself! LOL!!!

    Also – I think a lot of what you share here – – – unloading the clutter, etc. – – – can help tremendously with letting go of some of our negative self talk. When I got rid of all my diet books and exercise equipment (just gathering dust!), I stopped seeing them every morning and feeling like a failure.

    And you know what happened…well, not seeing all my “failures” made me feel better about myself – happier – because what I did see around our home were the things I was good at. My spirits were lifted and I started walking the dog every day…and I lost close to almost 20 pounds. And it was basically effortless…once I cleared the clutter that was cluttering my mind.

    Clutter can be so detrimental to our lives. I truly believe that clutter creates regret. And a wise person once told me that “Regret is the Cancer of Life”. I’ve got about 5 large black trash bags filled with clutter than will be dropped off at Good Will tomorrow. I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff that would have otherwise just caused me to have regret – – – unfinished projects, things I never go to, etc. But you know what? They were all basically things that were very unimportant to my life. I say good riddance! :-)

    I have a wonderful system of keeping a trash bag hanging on the back of my laundry room door knob. Every time I see something in my home that is creating unnecessary clutter, or just making me unhappy, I put it in the bag. Once the bag is full, it goes into the back of my car ready for a Good Will drop off.

    Don’t get me wrong – my house is hardly clutter free. As I have shared with you in the past I do love some of my clutter. But it’s the type of clutter that makes our home comfy and cozy…lots of quilts and blankets, books, board games, toys, pictures, dog beds, and sweet nick-nacks that make us smile.

    They are the things we love to surround ourselves with that makes – and dare I say this for fear of sounding corny – a house a home. But it is so true. I am somewhat of a Mary Carter Randolph type at heart. But we keep our counters clear (I love your thoughts on how they are work spaces, no storage spaces!) at the ready to cook a meal or play a board game.

    So thank you again for reminding us all to go easy on ourselves. Life is so much nicer that way. :-)

    Have a great week.


  39. It is so hard to be kind to ourselves. How can we teach this to our children from day one?! I found that I had a case of the “shoulds” which were not very nice either: http://www.letslivenice.com/2011/12/stepping-out-of-should-trap.html

    It takes courage to look inside. Thanks for sharing such authentic advice.
    Jo´s last post…Neuroplasticity

  40. I agree. I’ve been clearing that clutter too.
    My flesh and my heart may fail, but the Lord is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

  41. I’ve been there. Then the reasonable part of my brain asks, Failing at what? And realizes that the things I’m failing at I may not actually be failing at, just need more time, or they may not be all that important. And anyway, it is good to ponder both our failings and successes together. I think that’s part of being a pensive, introspective person. But don’t get carried away in the negative direction, Rachel. I know that you at least are succeeding in creating a useful and pleasant blog.

  42. Thanks for this. I need to ditch the idea in my head that there are other moms who seem to be able to do it all, so why can’t I? <—- bye, bye.

    More grace, more love…
    Elizabeth@ReadySetSimplify´s last post…Love by Decluttering

  43. January is always a hard month for me: the cold, the wet, the dark. I become listless and can slip toward depressed if I don’t watch myself.

    I think in the darker days of the year, we all need a little reminder to be gentle with ourselves; thank you.
    MK Jorgenson´s last post…Welcome, Money Saving Mom readers!

  44. When do we pick up those thoughts. I was just looking at a picture of me when I was two – I’m smiling I’m happy about just being able to clap my hands. When do we lose that?

    Dixie at Two

    Thank you for the reminder. A friend of mine pointed out that if I counted all the stuff I do without thinking I would feel really successful.
    Dixie Redmond´s last post…Do You Wrap Your Fridge in Paper?

  45. As moms, we do so much for others and don’t always take the best care of ourselves. We see the best in others and the worst in ourselves. I don’t want to know all the worst in others; I am happy to know their best. I also need to do the same for me and look at the good I have done in the day, not just the things that I didn’t do. Changing our attitude makes a big difference.

  46. Yes! I need to be a good example to my two daughters as well a those around me. Thank you for the reminder.

  47. Thanks for posting this. I really needed to hear this now.
    Reba´s last post…Better Jobs