Why Do Women Hang on to Nasty Negative Self-Talk?

Bummed Out by the Inner Critic


The inner critic limits and creates stress for women

 As part of my retrospective of intelligentwomenonly.com, I’m republishing an April 25, 2010 blog which asks an important question that I’m still wondering about. The more I’ve delved into neuroscience and learned how the brain works the more I am convinced that the underlying reason that women hang on to negative self-talk is very simple; once learned and practiced regularly, any habit of thinking or behavior is very hard to break, good or bad.

 Pop psychology can’t help to eliminate NST. Nor can positive thinking, therapy, or religion. The negative self-talk habit is similar to an addiction; requiring a commitment followed by recovery, which is long, hard, full of ambivalence, progress and regression. Finally after a year — or two  — you’re unstuck, more productive, confident and less stressed.What a relief, pleasure, a reward!

 During a presentation of “Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit”, Jennifer Waldron, a speech coach  (jenniferwaldron.com) asked the pertinent question, “What’s the payoff or hidden benefit for negative self-talkers?” There aren’t research-based answers that I know of, but lots of theories about why women continue to put themselves down when it continues to make them feel bad — when NST drains confidence, raises stress, and decreases productivity.

 • “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.” Meaning that there’s comfort in same old, familiar patterns. Changing to realistic thinking from NST may be scary — a risk that takes effort.

 • Negative self-talk, spoken out loud, elicits reassuring ( if not necessarily honest) messages from friends and family E.g. “You have a great personality Mary. There’s nothing wrong with you.” “Of course you’re smarter than most of your co-workers. They must be jealous of you and that’s why they avoid you.” “You look fine in those pants.”

 • The illusion that people who do a lot of negative self-talking are introspective, self-aware, and analytical as well as smart may keep the NST engine chugging.

 Susan Nolen-Hoeksema Ph. D. in Women Who Think Too Much. (http://www.amazon.com/) notes several cultural influences e.g. decreased strength of inner values, greater sense of entitlement, the need for quick fixes, and increased self-absorption.

 What thoughts do you have about why women — or you specifically, keep dumping on yourself even though it produces nothing good for you and makes you anxious or depressed or at least bummed out? I’d really like to hear your opinions and thoughts. Maybe women think they can’t or shouldn’t stop the negative self-talk because it’s real and true? I hope not.

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