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10 Self-Talk Habits That Will Sabotage Your 2018 Goals (and How to Ninja-Kick Them in the Face)

Updated on January 11, 2018
Nikki Rae Poole profile image

My heart wants to help people break through the barriers that are holding them back from living the healthy, happy lives they were meant to.

It's all in your head.

It's the beginning of another year. You've already had your moment of standing in front of the mirror saying, "How did I get here? I don't feel good about myself," as you discouragingly pinch your roll of tissue over your stomach and continue to talk down to yourself. Then as the new year approached, you've been refreshed with the sight of a new beginning. "I will do it differently this year!" "I will get in the best shape of my life!" "I am going to kick this year in the rear and say goodbye to the midnight Cheeto snacks and the Bonbon Netflix binge-watching!" you say to yourself. It's okay. You're not alone. More people than you know have been standing at these same moments.

So, you are going to do it differently this year. But how? Have you reflected on why you have ended up where you are? Sometimes we need to have moments of silence. No TV. No music. No phone. And do our due diligence to let our brains be free from distraction and clutter. We need to sit in complete soberness to internally reflect on situations that we want to change in our lives. We need to evaluate why we are here in the first place and what we have to do to get where we want to be. It all starts with "de-cluttering" the inside and the rest on the outside will fall into place. One of the first things to monitor is how you are talking to yourself also known as your self-talk.

"The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts."

— Marcus Aurelius

Growing up as a child, I dealt with a lot of negative emotions and feelings about myself. Looking back on it now, I can clearly see I set myself up for failure. I was capable of getting straight A's in school. I was capable of being a leader. I was capable of being likable and having a lot of friends. But I didn't believe it. I fulfilled my own prophesy that I had believed about myself since I was young, in the single-digits.

Our thought-patterns and thought-life has such a strong tie to our well-being and health that the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in the 1970s as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community."

Does looking at your glass half-full really matter? Absolutely. Happiness and positive outlook have been of huge interest over many decades. Research is showing a high correlation between those who look through rose colored glasses and their increased productivity, success, and health levels. They are living longer. Laura Kubzansky, HSPH associate professor of society, human development, and health, has been one of the leading figures in the arena. Kubzansky has shown in one of her published papers (among many) that children who where more focused and happy at the age of seven where in better health 30 years later. Through her research she has found that an optimistic attitude cuts coronary artery disease in half.

Okay, so we know happy thoughts equals a healthy life. So, where do we start? Your mind. What are you saying to yourself? Is it uplifting our degrading? Does it make you feel good or bad? Typically, a simple rule of thumb is how you feel at that moment. If you are feeling bad, you probably aren't saying great things to yourself. If you are feeling uplifted and full of hope, you're on the right track to success.

So many people have the same war they battle in their head, that the different types of self-defeating thoughts have been categorized, in order to be recognized and changed. The following list gives examples of negative thoughts and how to correct those thoughts into true optimistic statements. The more you can replace criticism and pessimism with uplifting and hopeful thoughts, the more likely you are to succeed in your lifestyle and health changes (Burns, 1980).

These are 10 different types of "self-talk" that people frequently battle with:

1. All-or-nothing: Looking at things as an absolute or black-and-white.


"I haven't lost weight in three days, so my diet and exercise aren't working. I will never lose weight."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"Habits that will last a lifetime take time. The process of getting where I want to be will take time. I will get there as long as I keep moving forward and being consistent."

2. Overgeneralization: Viewing a negative as a never-ending pattern of defeat


"I've never had success in the past with losing weight."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"The past is the past and does not predict my future."

3. Mental Filter: Dwelling on the negatives and ignoring the positives


"I don't want to work out because it makes me uncomfortable and it's hard."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"Working out may be hard, but the way I will feel afterward will be rewarding, and it's one step closer to my health goals."

4. Discounting the positives: Insisting that accomplishments and positives "don't count."


"I ate ice cream last night, and I'm a failure."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"I had a set back last night, but I did well all last week, and I will continue to do well and be consistent this week."

5. Jumping to Conclusions: Mind-reading and thinking others are thinking/talking negatively about you. Or fortune telling and predicting things will turn out badly.


"Everyone is judging me at this gym." "I'm going to suck at this workout and fail it."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"Everyone starts somewhere and besides people are too involved with their own workouts to be making judgements towards me. And even if they are [sassy voice], their opinion of me is none of my business!" "I am going to give this workout my all and even if I don't do as well as I thought I would, I know I did my best and I WILL see improvements if I continue to do my best."

6. Magnification or Minimization: Blowing things out of proportion or shrinking importance inappropriately.


"It's intolerable for me."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"This is uncomfortable for me and hard, but I can do this."

7. Emotional Reasoning: Reasoning from how you're feeling.


"I feel like a failure, so I must be one."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"I fell-off-the-wagon and made a mistake. It's a minor setback in the grand scheme of things that I will recover from."

8. "Should" or catastrophic statements: Criticizing yourself or others with "shoulds," "shouldn'ts," and "musts."


"This workout shouldn't be this hard," "Sticking to this diet is awful," "My spouse should be working out with me."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"This workout is difficult, but I will get into a rhythm and get stronger. Other people deal with the same struggles." "Sticking to this diet is an adjustment period for me and my taste-buds. It will become easier." "Even though my spouse is not working out with me, I can still go without them."

9. Labeling: Identifying with your shortcomings.


"I am a loser for missing a day at the gym."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"Just because I missed a day at the gym or ate junk food, that mistake does not label me as a whole. Tomorrow is a new day, and I will go."

10. Personalization and Blame: Blaming yourself for something you weren't entirely responsible for or blaming others and overlooking your attitude or behavior that is contributing to a problem.


"I slipped and injured my ankle, and because I'm missing out on my cardio, I'm a failure." "Because my spouse isn't supportive, I will never be able to get healthy."

How to ninja kick those thoughts in the face:

"I've received an injury that will keep me from doing certain workouts and activities. I will do my best to improvise and work around them." "Even though my spouse/friend is not supportive or interested in my weight-loss and health goals, their actions have no control over my own. I will continue to eat healthily and go to the gym, regardless of their choices."

The importance of how we talk to ourselves and how we see ourselves has been recognized by the historical geniuses of our past as seen in Marcus Aurelius's words, "The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts." Or the importance of focusing on the positive from Aristotle, "It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light."

What it comes down to is having a backup plan. Because the negative thoughts are going to spew their ugly words into your mind. It will happen at one point or another. The blessing here is knowing that it will happen. Now you can prepare for battle and have a plan-of-action. Know what you are going to do ahead of time. Become a ninja at the art of war in your head. Recognize when you are feeling negative. Think about what you are thinking about. Then correct and change those thoughts into positive and uplifting ones. This will propel you forward in life, rather than stifle you. The way that we are talking to ourselves will make us or break us. It can lead us to failures and a steadily mundane life or lift us to levels of new successes and places we never thought imaginable.




Burns, D. (1980). Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. New York: William Morrow.

Rimer, S. (2011). The biology of emotion-and what it may teach us about helping people live longer. Harvard T.H. Chan: School of public health.

© 2018 Nikki Poole


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