• Atma Central Wisdom

3 Steps to Change Negative Self-Talk -- By Sharon Burch, APRN

Inside your head, do you hear things like “That was stupid” or “I’m so fat”? This negative self-talk is not helpful. In fact, when we criticize ourselves, we pour guilt and shame into our nervous system, which promotes depression and disempowerment instead of evoking the energy to change.

When we listen to, and compassionately translate our negative self-talk to something even more accurate and also more positive, we are better able to connect to the underlying needs we are trying to meet. This practice gives us greater opportunities and energy for making change.

Instead of self-criticism, another way to look at ourselves is to notice what we are feeling and connect it with an unmet need. When we acknowledge we are not meeting our needs, it shines light on the need and our ability to choose among different ways to meet it.

The 3 steps to change your negative self talk are

  1. Notice: Notice the feelings associated with the thought.

  2. Acknowledge: Acknowledge the need that provoked an emotion.

  3. Choose: Choose how to meet that need to move forward and be better prepared.

Here are three examples of noticing feelings, acknowledging needs, then choosing how to meet the needs:

  • Negative thought: “That was stupid” → Notice the feelings: “I feel frustrated with myself!”→ Acknowledge the need: “It didn’t meet my need for quality.” → Choose how to meet the need: “Next time I’ll check my work to prevent a mistake.”

  • Negative thought: “I’m no good. I knew better and I did it anyway.” → Notice the feelings: “I feel guilty.” → Acknowledge the need: “I need to act in integrity with my values.” → Choose how to meet the need: “I’ll tell my friend what I did and ask if I can call them the next time I’m tempted to do it.”

  • Negative thought: “I’m so fat.” → Notice the feelings: “I feel sad.” → Acknowledge the need: “I need comforting.” → Choose how to meet the need: “I can do some self-care, then ask a friend to acknowledge me.”


Sharon Burch, APRN, invites you to take a few moments to connect with your feelings and unmet needs associated with any issue that’s alive for you today. If you would like Sharon’s help to learn this process, contact the Atma Clinic for your first (free) visit at 785/760-0695.

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