7 Ways To Confront Negative Self-Talk (E31)


Episode 31 Show Notes

Negative self-talk happens to all of us – but what can you do about it? Can there be unhealthy consequences when unhelpful self-talk is left unchecked?

In episode 31 of the Men’s Self-Help Podcast, Dr. John Moore explores the challenge of negative self-talk and how it can lead to derailment. As part of the show, sponsored by Better Help, Moore offers 7 concrete ways to combat negative self-talk and move about the business of creating change.

As part of this podcast, you’ll hear from a listener who is struggling to acclimate to the world post-Covid and how the phenomenon of re-entry anxiety, plus FOMO, may be part of the mix.

Take-Aways From the Show

  • A basic overview of derailment by using a metaphor.
  • Example negative self-talk statements.
  • Seven ways you can change negative self-talk.
  • An exploration between negative self-talk, derailment and depression for men, as mentioned in Men’s Health.
  • A quick discussion of re-entry anxiety after pandemic.
  • Resources for negative changing thinking patterns.

Resources/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Listen To The Podcast On



iHeart Radio


Show Transcripts: E31 Negative Self-Talk

Hello, and welcome – or welcome back – to episode 31 of the Men’s Self-Help Podcast. I’m Dr. John Moore, and I’m a licensed mental health counselor, out of Chicago, Illinois – and I’ve been involved with psychotherapy since 2005.

And you know as I say that right now, it just dawned on me that I’ve been involved with this work for nearly 20-years. Just wow.

You know, I’m often asked by people why I started this podcast. In fact, it was just the other day my nephew Jack sent me a text and asked.

So, I’m going to share with you what I told him and others – and it’s simply this.

My hope in starting this show was to reach three specific groups of men:

Group One: These are guys who are the health and wellness types and just naturally gravitate towards the wholistic. Men in this group may wonder what it would be like to work with a therapist and by listening in, they get a general feel for the experience.

So that’s group one.

Then we have Group Two: These are men who may have some experience with therapy – perhaps at some point in their past or maybe – they’re in therapy now and working on a specific life challenge, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety – things like that.

And then there’s Group Three: These are my “Go it alone types”. Here, I’m talking about guys are just never going to come to someone like me – a counselor – to talk about the issues going on in their life. And you know what – that’s OK – because I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, they’ll see a show topic and be curious enough to tap on an app and give a quick listen.

So let me say now – regardless of the group you fall into, I’m thrilled you are here. And hey, if you are a woman turning in today, here’s a big welcome as well. The truth is this show is designed for anyone – and I mean anyone – looking to gain the perspective of someone in the counseling field.

Now quick disclaimer: This podcast is not a substitute for mental health counseling or for medical advice and I am not your personal therapist.

OK, with that said, I want you to know that just a few hours before recording this show, I was working with a client who was in a full-blown crisis.

To make a long story short, he was in the throws of a panic attack – literally – at 30,000 feet. Yep, that’s right. He was texting me from his seat, onboard a Boeing 737 heading eastbound from Denver to Chicago.

Now first thing is first. He’s completely fine now. In fact, his plane landed just a little while ago. We were able to work through the situation by employing some mindfulness based techniques, coupled with bilateral stimulation.

But I’m sharing this with you because in every way that matters, this young man’s panic was brought on by negative thinking, fueled by something he felt bad about from his past.

In our next segment, we’ll talk more about negative self-talk why it can be so toxic. We’ll also go over 7 ways you can confront your inner critic with the goal of creating change.

As part of today’s show, we’ll also take a look at a listener email from a man struggles with FOMO – or fear of missing out.

Is this something you can relate to? Do you ever have the urge to take part in something, because you think you’ll miss out on the fun – or experience?

Please stick around – I’m excited you are here!

Block B: Combatting Negative Self-Talk

I’d like you to imagine being on a train for a moment, just riding along and looking out the window. As you take in the scenery, you feel calm and relaxed.

Then, suddenly, an evergreen tree falls on the tracks. The locomotive hits it, causing you to violently lurch forward. In the blink of an eye, you become air born. Everything becomes a blur.

Seconds later, you awaken in a pile of smokey, twisted metal.

Not exactly a pleasant picture, is it?

Well, I’m sharing this kind of mental imagery with you to illustrate a psychological concept called derailment. In every way that matters, your mind is like that train – peacefully chugging along to its destination point.

Negative self-statements are like trees – and it you aren’t careful, all it takes is one of them to fall over and cause chaos.

So, what do these trees look like – or in this case, sound like. Here’s some examples:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • I’m not attractive enough.
  • Nobody will like me.

Negative self-talk can also come in the form of questions, such as:

  • Why would anyone listen to me?
  • What do I have offer?
  • What makes me qualified?

So, as you think about some of these, do any of them resonate? Well, you aren’t alone.

Some of you listening right now may visualize me as a man who completely trusts himself. And – in the general sense I do – but wouldn’t say completely.

I’m particularly aware of how my own life experience may limit my understanding of the pain and suffering of others. But what helps me move through that insecurity is having had the experience of helping many different people from diverse backgrounds – men and women whose personal journeys are filled with horrific trauma and pain.

As I say this now, I’m thinking of some of the clients I’ve worked with who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse and still others who were bullied or victims of violent crime.

Many of their stories will stay forever contained in my mind, not only because of what they endured, but also because somehow, they were able to put one foot in front of the other and continue along, one day at a time.

That just takes so much courage. Truly.

Still, there’s a kind of healthy arrogance that is necessary for a person like me to put themselves out there as an expert. I can remember a few years back when I wrote the book, Confusing Love with Obsession, being filled with self-doubt and wondering who the hell did I think I was anyway?

And it didn’t help that as a child, my adoptive mother regularly brought up the successes of my cousins, fawning over how they had been accepted into top tier schools and how they had landed fantastic jobs.

As I say this now, I can still remember Diane – that’s my adoptive mom – drinking a Bartle’s and James Wine Cooler and saying to me:

Why can’t you be more like them John? You know you’re going to end up a worthless loser, right?

Of course, she left out a lot – like the fact that all of my cousins came from financially well-off families. Or that Diane had gotten a divorce and because of her alcoholism, she couldn’t hold a job.

Did I mention we were on welfare?

Yep, we were. From the age of 14, I worked manual labor gigs and forked over my paychecks – just to help put food on the table to feed me and my brother.

I’m sharing all of this with you because later in life, when I wrote that book, negative self-talk was very much present. How could it not be? It was only because of my mentor – Tyler – who at the time pushed me to get it done and convinced me that in fact, I was qualified to write it.

And the truth is I still have moments of doubt – a lot of them. Now look, I don’t currently suffer from imposter syndrome, where I’m constantly worried, I’ll be found out as a fraud and hauled away by the imposter cops. But that doesn’t mean things still don’t pop up and that – if I’m not careful – can cause me to derail.

So, I’m going to share with you 7 ways to confront negative self-talk that come from the folks at Footprints To Recovery. I’ve linked to this in show notes, which is over at the Guy Counseling Blog.

I’ll use this as a framework and then add in my own two cents; something I often do here on the podcast.

1 Become aware of negative self-talk

At it’s core, this really means knowing what kind of messages you are playing in your head. I really agree with this point because it’s kind of hard to combat toxic thinking if we don’t know the messages playing in our head.

An easy way to do this is to start a simple journal. Write down some of what you are thinking – or have been thinking – and look for any patterns.

2 Challenge the negative self-statements

Once you know more about your negative narrative, it’s time to start pushing back. You know, as I say this, I am reminded of that client I told you about at the start of this podcast – the one who had a panic attack while flying from Denver back to Chicago.

In his case, his negative self-statement was: I deserve to have something bad happen to me. You see – the day earlier, he had cursed at his wife during a heated argument.

And so, one of the things we did over text while he was flying back to Chicago was to help him challenge his negative self-statements. His went something like this: Does cursing at my wife really mean I deserve to be punished by karma?

By questioning the legitimacy of his negative belief, he started the process of creating change. Make sense?

3 Practice positive self-talk

This one seems simplistic but sometimes simple works best. By focusing on the positive things in your life, you shift mental states and balance. You know when I told you about my adoptive mom and some of the horrible things she would say to me, I often pulled on the positive in my life so that I wouldn’t derail. Examples included simply being vertical and having the use of my arms and legs. That may sound silly but it’s important to reach for the basics when we’re spiraling downward.

4 Step outside of yourself

OK, so this suggestion is one that I often recommend to clients. In short, you basically pretend you are with a friend and your buddy is sharing some of his negative self-statements with you.

With this in mind, how might you respond to your friend? What would you say to him if he said something like: “I just don’t feel like I have anything to offer anyone romantically?”

For real – what would you say to them?

Whatever the answer is – write it down. That, right there, is a narrative you can use to counter your negative self-statements.

5 Talk it out.

I like this one because it can help keep your metaphorical train on the tracks. Essentially, talking it out means speaking with a friend, a counselor, your significant other, brother – whomever.

A variation of step four, talking it out provides a real-life sounding board that helps challenge those negative gremlins rumbling around in your mind. Now I will say that the person you choose needs to be a good listener and affirming. If they have a history of minimizing your thoughts or don’t have the capacity to empathize – stay away.

6 Put it in a box.

Ok, so this one is used when we are struggling to come up with a counter argument for a negative self-statement. And hey, this can sometimes happen as we train our brain to think differently.

At any rate, by putting your thought in a box, you give yourself the ability to revisit it later, when your mind is more clear.

I personally do this by the way and have found that hours later, when I pull that piece of paper out of the box, I crack up laughing. Why? Simply because the thought I had written down and tucked away was completely irrational.

7 Focus on the present

This last one is a suggestion that really helps us to stay grounded. When negative self-talk starts up for my clients, I sometimes ask them if they’d be open for a quick walk.

When we go outside, I’ll ask them a question like: Hey, did you just hear that? They often respond with something like: Hear what? What’s going on? It is then I will ask them to refocus and keep listening.

“Oh, hey Dr. John – you mean that bird? Yeah, I hear it. Sounds like a sparrow. Wow, I never knew we had sparrows in Chicago.”

Now, you see what happened there? In that moment? Instead of ruminating on negative self-statements the person was able to – if just for a moment – be in the here and now. And it is in this way that you can help stop a major derailment.

If you are looking for more practical ways to combat negative self-talk, I’d like to recommend a book to you authored by Dr. Shad Helmsetter. It’s called What To Say When You Talk To Yourself and it’s filled with practical suggestions, like the ones mentioned here, to create positive change. I’ve put a link in Show Notes if you’d like to check it out [link to Amazon].

If you have time, I’d also like to suggest an article to you on this whole topic of derailment. Appearing in Men’s Health, Christian Jarrett looks at how men derail and its relationship to depression. I promise you that it is worth reading. And here again, I’ve put a link in Show Notes to the Guy Counseling Blog.

So, now just for the sake of reinforcing these points, I’m going to recap them all very quickly:

1 Become aware of your negative self talk

2 Challenge your negative self-statements

3 Practice positive self-talk

4 Step outside yourself

5 Talk it out with someone

6 Put it in a box

7 Focus on the present

Now before we move on to our listener email, I’d like to share with you a very special offer from Better Help. It’s worth sticking around.

Block C: Better Help Promotion

Listeners are offered a special 10 percent discount for the first month of sessions through Better Help by visiting www.betterhelp.com/guycounseling

BLOCK D: Listener Email on Re-Entry Anxiety + FOMO

This week’s listener email comes to us from a man named Cody who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He actually contacted me through Instagram – but an electronic correspondence all the same.

In a moment, I’m going to read what he sent to me and then give you my reply – or at least the essence of it.

Are you ready? Alighty, here we go:

Hi, Dr. John,

I just started subscribing to your podcast and can honestly say that it’s been helping me. If you have time, I’d like to hear your thoughts on something I’m dealing with.

Now that it seems like things are opening back up up – I’m seeing more posts on social media from my friends that are doing things, like taking trips, going out to clubs, and having a good time.

There is a big part of me who wants to join them, but I’m hesitant throw myself back into life all at once. I’m worried if I don’t do some of these things soon, I’ll be missing out and have regrets later.  

Have you heard of anyone dealing with this?


Cody (27 – Pacific Northwest)

OK, so that was Cody’s note. Before I get to my response, I’m wondering how many of you listening can relate to what he’s shared?

I’m asking you this question, because Cody’s issue has popped up with many of my clients in recent days and weeks. At first glance, his note seems to be all about FOMO – or fear of missing out.

And to be sure, some of that is present.

But in thinking about what he shared, my sense is there may be more than FOMO going on. At any rate, here’s what I wrote back – at least the essence of it.

Hi, Cody,

Let me say thanks so much for making contact and I’m thrilled to hear the podcast has been helpful to you. That means a great deal to me.

OK, let’s talk about what’s happening right now. While I can’t be sure, my sense is you may be struggling with two unique things, all at once.

The first is called re-entry anxiety. I say this because you mentioned that you were hesitant to jump back into things – at least right away. I can tell you that at least half of my clients are working through this issue right now.

So, you may be wondering what re-entry anxiety means?  

Well, at its core, re-entry anxiety is all about the apprehension associated with throttling life back up to full-speed – post pandemic. 

When you think about it – doesn’t this make sense? Many of us have been largely isolated for well over a year and have had to adapt. Some examples include working from home, wearing masks, and limiting our interactions with others.

Now that the pandemic appears to be easing, we’re seeing a gradual return to normalish – with some places experiencing that return faster than others.

While this is certainly welcome, it doesn’t mean most of us are able to go from zero to sixty overnight. The human mind doesn’t work that way – it takes time to adapt.

I’d like to draw your attention to an article that appeared on the website, SELF, authored by Anushree Dave called: Reentry Anxiety: 7 Ways to Deal With Stress About Post-Pandemic Life.

[And to listeners, I’ve linked to this piece in Show Notes].

What I like about this article are the practical suggestions that are made for coping with re-entry anxiety. One of the biggies that stood out to me was the idea of reintroducing activities slowly. An example might be opting to hang out with a few friends at a barbeque and then slowly building up to something bigger, like a night club.

So, there’s that. The other issue at play here is likely FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, which is probably being amplified by that re-entry anxiety I mentioned earlier.

I’m going to provide you a link to episode 18 that touches on social media and FOMO – and why there are times in life when we need to take a break from apps like Facebook and Insta. I’m hoping that what you hear will be helpful.

That said, with FOMO, one of the most effective ways of working through is to practice gratitude about the good things happening in your life in the here and now.

In other words, focus on what you have instead of what you don’t. Write them down, meditate on them and realize that what you see on social isn’t necessarily real.

I talked about this in that pod I mentioned earlier because with platforms like Insta and Facebook, there’s a whole lot of people selling an image or a brand. As a result, much of what gets posted is staged – and fake as all get out.

Cody, my best advice to you is to ease back into life at a pace that feels comfortable to you. Some might call this a form of exposure therapy. In other words, little by little, you expose yourself to more people and events with the goal of full re-integration. Do it on a timeframe that works for you and not someone else.

I hope you stay in touch and let us know how it all works out.


Dr. John

Ok, there’s my reply to Cody. You know, recently, my gym went from a strict, everyone must wear masks rule to masks being optional – at least for those who are vaccinated. Speaking for myself, I know it took me time to adjust. In fact, I still am.

So, how many of you are dealing with re-entry anxiety? If you are, what would it be like to try some of the suggestions made here?

BLOCK E: Closeout E31 Negative Thinking

Oh man, we went over a great deal today – don’t you think? We talked about the concept of derailment and how, if you aren’t careful, you can wind up in a bad place.

Using that framework, we also went over 7 concrete ways to confront negative self-talk with the goal of keeping you on track.

Shoot, we even talked about re-entry anxiety and FOMO.

Did you get something out of today’s show? I hope you did.

Folks, there’s lots of ways to reach me. You can stop by one of my social media pages if you’d like. I’m on Facebook at Guy Counseling – and I’m on Instagram and Twitter, at the same handle.

There’s also my website – which is guycounseling.com. You can go there and read some of the articles I’ve written or check out my book – Confusing Love with Obsession.

And you can also sign up for my newsletters if you’d like. It will likely have a notification of the podcast – or blog or something that you may find of interest. Short and sweet, I promise.

So many of you are sending me questions via email. I love that…I love to read your thoughts and get your feedback. So, for those of you who want to email me, feel free to write me at [address given on show].

That said, please know that it may take me a few days to get back to you – but I do read them all – every single one.

Finally, I just want to say thanks to the many people who have been leaving reviews on Apple Podcasts. They mean so much. Here’s some of what a listener named Arck shared:

I’ve never been into podcasts until recently. When a friend turned me on to this one, Dr. Moore has not only helped to give me insight, but also helped me to project back into the world.

So, Arck – thank you for that.

You see it’s comments like his that just keep me motivated to create more pods. Truly. So please, if the spirit moves you, please hit the subscribe button and then leave a review – be it on Apple Podcasts or wherever you are listening.

Here’s a quick shoutout to our show’s sponsor – Better Help – and to Joel – my sound editor – with East Coast Studio.

Well, there you have it – another show. Thank you so much for being here today.

Be mindful of your self-talk. Avoid derailment. Try to practice gratitude for the positive things in your life.

Take very good care.

I’m Dr. John – and this has been – another episode – of the Men’s Self-Help Podcast.

About John D. Moore 391 Articles
Dr. John Moore is a licensed counselor and Editor-in-Chief of Guy Counseling. A journalist and blogger, he writes about a variety of topics related to wellness. His interests include technology, outdoor activities, science, and men's health. Check out his show --> The Men's Self Help Podcast