Positive self-talk doesn't always work...here's what to do instead!

Positive self-talk is one of the most popular strategies out there to combat pretty much any psychological or emotional issue. Self-esteem and body issues, depression, anxiety, phobias. Positive self-talk is prescribed for all of the above.

Simply put, positive self-talk is a way to replace all of the negative thoughts that go through your head with positive ones. For example, if you are feeling negative about your body, you would consciously tell yourself (either out loud or in your head), “You are beautiful just the way you look right now.”

I often use this technique when I’m feeling overwhelmed by negative thoughts about my body, my performance or my worth. I’m going to be real honest, though. Sometimes it doesn’t work.

So, what are we supposed to do when positive self-talk doesn’t work?

Distract yourself.

Sometimes all it takes is just a break to escape from the negative thoughts that can sometimes plague our mind. Devan Danielle has some great ideas on how to distract yourself:

“When positive self talk just isn’t working, I take a break. I will do anything I can to just give my mind a break. Hiking, biking, and traveling tend to reset my mind and somehow remind me that what I’m doing matters…”

A distraction doesn’t even have to entail getting up and doing anything. Mental breaks are also great ways to distract yourself from any negatives that might be floating around in that cute little head of yours.

Some of my favorite distracting websites are: Eel Slap (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like!), Falling Falling (mesmerizing!) and The Wiki Game (I could spend hours playing this!).

(Psst…I totally got distracted by these websites while writing this post…I guess it goes to show that they actually work!)

Pinterest is also a great distraction for when you are feeling overwhelmed by negative self-talk. Check out my Pinterest board for some distracting, but encouraging content for those not-so-great days!

Talk about it.

You don’t have to go through this alone. Call up a trusted friend and let them know what’s going on. When other people know what you are struggling with, it makes your burden a little lighter. (Click to tweet that!) This also gives your loved ones the opportunity to speak truth into your life.

Another option is to consider pursuing therapy or counseling. I am a huge proponent of going to see a therapist. It’s definitely scary at first, but therapy is not just for crazy people.

Some of the most emotionally and mentally healthy people I know have been to counseling. And yes, I have gone to counseling too. Find a therapist near you!

related: 5 Things Every Woman Needs to Hear

Pinpoint the lies.

Ask yourself questions to figure out the root of the negativity. When do you experience these negative thoughts the most? What, if anything, makes them go away or makes you feel better? What emotions are tied to your negative thoughts?

Once you have some understanding regarding the root of your negative thoughts, it can be easier to pinpoint the lies that you are believing.

For example, if you often think, “Wow, I definitely need to lose some weight” when you are around your friends, the lie here could be “I’m not as attractive or as worthy as her.”

Fenna Blue pinpoints the lies in her life and calls them out:

I’m quick to combat potential negativity toward me by announcing why whatever [other people are] saying doesn’t apply to me and how I’m awesome.

When you notice a lie that you are telling yourself, stop and call it out! Lies don’t belong in your head. Only truth does. (Click to tweet that!)

Do something to make yourself happy.

Just because you are battling negative emotions doesn’t mean that you can’t do something that makes you happy. In fact, that might be the thing that will make you feel more confident and positive about yourself and your circumstances.

Writing makes Jordan Konkler happier when she is feeling plagued by negative emotions or situations:

“Writing seems to always be my go-to, because it is a healthy way to cope and allows me to process tough circumstances. Words flow out of my hands better than they come out of my mouth.” 

Watching Netflix, baking, crafting, taking a nap…whatever it is, find something that makes you happy and DO IT! (Click to tweet that!)

Come up with a plan.

Allison Vesterfelt says it best:

“Positive self talk that works isn’t just ‘rah­rah you can do it’ self­ talk but it comes with a plan.”

Instead of just repeating the same phrase over and over again, try coming up with actual action steps to help you end the negative thought cycle. Victoria has a great plan that she uses when she feels discouraged in her work:

“Reminding myself that I’d accomplished something epic already helped me to realize I was capable…I didn’t need to make myself believe it because I’d already done it.


You don’t have to feel defeated when positive self-talk doesn’t work. There are other options out there for you. You just have to find out what works best for you…and do it!

What do you do when positive self-talk doesn’t work? let me know in the comments below!

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24 thoughts on “What To Do When Positive Self-Talk Doesn’t Work

  1. I find Pinterest is my favorite distraction when positive self-talk doesn’t work. I also find that a drive with my hubby helps! He is really good at helping me talk through my issues!

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  2. Great post! Not sure I have anything to add but movement usually helps if I need to get out of a funk. Maybe it’s the endorphins.

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  3. Great post, I found you through the Weekend Blog Hop. I find doing something that I know will make me feel capable and good about myself. Exercising is a good one for that. But distraction is a great one too.

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  4. There are days when motivation doesn’t just seem to work. These are lovely things to remember. Yes I love to distract myself and well, do something I like when I don’t feel the will to go on with my tasks. 🙂

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  5. I’m big into Positive Self Talk. A couple years ago, I got really down about my job and was just stuck. I read about it and man did it help me. I thought at first it was completely goofy, but it’s actually quite amazing how good I felt about my job in just a few weeks. But yes, you’re right, it doesn’t always work. This is great advice! Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Good article, good tips. We feed ourselves far too much negative talk in this society.

    That being said, positive self talk isn’t, as you observe, a panacea. Sometimes, we can use it to mask actual problems, and by always talking our way past them, we never stop, turn around, and face them.

    I find that positive self-talk (a term I’ve never heard until I read your blog, but it’s an apt nomenclature) is limited without an acknowledgement of our spiritual nature. For those who believe in God, there comes a point when you have to acknowledge that you ultimately don’t have power over many things — if you take your next breath, for example, or the subsequent heartbeat. Recognizing this, initially, is a bit disconcerting, but after one gets over the initial shock of not being in charge of every aspect of one’s life, it’s actually comforting to know that it ISN’T all up to us, and when things get overwhelming, we have Someone in our lives who very much cares about how we’re feeling and doing.

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  7. This is a great post. Thanks for sharing it at #frifree4all. I think there isnt enough written about depression and anxiety & what to do to help yourself or what to do when that doesn’t work. This is a very motivational post for me! I’m off to make a plan 🙂

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  8. When I try positive self-talk, I am aware that I’m lying to myself.
    There’s no convincing myself that, for example, I look fantastic when I truly believe my outfit is horrid. It’s lying to myself……

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