An Illustration of a Magnifying Glass over the Shape of a Head Represents Confronting Negative Self-Talk

How to combat negative self-talk as a business owner

6 min read
Brenda Barron

Have you ever considered how your inner dialogue — especially negative self-talk — might influence your life and entrepreneurial success? 

A study published in Consciousness and Cognition revealed that individuals often engage in self-talk for nearly 25% of their waking hours.

Interestingly, those who conversed with themselves more often were found to experience less emotional turmoil.

But the quality of that inner dialogue matters. A lot.

And for business owners, the silent words you tell yourself can act as either a powerful motivator or a daunting obstacle.

Today we're looking at the phenomena of negative self-talk, in particular. We'll discuss what it looks like, and its impact, and then offer some strategies to embrace uplifting self-talk to ward off the detrimental thoughts that could be hindering your progress.

What is negative self-talk?

Negative self-talk refers to the internal dialogue that is critical, pessimistic, or detrimental. It's the voice in your head that tells you "I can't do this," "I'm not good enough," or "I'm bound to fail."

This form of self-talk can be subtle and might even seem rational at times, but it often leads to self-doubt and hampers your ability to achieve your goals.

Types of negative self-talk and what they look like

Negative self-talk can manifest in various ways, and understanding these can be the first step in combating them:

  1. Catastrophizing: This involves expecting the worst possible outcome, even when it's unlikely. For example, thinking that a single mistake in a presentation will ruin your entire career.
  2. Personalizing: This is when you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong, even if it's beyond your control. If a meeting doesn't go well, you might think it's entirely your fault.
  3. Filtering: This means focusing solely on the negative aspects of a situation and ignoring any positive elements. If you receive feedback with nine compliments and one criticism, you might dwell only on the criticism.
  4. All-or-nothing thinking: This type of thinking is characterized by viewing things in black and white terms. If something isn't perfect, it's a complete failure.

The impact of negative self-talk

Negative self-talk can have a huge impact on how you function in business, as well as its overall success. It can also lead to low confidence, which can affect how you work and interact with clients. 

It even has the potential to derail any progress or goals that you have set, as you're constantly doubting your own capabilities.

Negative self-talk creates a vicious cycle of doubt and stress that can be difficult to break out of, so it's important to recognize this and take steps to stop it in its tracks.

6 practical strategies to combat the negative self-talk

Now that we know a little more about what negative self-talk is and why it’s so detrimental, let’s dive into some of the strategies to combat this habit.

1. Cultivate some self-awareness

"When those self-doubts start to creep in, I've found that being self-aware is crucial," says Tarek El Ali, CEO at Smart Insurance Agents

"Catching those negative thoughts early allows me to challenge them and reframe them positively," he says. "Embracing failure as a chance to learn, rather than a reflection of my worth, has been transformative."

2. Remind yourself of your greatness

When creeping thoughts of self-doubt take over, it's also helpful to "surround yourself with proof of the contrary," says Luisa Zhou, founder of and business consultant.

That is, you should summon up thoughts (or evidence) of all that you've accomplished thus far -- especially things that seemed "impossible" when you first achieved them.

"Maybe you were the first in your family to graduate from college," says Zhou, "We’ve all done difficult things before… We just have to focus on those successes rather than on doubts."

3. Take a solutions-oriented approach

Entrepreneurs often intertwine their personal identity with their business, seeking validation and success through being liked.

Baruch Labunski, founder of Rank Secure, emphasizes this connection, noting how easily business challenges can lead to personal self-doubt and negative self-talk.

He explains, "When things don't go as well, when it's a tough day, or revenues are lagging, business owners can get negative and take it personally. [...] This is when negative self-talk moves in and it is always centered on why people don't seem to like me, or my business, anymore."

However, Labunski offers a constructive strategy to combat this mindset. Instead of succumbing to negative thoughts, he advises taking a step back and adopting a solutions-oriented approach.

He shares a personal technique: "I sit down with some notes and write out what the problems are on the left side with possible solutions on the right side. Turning my negative self-talk into awareness of issues with solutions works for me. The problems then turn from being personal to being an aspect of a business. Business problems always have solutions."

By shifting the focus from personal failure to actionable business challenges, entrepreneurs can transform negative self-talk into a productive analysis of problems and solutions.

4. Emphasize self-care

Sometimes taking a step back and prioritizing self-care is what's needed to keep negative self-talk at bay. That's precisely what Vikas Kaushik, CEO of TechAhead.

In fact, he prioritizes exercise and meditation to improve "mental clarity," and to establish routines that offer, "...the resilience I need to deal with difficulties," he says.

5. Embrace creativity

"Finding creative outlets can be a great way to express difficult emotions and challenge negative self-talk," offers Mark Buskuhl, Founder and CEO of Ninebird Properties.

"Whether it's through music, writing, or visual arts -- taking the time to explore creative outlets can help you reframe your thoughts in a more positive light," he says.

Often, taking a step away from the whirling, churning thoughts in your head and doing something hands-on or active can break the negative self-talk cycle.

"Additionally, connecting with other creatives and sharing ideas is an empowering experience that can reduce feelings of isolation" Baskuhl adds.

6. Have compassion for yourself

Lastly, it's important to note that struggling with negative self-talk can be incredibly draining, so cutting yourself some slack and developing compassion in its place is vital.

"Remind yourself that you are not alone and that everyone experiences self-doubt at times," suggests Baskuhl.

"It’s okay if things don’t go according to plan -- this is part of the learning process," he adds, noting that taking the time to celebrate the hard work you've put into your entrepreneurial journey is worth the effort.

"[Y]our success depends on your willingness to keep trying," he says.

You can counter negative self-talk

When you run your own business, negative self-talk can become a persistent challenge. Yet, as we've explored, it's a challenge that can be met with intention and innovation.

By recognizing negative self-talk as a hurdle rather than a roadblock, you can equip yourself with the tools and perspectives needed to thrive.

Disclaimer: This content is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice from GoDaddy on any subject matter.