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Negative self-talk is a habit. It hurts our self-esteem.

We developed most of our negative beliefs when we were young. And since we don’t challenge them, beating ourselves up becomes natural and automatic over time. But like any other habit, negative self-talk can be changed.

Negative self-talk is a habit that can be changed.

First, we need to be aware whenever we speak negatively to ourselves. Second, we need to reprogram it and teach our inner critic to talk nicely to us.

This article is about how to make ourselves feel better by changing how we speak to ourselves.

Changing our language and words we used on ourselves isn’t the same as positive thinking. If we don’t believe something is positive, telling ourselves to believe it isn’t going to work. It’s more about challenging what our inner critic tells us:

  • Are our inner critic telling us the truth?
  • Are we using words that cause us to fight, suffer, or beat ourselves up?
  • Do these words create judgment or choices?

Replace and Use These Words to Make You Feel Better About Yourself

1. Replace “I should have” with “I could have”.

“Should” and “shouldn’t” are the two most damaging words we can use on ourselves. Whenever we use these words, we are essentially telling ourselves what we have done or haven’t done is wrong.

Most of the time, we attached unpleasant meanings to these words. For example, the sentence, “I should have known better” often leads to self-judgment such as “I’m dumb”, “I’m naive”, “It’s my fault.” It suggests we deserve to be punished for our misdoing or because of who we are.

“Should” often lead to self-judgment.

Ever since I knew how detrimental these words can be, I used them less on myself and even in my writing. We are already limiting ourselves with our own “shoulds”. There’s no need for me to give others another set of rules to follow.

Instead of using words such as “should” and “shouldn’t”, I prefer to use “I could have”. “Could” is empowering and keeps you open to possibilities. It suggests we have the freedom and power to make our choices. It leads us to actions we could take in the future.


  • I should have exercised.
  • I should have written my blog post today.
  • I shouldn’t have watch TV just now.
  • I shouldn’t have bought this dress.
  • I shouldn’t have eaten this snack.

Change to:

  • I could have run in the morning.
  • I could have woken up already to write.
  • I could have gone into my room and read a book, instead of watching TV.
  • I could have spent more time considering before I make a purchase.
  • I could have been more mindful of what I eat.

2. Replace “I have to” with “I choose to”.

When we used words such as “I must” or “I have to”, we are limiting ourselves and making us a victim. We are implying that we have no choice in life and we are not responsible for our decision.

Pay attention to what follows after “I have to”. Ask yourself why you have to do something. More often than not, what we uncover is fear. For example, “I have to stay in this job” is usually because we feel insecure without one. “I must stay late to complete my work” is usually because we are afraid our employer would fire us.

Even though our inner critic seems “helpful” and “disciplinary” at times, “I must do this” is as good as saying “You better do this, otherwise something bad would happen to you.” Doesn’t it sound like a threat?

We lose our freedom to choose whenever we use “I have to”.

Instead of using “I have to” or “I must”, why not use “I choose”? We have a choice. We can choose to stay in a job we hate and be unhappy or we can choose to leave that job and have no security. There are consequences behind each choice, but we do have the freedom to choose and decide what’s best for us.

Rather than forcing ourselves to do things, choose what we want to do, and give it a 100%. I write every morning because I choose to. Every morning, I sit down in front of my computer and just write. I don’t need to force or push myself to do it.

And if I chose to watch TV, then it’s my choice. For that one hour or so, I’m just going to watch the TV program and be entertained. I’m not going to feel guilty for not doing my work.

We all have the freedom to choose how we spent our time, don’t we?


Change to:

  • I choose to stay in this job because I needed a stable income now.
  • I choose to stay late because I would have less work to do tomorrow.
  • I choose to say “no” because I don’t want to go.
  • I choose to do what I love because I trust my intuition.
  • I choose to take a break because my needs are important too.

3. Remove “always” and “never”.

“Always” and “never” are two words I catch myself using frequently. Then, I realize everybody else is using them too! We use these two words whenever we want to exaggerate and create drama. They are great for writing copy and marketing messages. But if we examine what we said closely, it usually not the truth.

These two words create nothing but drama.

For example, when we said “I’m always late”, have we forgotten about that one time when we are actually early? And when we say “I always get this wrong”, do we really get it wrong every single time or just most of the time?

It’s easier to pick out our mistakes and beat ourselves up than to recognize and remember the success we have along the way. And even if it’s true that we always make the same mistakes, it doesn’t mean we will make the same mistakes again.

“Always” and “never” are like death sentences. They don’t give us a chance to improve. Instead of using these two words, admit we make mistakes, and brainstorm how we could do it better the next time. Rather than saying “I’m always late”, say “I’m late this time. How could I be earlier next time?” There’s no need to bring in our late history and reprimand ourselves for it.


  • I’m always lazy.
  • I’m always sick.
  • I always get this wrong.
  • I’ll never get this right.
  • I’m never good enough.

Change to:

  • I’m distracted by social media.
  • I’m grateful for the times I’m healthy.
  • I get this wrong this time. How could I learn from my mistake?
  • I’ll get it right if I understood the concept behind it.
  • There are times when I feel I’m not good enough, but that isn’t the truth.

4. Replace “I’m not enough” with “I am enough”.

“I’m not enough” can be in many forms such as “I’m not pretty enough”, “I’m not good enough” and “I’m not smart enough”. Any time our inner critic tells us we are inadequate in some areas, it makes us feel incomplete and unloved. 

Sometimes, it is difficult to see we are enough, especially when we have been telling ourselves we aren’t for so many years. But if you be in touch with this moment in time (not think about the past or the future), the present is perfect as it is. We are complete. There’s nothing we need to do more.

What is enough? When will it be enough?

And the thing is what is enough? When will it be enough for us? We could get a million dollars and still want more. We could look our best and yet still feel our skin isn’t perfect. We could get everything in life and still be unhappy.

Examine the truth behind the word, “enough”. “Enough” is not something we seek externally. It’s something we have internally. If we really need something to hold on to feel enough, ask ourselves what it is and be specific about it. Do we need to have one million dollar to feel rich? Or would $100,000 be enough? Or perhaps $10,000?


  • I’m not pretty enough.
  • I’m not thin enough.
  • I’m not smart enough.
  • I’m not rich enough.
  • I’m not successful enough.

Change to:

  • I’m pretty for my age.
  • I’m healthy.
  • I’m smart about other things.
  • I’m financially adequate.
  • I’m successful in my life.

5. Replace “nobody” with “not everyone.”

One of the things I used to say to myself when I was young was “nobody loves me.” Similar to “always” and “never”, the word “nobody” is an exaggeration and an extreme word to use. Did I really ask everybody if they love me or not and affirm that no one loves me? Of course not.

Using the word “nobody” makes us feel lonely. it makes us feel disconnected and separated from the world.

Don’t say “nobody” unless we have checked it with everyone.

Instead of saying “nobody” and “no one”, try saying “not everyone”. Not everyone will love me. Not everyone will like my books. Not everyone will agree with my opinions. But that’s okay. Because everyone has different beliefs and are at different points in their life. And even if we haven’t found a person who loves us for who we are, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Rather than feeling bad that there’s nobody, find somebody. Change how we present ourselves and the things we do so that somebody gets it. And most important, we have ourselves. Love ourselves!


  • Nobody loves me.
  • Nobody cares about me.
  • Nobody wants me in their group.
  • No one in my family supports what I do.
  • Not one gets what I’m saying.

Change to:

  • Not everyone loves me, but there are people who do.
  • Not everyone will care about me. It’s my responsibility to care for myself.
  • I will find a group to which I could contribute the most.
  • Not everyone will support what I do, but I will persist.
  • I’ll find a better way to communicate what I want to say.

Questions: What are some negative words you use on yourself and how do you change it? Share with me in the comment section below!

Featured Photo Credit: amanda tipton / feel the beat