11 Toxic Phrases that Should Never Be in Our Inner Dialogue

· November 26, 2016
With the world that we find ourselves in, maintaining a healthy inner dialogue is the only way to be at peace with ourselves.

You’ve probably experienced the curious phenomenon of inner dialogue. In reality, we never stop having an inner dialogue through which we examine our internal and external world.

This inner dialogue is what lets us internalize and give meaning to what happens around us. And you can imagine how important it is in determining our emotional and mental health.

Even though it feels like these thoughts come and go, there is actually a constant interaction between them and how we act, how we feel, and how we react to our environment.

As Epictetus would say, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

A healthy inner dialogue, a healthy life

A hummingbird.

We control our own destiny, feeling and acting according to our values and beliefs. The emotions that are caused by these beliefs or thoughts coming from our inner dialogue indoctrinate us in such a way that they can powerfully distort our reality.

Here are some often heard phrases in our inner dialogue that we should never tell ourselves:

Don’t forget to read: Worthless Words that Aren’t Followed by Actions

1. “I have to be successful at everything I do.”

There’s more to life than winners and losers. Polarized thoughts based on all or nothing aren’t healthy. Failure is often the basis for success.

Remember that important discoveries like X-ray images and penicillin were the result of a number of failures.

A woman with leaves.

2. “If I fail at this, I’m a failure.”

Making mistakes and failing often lead to success. It doesn’t make sense to think “If I make a mistake, I will fail”. You have to give yourself the opportunity and the right to do so, as this is what allows you to achieve what you set out to do.

3. “If I don’t get others’ acceptance and approval, I won’t be happy.”

This is a commonly held belief. It’s important that we don’t feel rejected, but it’s not necessary or even possible to be accepted by everyone. It’s a reality that we have to live with that will help us accept ourselves.

4. “I can’t live without you. I need you to be happy.”

This kind of thinking comes from a misconception about loving others and yourself. Love must be mutual, diverse, and impartial, with no strings attached. If love and dependence coexist, they destroy one another.

5. “If you don’t agree with me, it’s because you don’t like me.”

“No one sees my worth because I’m worthless.” “My personal value depends on what others think of me.” For most of us, criticism is a synonym of rejection.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted”.

6. “I can’t stand when others tell me what to do.”

We obviously need to take responsibility for our actions, but we shouldn’t turn a blind eye when others offer advice or opinions.

Cooperating and collaborating don’t keep us from validating ourselves and strengthening our identity but rather help us become better.

A woman with a bird.

7. “I’m not good enough.”

“I can’t. It’s not worth trying out, I’ll never be able to do it.” All we have to say to you is never forget a very important premise in life: If you believe you can more than you can’t, you’ll wind up being right. That is, wanting is the same as being able to. The first step is to try again and again.

What you believe in determines how you’ll act, so much so that you end up confirming what you’re so afraid of happening, because you alone brought it about. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

8. “Don’t trust anyone, always be on guard.”

We don’t trust because we know people make mistakes and we want to protect ourselves from making mistakes.

A healthy distrust probably makes sense in certain situations, but leave it behind when it’s no longer necessary and only causes damage. If we don’t keep this in mind, we’ll remain closed off to others and stunt our personal growth.

9. “I’m better than everyone else.”

No one is worth more than anyone else. Humility is the foundation of decency and honor. Feeling superior to others will lead to an arrogant attitude that isn’t at all desirable.

Socrates is one of the world’s most famous philosophers, known for the saying: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”. Contradictory? Maybe not so much. It’s worth thinking about.

10. “I’m useless.”

Uselessness does not exist. By thinking this or “I’m worthless”, the only thing we’ll achieve is a loss of motivation and casting our ambitions and interests aside.

11. “I don’t deserve love.”

What we should say here is that we deserve the best. Suffering is inevitable when someone distances themselves from us, but returning to a previous thought, the only true and authentic love lies inside us.

This will help us put aside our irrational need for affection, which is confused with the magical feeling of love.

Birds circling a girl's head.

All of the phrases that carry the subtle message of “should do”, “should be”, or “have to be” definitively are potentially negative for us.

We can manage to avoid these thoughts in the following way:

Want to know more? Read How Negative Thoughts and Emotions Harm Your Body

  • Accepting only proven and observed facts as reality. If we don’t do well at something one day, it doesn’t mean we’re useless. We do hundreds of things in our lives that prove we’re useful.
  • Accepting only as valid propositions that come from logic without contradiction. If we allow for contradiction, we’ll frustrate how we value our inner selves.
  • Being flexible and disposed to change our own ideas with new information. People must adopt a flexible and tolerant way of thinking that helps us feel better without creating obstacles for ourselves.
  • It’s not right to condemn or praise anything in absolute terms. When we make categorical or “all or nothing” judgments, we’re completely denying all of the world’s possibilities. That is, with the exception of our own reality. Thus, it’s wise to avoid words like all or nothing, everyone or no one, and always or never.
A girl freeing birds from a cage.

  • It’s unhealthy to judge with essential terms, but rather use terms for attitudes. It’s better to say “You’re acting crazy” than “You’re crazy”.
  • Also, it’s important to think about things from a perspective of probability and not blind certainty. “It’ll probably be hard but I’ll try” is undeniably different from “I can’t do it, I’ll never be able to”.

You may realize you’re distorting the truth but nevertheless can’t change your way of seeing things. Try to determine what factors influence this and always look for alternative perspectives, even when you are very certain of what you think. Look for solutions, question the evidence, and contrast your predictions with reality.

If you feel like you can’t control how your thoughts affect you and are overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to consult a psychologist so you can get the support you need.

  • Ellis, A. (2001). Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and Behaviors: New Directions for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Prometheus Books.