11 Toxic Phrases that Should Never Be in Our Inner Dialogue

Maintaining a healthy inner dialogue is the only way to be at peace with both ourselves and the world around us. In this article, we'll show you how to do it.
11 Toxic Phrases that Should Never Be in Our Inner Dialogue
Raquel Aldana

Written and verified by the psychologist Raquel Aldana.

Last update: 01 August, 2022

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 make sense of what’s happening around us. So, 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 woman with her eyes closed.

We control our own destiny, feeling and acting according to our values and beliefs.

The emotional consequences of these thoughts or beliefs indoctrinate us in such a way that they can distort our reality.

Here are some of the common thoughts and beliefs that contaminate the way we speak to ourselves:

  • The need to seek the approval of others, at all costs.
  • When things don’t go our way, it can seem like the end of the world.
  • The belief that happiness can be achieved through inertia or inaction.

It’s not uncommon to find ourselves repeating some of the thoughts or phrases that we should never say to ourselves:

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

There’s more to life than winners and losers. This kind of “all or nothing” thinking is neither positive nor healthy. In fact, failure can be the basis for success.

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

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

Again: making mistakes and failing often lead to success.

You have to give yourself the opportunity and the right to do so, as this is what will allow 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 one of the most commonly held beliefs. It’s important for us not to 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, and 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 love and devotion. Love must be mutual, diverse, and impartial, and so must be kept separate from our personal needs.

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.”

For most of us, criticism is synonymous with rejection.

This might be explained by the fact that we’re not good at giving and receiving constructive criticism that promotes growth and positivity. As such, unfounded criticism must be questioned from a rational point of view. 

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

While we ultimately need to take responsibility for our own actions, we shouldn’t turn a blind eye when others offer advice or opinions.

Cooperating and collaborating doesn’t prevent us from validating ourselves and strengthening our identity. Instead, this environment can help us to become better.

7. “I’m not good enough.”

All we have to say to you is never forget a very important premise in life: whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.

In other words, where there’s a will, there’s a way. The first step is to try, and try again.

What you believe in determines how you’ll act, so much so that if you think negatively, your worst fears will be realized, because you yourself will cause them to come true. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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

We distrust because we know people make mistakes, because we make mistakes, and we want to protect ourselves from those mistakes.

A healthy distrust probably makes sense in certain situations, but leave it’s important to 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 it will stunt our personal growth.

9. “I’m better than everyone 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, and is credited with the phrase: “One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing”. Contradictory? Maybe not so much.

10. “I’m useless.”

There’s no such thing as uselessness. By thinking that way, you’ll only succeed in demotivating yourself, and you’ll start to put aside your aspirations and interests.

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 going back to what we said earlier, the only true and authentic love lies inside us.

This will help us to put aside unhealthy emotional needs, which are often confused with the magical feeling of love.

A woman watching a sunset.

Change your inner dialogue

In short, phrases and thoughts of this nature are harmful to us, and have no place in our internal dialogue. We can try to avoid these thoughts in the following way:

  • Accepting only proven and observed facts as reality. Having one bad day where things don’t turn out how you wanted doesn’t mean you’re useless.
  • Accepting as valid only propositions that are derived from logic without contradictions.
  • Being flexible and willing to change our ideas and theories as we receive 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 appropriate to condemn or praise anything in absolute terms. It’s best to avoid using words like all or nothing, no one or everyone, always or never.
  • What’s more, it’s important to view our thoughts and attributes from a perspective of probability, rather than blind certainty.

Try to determine what factors influence what happens to you, and always look for alternative perspectives and solutions. Be sure to question the evidence before you, and compare your predictions with reality. Controlling your internal dialogue can help you to become more comfortable with yourself.

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.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ellis, A. (2003). Manual de Terapia Racional Emotiva. Editorial Desclee.
  • Ferreras, E. (2007). La autoestima. Anales de Mecánica y Electricidad.
  • Cáceres Valdez, R. (2016). EL POSITIVISMO. Ius Inkarri. https://doi.org/10.31381/inkarri.v0i1.547

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.