How to Change Your Self-Talk From Negative to Positive

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Unfu*k Yourself" by Gary John Bishop. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Want to learn how to change your self-talk? How can you effectively reframe your negative thoughts?

Gary John Bishop claims that learning how to change your self-talk begins with increasing your understanding of how your mind works. In his book Unfu*k Yourself, he says that it’s important to realize that the way you think dictates your reality.

Keep reading to learn Bishop’s advice on how to change your self-talk from negative to positive.

Silencing Your Inner Critic: How to Change Your Self-Talk

In his self-help book Unfu*k Yourself, Gary John Bishop aims to increase your understanding of how your mind works so you can use its power to your advantage. Bishop argues that the way you think dictates your reality. In his book, Bishop explains what self-talk is and how to change your self-talk from negative to positive. He introduces seven phrases designed to combat common negative thought patterns and make you more action-oriented. He calls these personal assertions; we’ll refer to them as power statements. Bishop says that if you incorporate these power statements into your self-talk, they’ll empower and motivate you to create the life you want.

Learn to Reframe Negative Thoughts

The term self-talk covers everything we think to ourselves internally—and Bishop argues that it has the power to support or sabotage our efforts to make progress. He explains that self-talk is powerful: The content of what we say to ourselves and the tone we use has a huge impact on our emotions, moods, and how we perceive the world around us. This, in turn, affects our choices and actions. 

It’s beneficial to learn how to change your self-talk, in fact, Bishop says studies show that people who have positive self-talk are not only happier and more confident but also more productive. The opposite is also true: If you speak harshly to yourself and generate a constant stream of negative messages, you may internalize them, become depressed, and see your performance suffer. 

(Shortform note: One study Bishop mentions demonstrated that the language people used to describe an event impacted their mood and their feelings about the event. The article in which the study’s findings were published was later retracted amidst accusations of data manipulation by one of the researchers involved. However, there are numerous other studies that confirm Bishop’s larger point that self-talk impacts how you think, feel, and perform tasks.)

It’s difficult to change your self-talk because most of your self-talk happens automatically as you go through daily life. Bishop calls this narrative mode because it comprises the meaning we’re assigning to our experience as it happens, as if we’re telling ourselves a story. Though we’re usually not aware of it, this stream of internal commentary plays like a soundtrack underneath all the scenes of our lives—and it’s often negative. Instead, Bishop proposes switching to assertive self-talk, which is active rather than passive. In assertive mode, you choose what to say to yourself, controlling the message you receive from your own mind. 

For example, imagine you’re working at a job you find unfulfilling. You might go through your day thinking, “I can’t believe I’m stuck in this crappy job! How do I always end up in these situations? What’s wrong with me?” Now imagine you’re at the same job, but all day you have thoughts like this: “This job is only temporary! I know I can find something better. I deserve to feel inspired in my work.” With that kind of encouragement from your brain, you’re more likely to feel motivated to work on your cover letter when you get home, which gets you one step closer to getting a new job.

(Shortform note: While Bishop characterizes self-talk as narrative and assertive, which focuses on the mode of self-talk (passive or active), some research studies categorize it based on the content: negative, positive, motivational, and instructional. Some of Bishop’s power statements would fall into the motivational category, which is meant to empower and inspire. This type of self-talk has proven benefits, including improving athletic performance, mood, and mental sharpness.)

Use Power Statements

As the example illustrates, it’s not your circumstances (like a frustrating job) that make you unhappy—it’s the way you frame them. If you want to learn how to change your self-talk, Bishop offers his power statements as a tool for reframing negative thoughts. These statements are meant to help you intervene in your negative, narrative self-talk with self-affirming messages.

By using the power statements in Bishop’s book, he argues that you can change your self-talk gradually and build the habit of using positive, assertive self-talk, profoundly shifting your way of interpreting yourself and your life. Put another way, the power statements are a way for the conscious mind to speak directly to the unconscious. 

Additionally, all the statements are in the present tense, Bishop stresses, because they’re designed to be a forceful intervention in the moment, not a description of what you’re hoping to be or do in the future. If you continue to reinforce these statements, they’ll eventually become as automatic and effortless as your negative thoughts are now.

How to Change Your Self-Talk From Negative to Positive

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Gary John Bishop's "Unfu*k Yourself" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Unfu*k Yourself summary:

  • How your mind works and how you can use its power to your advantage
  • Why your subconscious mind is actually the one calling the shots
  • The seven phrases you can use to reshape your thoughts

Emily Kitazawa

Emily found her love of reading and writing at a young age, learning to enjoy these activities thanks to being taught them by her mom—Goodnight Moon will forever be a favorite. As a young adult, Emily graduated with her English degree, specializing in Creative Writing and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), from the University of Central Florida. She later earned her master’s degree in Higher Education from Pennsylvania State University. Emily loves reading fiction, especially modern Japanese, historical, crime, and philosophical fiction. Her personal writing is inspired by observations of people and nature.

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