We all talk to ourselves constantly (either out loud or silently in our heads). These thoughts are called self-talk. Were not conscious of most of our self-talk, but occasionally, you probably hear yourself saying things like Im such an idiot or I cant believe I did that.
Often, we need to slow down in order to tune into our self-talk. As you go through your day, try to pay attention to what youre saying to yourself. Is your self-talk negative, pessimistic, or self-critical? Or is it supportive and helpful? Or perhaps theres some of both.
As we grow up, we develop beliefs about ourselves (such as, Im smart or Im unlovable) based on what others tell us and how were treated. Usually, these beliefs start forming when were young and dont have the cognitive abilities or life experiences to question whether they are accurate. If, for example, your mother always told you that you were difficult, theres a good chance that youve gone through life accepting this.
And if you think youre difficult, it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Youll unconsciously look for evidence to support the belief that youre difficult — and because we all have a negativity bias, you will skew things to perpetuate this belief. You can learn more about this kind of distorted thinking here and how to change it here.
Even as an adult, your self-talk probably reflects the messages you got in childhood. Some people even recognize that some of their self-talk sounds exactly like critical comments their parents or siblings made. Without realizing it, we internalize these negative messages and reinforce them making them stronger when we repeat them to ourselves.
Codependency refers to an unhealthy relationship dynamic where one person is focused on taking care of, fixing, or controlling the other to the extent that he neglects his own needs. The relationship becomes enmeshed there arent clear boundaries or a sense of being separate, unique, independent people.
Codependency is built on low self-worth feelings of inadequacy, relentless self-criticism, and shame (the feeling that theres something fundamentally wrong with you). As a result, codependents have an unhealthy need to be needed and liked; they need others to validate that they are worthy and lovable, so they do whatever it takes to make others happy, often sacrificing their own needs, interests, and goals in the process.
Codependency stems from trauma (something you experienced or generational trauma) and this trauma often includes:
- Being told youre unlovable, inferior, unacceptable, etc.
- Being judged harshly
- Being blamed inappropriately for things you didnt do or couldnt control
- Being ignored
- Being abused or hurt by people who profess to love you
- Being told your feelings dont matter
- Not receiving guidance, appropriate rules and boundaries
- Not having your boundaries respected
- Not feeling safe to be yourself
- Regularly feeling scared, anxious, or on-edge
- Experiencing your caregivers as inconsistent, unpredictable, untrustworthy
- Not having your emotional and/or physical needs met
This type of trauma can lead to a harsh inner-critic that reflects a belief that you really are unlovable, inferior, unacceptable, and so forth.
As you read the examples of codependent self-talk at the end of this article, notice which ones resonate with you. Your self-talk may be a bit different, of course, but this list reflects many of the false beliefs codependents hold.
We all tend to have a default setting when it comes to our self-talk, but negative self-talk can be changed.
As you become more aware of your codependent self-talk, you can try replacing it with a more positive statement from the list below. Remember, repetition is important in order to strengthen your belief in positive self-talk.
You may also find it helpful to question how accurate your codependent thinking is. Does it feel true or accurate? What is the evidence that its true? Does it reflect who you are (or want to be)? Is it really your voice or are you repeating what someone else said to you? Is it helpful? Does it support healthy self-esteem and self-care? Does it keep you stuck in unhealthy patterns or does it move you toward growth? Is it kind?
It takes a lot of practice to make positive self-talk automatic. But even if you dont rid yourself completely of your negative self-talk, every little bit will help you cultivate a stronger sense of self-worth and change the codependent behaviors that stem from feelings of shame and inadequacy.
Everythings my fault.
I will take responsibility for my thoughts, feelings, and actions. And I will allow others to take responsibility for themselves.
I am worthy of love, happiness, success.
|I shouldnt have any needs. I shouldn’t spend money or time on myself.||Doing things for myself is healthy, not selfish.|
|Its not that important. I can wait. I dont really need it. Whatever you want is fine. I want you to be happy.||My needs matter.|
|I dont know how to deal with my feelings.||I can tolerate difficult feelings.|
Anger is scary.
|Anger tells me that something is wrong. Its okay to feel angry.|
Mistakes prove Im inadequate.
|Everyone makes mistakes.|
I have to be perfect.
|I accept myself flaws and all.|
I have to do everything myself. I cant count on anyone.
I dont have to do everything myself. I can ask for help.
Theres one right way to do things.
My way isnt the only way.
|I dont want to let anyone down.|
Its okay to say no.
|Its my job to keep everyone happy.|
We are all responsible for our own feelings. I cant make someone happy (or unhappy).
|I need others to validate my worth.|
My self-worth doesnt depend on other peoples approval.
|I have to prove my worth by taking care of others, sacrificing my needs and wants, never making mistakes, and working excessively.|
I value myself. I dont have to prove anything.
|If I dont take charge, this family will fall apart.|
I accept that I cant control everything.
|It feels scary when I cant control everything.|
I can cope with whatever happens.
|I need to rescue people; I cant let them suffer.|
Its not possible for me to fix everyone and everything.
If others would take my advice or let me help, things would be a lot better.
I will let others solve their own problems. When I do things for people, Im not letting them grow and learn.
Sharon Martin, LCSW