Last week we discussed how to identify that negative self-talk is occurring. This week we’re going to talk about the different types of negative self-talk that we tend to fall into.

Types of Negative Self-Talk

As I said above, there are different ways in which we talk negatively to ourselves. This is because our personalities, experiences, and the way we view our selves are all different. Within this world, though, there are four different types of self-talk that our patterns tend to fall into. You may use more than one of these, or may use just one of them. Read below to see which one matches your pattern!

The Worrier – Promotes Anxiety

“What if…”

For people who suffer from anxiety, or anxiety disorders, this tends to be the negative inner voice used the most. The Worrier acts by playing the “What If” game and leads you to imagine the worst case scenario of  a situation. In extreme cases, you may even view a situation as turning out as a disaster or catastrophe – in the literal sense. It can lead you to think, “What if I have a heart attack?”, “What will they think of me?” or, “What if something bad happens?”

The worrier increases anxieties by doing the following…

  1. Anticipating the worst case scenario
  2. Overestimating the odds that something bad or embarrassing will happen
  3. Creates overwhelming images of potential failure or catastrophe

This inner voice is always on guard, overly vigilant of others and situations, and ready to notice any sign that something is going wrong.

Examples of the Worrier

  • “Oh no! My heart is beating faster. What if I panic and lose control of myself?”
  • “What if I start stammering  in the middle of my speech?”
  • “What if they see me shaking?”
  • “What if I’m alone, something happens, and there’s no one to call?”
  • “What if I just can’t get over this?”
  • “If I can’t do this now, what if I’m never able to do it?”

 The Critic – Promotes Low Self-Esteem

“What a disappointment you are. That was stupid.”

For people who suffer from low self-esteem, this is often the inner voice they hear the most. The critic is that voice in the back of your head that judges what you do and say. When you do something that is flawed, or you have a limitation, The Critic is quick to point it out. It often leads you to believe that you’ve failed, and causes anxiety by reminding you and putting you down for not being able to do whatever your flaw or limitation is. It causes you to compare yourself to other people to remind you of your flaws, while ignoring the things you do well and all of your positive attributes. Sometimes the inner voice is our own, other times it is an imagined voice of a critical parent or teacher, or whoever you experienced criticism from in the past.

Examples of The Critic

  • You stupid (insert insult here).
  • Can’t you ever get it right?
  • Why are you always this way?
  • Look at _________ and how capable they are!
  • You could have done better.

The Victim – Promotes Depression

“I can’t. I’ll never be able to.”

For people who suffer from low self-esteem, this is often the inner voice they hear the most. It leads you to feel hopeless and helpless, that you won’t make progress, and never will. It leads you to believe that you are flawed, that there is something wrong with you.  The main idea here is that the inner voice leads you to believe things will never change, so why try?

Examples of The Victim

  • “I’ll never be able to do that, so why try?”
  • “I feel physically drained today – why bother doing anything?”
  • “Maybe if I had done that 10 years ago, but it’s too late now.”
  • “I’m hopeless”
  • “I’ve had this problem for too long, it’ll never get better.”

The Perfectionist

“I have to. I must.”

The Perfectionist is similar to The Critic. However, instead of putting you down, The Perfectionist criticizes your abilities to push you to do better. This inner voice often tells you aren’t trying hard enough, or doing enough. It leads us to do something I like to call “must-erbation”, “I must do this, I must do that.” This inner voice is the part of you that wants to be the best you can be; but, doesn’t tolerate when you make a mistake, or don’t quite meet your goal. It convinces you that your worth comes from external things like your income, job status, grades, physical appearance/attractiveness, or getting attention from that certain someone. When The Perfectionist takes over, we often find ourselves being pushed into high levels of stress and exhaustion; and depending on what the goal is… burnout.

Examples of The Perfectionist:

  • “I should always be on top of things.”
  • “I should always be considerate and unselfish.”
  • “I have to get: this job, that raise, parent’s approval, etc.”
  • “I’m not worth much.”


… Do you find that at least one of these has popped into your head at least every once in a while? Sometimes the first step in stopping anxiety is just noticing the negative self talk we’re engaging in. Stay tuned next week for more information about negative self-talk and anxiety!

Also, do you think these “inner voices” covers the different types of negative self-talk pretty well? Or, do you think there’s a kind that’s missing?

Works Cited

Information from this post is from the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook – 4th edition

  • Bourne, E. J. (2005). The anxiety & phobia workbook. (4th Ed ed.). Oakland: New Harbinger Pubns Inc.

Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

Anxiety and Negative Self Talk (Part II)
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