We often have inner conversations with ourselves. This is called self-talk. All of us do it. It’s just that sometimes we’re not aware of it. That’s because it is so much a part of us. Even when we are not aware of our self-talk it can still affect us. It’s important to think about what we tell ourselves. That’s because it really affects the way we feel. And what we do.

Self-talk can be either negative or positive. People are often more likely to think negative thoughts about ourselves. And tell themselves negative things.

When we were abused or traumatised in childhood, we have often grown up believing that we are bad. And worthless. And can replay those negative messages over and over in our head. Our self-talk can reinforce our negative beliefs. Many survivors have a harsh ‘inner critic’.

Our inner critic can be powerful. And as self-destructive as the person/people who abused us. It can badly affect the way we feel about ourselves.

Self-talk affects our mental health. Negative self-talk can make us feel really bad a lot of the time. It can even make us have suicidal thoughts. Or self-harm. But we can change that. The first step to changing our self-talk is being aware that we are of it.

Changing self-talk

Just as negative self-talk can bring us down and even make us depressed, positive self-talk can lift our mood. It can be supportive. And build self-confidence and self-esteem. And help us manage stress. And help us feel less depressed and anxious. If we can start to think more positively about ourselves we can start to feel better.

Survivors have often engaged in negative self-talk for a long time. This means that changing it can take time. But it is definitely possible. It means changing what you think about yourself. This means that we can start to see the world more positively. And feel better about ourselves.

Steps to help us change our self-talk

  • First thing is to recognise your self-talk.
  • What is it telling you?
  • Is it true?
  • They are only thoughts. Do they matter?
  • Can I change them?
  • What thoughts would be better?
  • What thoughts honour me? My strengths?
a pretty butterfly sitting on a flower stem

Is there another perspective?  There is a concept called double story listening. Generally, we tend to listen to the dominant story, the one you are familiar with and that you learnt in childhood. This story often focusses on your weaknesses and areas of shame – see if you can notice what you are thinking about yourself.

There is another story mixed in this– one of courage, strength, determination, vulnerability. Start to pay more attention to this story of resilience. Notice the times you stand up for yourself, when you are courageous enough to speak your mind, when you ask for help and accept care, when you feel more connected to who you are. Slowly over time this other story of yourself becomes clearer and stronger.

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Survivor Self-Care

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Blue Knot Helpline and Redress Support Service is a specialist service.

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