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Understanding Negative Self-Talk And It’s Impact On Performance

Self-talk is that part of our everyday dialogue that is associated with the interpretation of our thoughts and the actions that follow as a result of it. Inner speech is a characteristic of humankind (Fields, 2002).  In simpler words, self-talk can be understood as the chat that you have with yourself as an individual, during various situations.

One has to acknowledge that some aspect of their behavior is being influenced by the use of inner dialogues. With this awareness, we can probe deeper into why we are indulging in that kind of self-talk. As a sequential action to this, we can start noticing what we are actually telling ourselves in these statements. Further we go deeper into identifying the action that it leads us to perform. In many situations, all of these could be happening as a quick process, leaving us helpless to change the way it is occurring. But please be assured that this process of changing your own self-talk takes some time. Every small step towards awareness and acknowledging it helps immensely.

What are some of the situations that trigger negative self-talk for athletes?

Pain, discomfort, injury: Typically the onset of physical discomfortUnsuccessful actions on the fieldNegative comparisons to others’ performanceLosing focus in the middle of the gameLack of motivation to participateIncrease in ‘perceptions’ of the task difficulty

What are some of the common negative self-talk statements that are used by athletes?

“I’m going to lose”

“I am not going to reach my goal”

“I want to stop”

“I can’t keep going”

Research also points out that when an individual does not have the required self-awareness (i.e., are low in  dispositional self-consciousness;  Fenigstein, Scheier, & Buss, 1975), it could be a cause for their lack of awareness of the use and content

of negative self-talk.

To conclude, although this article talks about the various possibilities of negative self-talk from an athlete’s point of view, we can derive multiple similarities of when this phenomenon occurs in a non-athletic person’s life as well. Working consciously on your self-talk patterns can help improve your academic performance, workplace well-being and also personal relationships. Moderating your self-talk is possible and useful to enable optimal performance.

To know more about this topic and be part of the growing community invested in self-growth and self-awareness, please follow MS.Keerthana Swaminathan on Instagram and LinkedIn.


Hardy, James & Roberts, Ross & Hardy, Lew. (2009). Awareness and Motivation to Change Negative Self-Talk. Sport Psychologist. 23. 435-450. 10.1123/tsp.23.4.435. 

Negative Self-Talk During Sport Performance: Relationships with Pre-Competition Anxiety and Goal-Performance Discrepancies

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