Stop Putting Yourself Down with Negative Self-Talk

March 3, 2015 Fay Agathangelou

Putting yourself down with negative self-talk damages your self-esteem. Find out how to stop the put downs, negative self-talk and build your self-esteem.

Putting yourself down can be damaging to your self-esteem and self-confidence. That includes the words you say out loud in addition to your internal negative self-talk. Negative thoughts and words can be very believable and they distort your perception about yourself. They impact on your sense of self-worth. When you talk negatively about yourself to others, the words have a greater effect. You’re also making it easier for others to put you down. The good news is that you can stop putting yourself down and build your self-esteem.

Why You Might Put Yourself Down

You may feel insecure, believe you’re not worthy or it might be a habit to put yourself down. You could be used to saying “I can’t,” “I don’t have talent,” “I’m ugly,” “I’m stupid” or “I’m useless.” You might have been put down by others in the past and continue to put yourself down. Alternatively you may believe it’s better to put yourself down before anyone else does.

Putting anyone down, including yourself, is emotional bullying. Most of us consider bullying from others as a bad thing, so why bully yourself? It seems like we have a double standard and treat others better than we treat ourselves. It’s not okay to put anyone down and that includes yourself.

How to Stop Putting Yourself Down

You can’t control what others say about you but you can control what you say about yourself.

To build your self-esteem, it’s important to talk about yourself in a healthy manner. Believe you are worthy and quit the self-bullying. Treat yourself as you would a good friend and respect yourself. Replace negative words with positive words. For example you could say “I’m capable” or “I’m learning” instead of “I’m useless” or “I’m stupid.” Words can make a big difference.

Two words that I recommend avoiding are “can’t” and should.” They are dis-empowering and it’s better to use alternatives when you can. For example, “can” is a good alternative to “can’t” and “could” is an alternative for “should.” Using positive affirmations might also help.

It’s important to pay attention to your negative talk -- catch your negative thoughts or words early. Awareness is very important and it empowers you to make changes. Stop your negative thoughts or words and correct them as much as you can. This may be a challenge to start with and it’s important to be kind to yourself. It’s okay if you don’t get it right straight away. Change will take effort and habits won’t change overnight. Keep on practicing and you’ll see improvements. Change your talk and you will build your self-esteem.

In this self-esteem video, I talk about putting yourself down, and how you can stop it to build your self-esteem.

You can find Fay Agathangelou on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and her website.

APA Reference
Agathangelou, F. (2015, March 3). Stop Putting Yourself Down with Negative Self-Talk, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 14 from

Author: Fay Agathangelou

March, 31 2015 at 8:27 am

I used to feel really great about myself. I lost over 20lbs and life was pretty great. Then, the bottom fell out. My body decided it didn't like me anymore. No matter what I ate or did, the weight keeps coming back.
I'm not morbidly obese but, by the guidelines I am just obese. Such an ugly word. I used to walk and do things but, I had a disc in my neck replaced and that put me way back beyond the starting line. My husband works a physical job all day and I have a desk job which makes things between us kind of hectic. I want to get out and do something after work and he's tired and just wants to kick back, eat his supper and watch T.V. and "spend time together". I really need a self-esteem booster.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Fay Agathangelou
March, 31 2015 at 8:25 pm

Hi Sarah,
Thanks for sharing your experience and sorry to hear that it's been a challenge for you. I truly believe you can build your self-esteem. You've felt good about yourself in the past and you can get that feeling back. You don't have to do it alone and it's worthwhile getting professional help. Believe in yourself, you can do it.

July, 21 2015 at 12:25 pm

This is a truly great post! I've struggled with poor self-esteem issues all of my life and still question myself at times. Right now I have a job I truly love (barista at Starbucks) that has been daunting to learn but I've stuck with it, despite a store manager who is impatient and prone to yelling at her employees while on the job in front of customers. VERY humiliating. I got into my car after my shift one day and cried for 10 minutes after being on the receiving end of her vitriol. Some guardian angel of a customer came to my rescue, called Starbucks corporate offices and filed a verbal complaint! Another customer went online and registered a written complaint too. IT WORKED! S.M. was disciplined and has backed off. Sometimes we all need outside support...but having the strength of character to weather this junk is so very vital too. Your words are much appreciated!

Judy H.
January, 20 2016 at 5:10 pm

I am 58 years old and have had low self-esteem since I can remember, even instances when I was 4 years old. Consequently, putting myself down from an early age until now became a way of living. To this day, I don't believe I am smart enough, attractive enough, good enough, thin enough, teachable enough or any other of the enoughs we all want to be. In essence, I have been living my entire life this way. When my husband asked me to marry him, I was overwhelmed with questions, "why would he choose ME?", "is he REALLY sure?", "wait until he finds out what I'm truly like?" or "there are so many woman so much more worth him than I!" I doubt quite seriously, after this many years of self-contempt and negative thinking I will ever be able to change.
My most earnest advice to those who are younger than I am is to PLEASE do anything and everything you can to BREAK this cycle, stop this painful treatment of yourself and know with everything in your heart that maintaining this way of thinking, tis believing will rob the joy from your life forever.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Emily Roberts MA, LPC
January, 15 2018 at 7:11 am

Hi Judy, Thank you for commenting. I'm so grateful that you are seeing that this is a cycle and you can break it no matter how long it's been plaguing you. I do agree that it can be hard however, there are therapies and resources that help. Have you done any work with a therapist or a group to learn to talk back to these thoughts or work on healing it? First of all, its brave and shows me that you really want to improve your self-esteem by reading this and commenting (virtual high five :) ) and the more we practice catching our negative thoughts and reframing the less they will take over our minds. I also think Louise Hay's work is very helpful too. Let me know your thoughts.
Take Good Care,
Emily Roberts

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Lawino Mieke
January, 17 2019 at 11:44 am

Hey Judy,
I have my first boyfriend and my mind was blown because the exact same things you asked about your husband proposing are what I ask in my head everytime he compliments me. Also I'm constantly fighting with body shaming myself. I actually drew a picture of me showing how I viewed myself. I'm from a small country in Africa, and the instagram or general description of beauty here is the light skin, big assets (boobs butt and hips) which ofcourse does not describe my African self... It's become so hard for me to believe when anyone compliments me. Anyway I hope that one day I'll heal from these insecurities. And thanks for your post.

April, 5 2017 at 1:03 pm

Hi....I used to be so confident. I believed in myself. Truly. Until every man I have ever met treated me like crap, cheated on me and now I feel like a shell. I am only 41 in a sex less marriage with a husband with a serious roving eye and everything else. I need to stay due to finances and my kids. But I am broken. I look in the mirror and see a ugly fat old lady. How do I end this cycle ?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 9 2017 at 4:52 pm

Shumara, you are brave for writing and honoring your desire to end this cycle. There are some great pieces here on Building Self-Esteem to help. Have you seen any that work for you? Have you worked with a coach or therapist before it could help also. Take good care, Emily

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

June, 12 2017 at 4:42 pm

Hi Alma glad to hear take good care and thank you, Emily

October, 20 2017 at 9:54 pm

I always down myself I tell myself you are so stupid and dumb the only time I feel good about myself is when I shop now I'm a shopaholic in debt. I don't know what to do I can't stop.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Sam Woolfe
October, 23 2017 at 10:15 pm

Hi Lisa,
I can see that you struggle with negative thoughts about yourself. We all make mistakes and do things we wish we didn't, be it spending too much money or any other number of things. Try to spend some time taking note of the qualities you like about yourself, what other people appreciate and compliment you on. When your opinion of yourself is based on what you know to be true, you may not feel that shopping is necessary to boost your self-esteem. But you also don't need to be hard on yourself for shopping too much - you already recognise why you do it, which shows how self-aware you are.
All the best,

anonymous person
December, 26 2017 at 1:36 pm

sorry if this is anonymous post and the thread is so old but everyone in my family keeps telling me to stop saying "I suck" or "I can never amount to that" with the music I play. this is a habit that phases in and out and I have had absolutely no self esteem all my life.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Emily Roberts MA, LPC
December, 28 2017 at 9:02 am

Hi There-- It's a habit and just by commenting it shows that a big part of you wants to get rid of this habit, it doesn't serve you. Every time you notice that you are critical in your self-talk, try to reframe it with a positive "And I'm learning to like myself more and more." or "I am a great ____." When you challenge your negative self-talk the less intrusive it will be and the better you will feel. I hope this helps Take Good Care, Emily Roberts

morgan dixon
December, 28 2017 at 6:59 pm

i am only 25, a single mom of three, and i struggle with my self worth. i was in an emotionallt abusive marriage with a man who put me down and cheated on me at every turn. but i dealt with it thinking that this was the life i was stuck with... he broke me so I would stay. i finally left after our third child but now...i cant get his words out of my head. its ruinung my current relatonship. i torture myself to the point that i cry daily from my own thoughts. i keep telljng myself im unattractive and useless. even though i work mh butt off daily and i know deep down im none of those things...but i csnt stop. its causing depression and anxiety... i wish i had a "coach" i guess. someone who could help mr build my esteem back... im going to try this method this next year. maybe i can fix myself if i focus hard enough...

Marzell Major
January, 14 2018 at 1:19 pm

Im marzell Im not doing like I usually do like I feel dumb and stupid. I dont usually do things like how I used to like everytime I play my game on 2k17 I mess up everytime and my mind seems off on things and I always run too my moms when I tell her about the situation that happening and going through my head but it seems like she isnt good enough. And I stole a phone for somebody because they made me do it but I didnt tell him no because I didnt know how to say no and I just did it. And I kept worrying about things like am I going to keep my job or Im not doing things I usually do on a daily basis. I just need some answers on what to do. Or someone thats going to listen too me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 15 2018 at 7:27 pm

Hi Marzell,
Sorry to hear that you've been struggling lately. It sounds like you're being burdened with quite a few difficult situations. It's best to take things one day at a time and to see what adjustments you can make that will help you to view yourself differently. You say you feel "dumb" and "stupid", but this negative self-talk can be challenged - this negative voice in our heads often doesn't tell the truth, so it helps to talk back to it. Respond with the understanding that you make mistakes (like we all do!) and that you're doing your best to improve. The fact that you've reached out shows you want to improve, which is far from a 'dumb' thing to do. It is in fact a very intelligent move!
Take care Marzell. I wish you all the best.

Josh Doe
May, 9 2018 at 12:04 pm

Hello. I have been struggling with this my entire life and nothing become drastic until college. I took a couple of art classes that I would believe that would help me better myself as an artist. For the most part it really helped until my "friends" put me down at every turn. Every piece of work I ever made they would shut me down and tell me it was crap and I should just give up. Now obviously they are no longer my friends but every time I try to do something I'm passionate about whether it be art, design, programming or writing I'm still hearing those voices of "you're trash", "no point in trying, you're just worthless" and everything you do sucks". These voices stop me from doing things I used to love doing and now I see those same people and other people on the internet going out and making great things. Seeing stuff like this puts so much envy on me and makes me want to make stuff but the voices tell me not to. I just want to be able to push the voices out and speak positively of myself, but it's hard to because all I've ever known was that I'm terrible at anything I do and I should just be a slave to the system and never have a passion. It's gotten so bad to the point where I'm so ready for the voices to go away I want to kill myself. No one would mind if that happened anyway after about a month.

May, 10 2018 at 6:52 am

im christopher just turned 21 last friday , i go to the gym everymorning , i work a full time job , have my own brand new car , i can say for my age im doing pretty good, theres just one thing that brings everything and its my self talk , i live in my head 24/7 i know we all do but i cant stop thinking ever , mostly about myself. calling myself ugly , fat & trying to figure out what people are thinking of me , i cant talk to people because i automatically turn red. i just want to be normal. i called out sick today and i am staying home, just because i dont feel like i look good , everyday i come
home and stare at the mirror & im just tired.

May, 22 2018 at 1:27 pm

Hi Christopher-- I'm so proud of your commitment to improving your life and you've made some awesome habits for your mental health. Have you ever done any CBT therapy or looked at any CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) books or resourcs? This helps get the thoughts out of your head and helps you learn to talk back. You a tremendous amount of self-awareness and you can learn tools to talk back with some simple shifts in thinking. Let me know if this is helpful and I hope you are feeling better today.

June, 22 2018 at 7:38 am

Hello there. I've been trying to figure out why I always put myself down and think I'm the worst thing/person in the world. This helped me understand why but it's still seems so hard not to be mean to myself. It kind of feels like I want to put myself down because that's what always worked for me for a long time now. I don't know what I should do, since I feel like I really don't deserve a single thing, and it's very hard to convince me other wise. Sometimes I dont want to get out of bed because of how ashamed I am of myself and If I have the chance I will sit in the dark so no one can see my 'ugliness'. Sorry if I'm kind of ranting, and it's okay if there is no answer. I just want to be able to take care of myself without feeling guilty about it.
Thanks for reading, if anyone did.

September, 6 2019 at 1:33 am

This is pretty much exactly how I felt when I was really depressed once. In the end I just forced myself to look away from the mirror, and think that 'even if I'm ugly, there are many things that don't require looks to do'. Somehow it came as a relief to just stop feeling petty about believing I'm ugly, and just go and live on as an ugly person. In regards to deserving things, I always felt I'll die alone, but now I've finally realised that people are naturally drawn to those that are happy and expressive, regardless of how they look. I was confused for a long time since I rated other's appearances almost as strictly as myself but eventually had to admit this is the case. But seriously, if you can look through stories of people way worse than yourself and still feel you're too lacking, then maybe you also have depression. I never looked for help in this but if I could see my past self I'd drag 'me' kicking and screaming to a counsellor. Coming from experience, weathering through is not a fun at all.

September, 11 2019 at 9:37 am

Hi Ashley, thanks for sharing your experience. I can tell you've been through a lot of struggle in the way you view yourself, but it sounds like you've made great strides and progress as well. That's really what matters the most I think.

October, 17 2020 at 3:16 am

Hi there, I feel the same way. I can look in the mirror and hate what I see. I’m told all the time that I’m beautiful, but I can’t see it. It’s like I can’t see what everyone else sees. I’m always comparing myself to other women and feeling ugly. I feel like I’m not worthy of being happy. I hate feeling this way and not knowing how to fix it.

October, 20 2020 at 3:21 am

Hi, Inda, I'm so glad that you shared and sorry you feel unworthy. It's good that you are actively seeking a way to fix this by reaching out. Have you tried therapy? It's a great place to search for the answers to why you feel the way you do and what you can do to turn it around. For today, I'd like to suggest that you try to find one thing you do that you feel you are good at. Is it cooking, or making someone you love happy, or writing reports at work, or taking care of your pet? We all have things we are good at and learning to focus on our talents and on the things we are grateful for in life is one way to start turning around the negative self-talk in our heads. You are worthy of happiness just by being you. We are not meant to compare ourselves to others. We all have our unique set of talents and abilities and challenges, and we are meant to love ourselves and everyone else for our individuality and differences, and not hate ourselves because of our differences. Our differences make the world better. I wish you well on the path to find the joy of being the you that only you can be.

October, 19 2022 at 9:48 am

Ugliness , really...
May any one can feel uncomfortable but can't hate ir disgust. If someone will love u he or she will , with ur sole not your appearance. But I also feel same that anyone can't ever love me . I can say thousands of bad things but it's true or not I don't know .

November, 13 2022 at 8:15 pm

I read what you wrote… I am the same way I always put myself down all the time. I say things like I am useless and ugly when I see another girl that is more prettier than me :( I want to be able to build my self confidence back again and be the person I know is hidden deep down inside of me again… I suffer from borderline personality disorder and anxiety and depression I been off medication for a year but need to be put back on it because I feel I need it…. It’s beginning to be hard to control without any meds…. What are your mental illnesses you suffer from? And what coping skills do you use to overcome of the obstacles in your life…. If you don’t mind sharing. I hope to hear back from you soon

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