Sometimes, when I’m alone with my thoughts, my thoughts can really beat me up. I’m talking about negative self-talk. The whisperings in my mind that are not encouraging, but leave me feeling yucky and worthless and hopeless.
And the reason they leave me feeling this way is because, at least in the moment, I’m believing them. I’m believing that I’m ugly, that I can’t make a difference, that I don’t belong, that nothing I do is good enough, that no one could really love me for the real me.
Self-talk is really our thoughts about ourselves. It’s what our mind is taking in and putting on replay to whisper to us over and over and over again. It’s the messages of the world that we’re choosing to believe about ourselves, letting them dwell in our minds and define who we are.
That’s why negative self-talk is so destructive. It becomes what we believe about ourselves.
Yet even though it’s so destructive, it can be so hard to stop the negative self-talk.
Because negative self-talk is rooted in lies about our identity and worth. It’s rooted in the belief that our identity is in things other than Jesus; that what we do or how we look or what other people think of us is what defines us. And when we fall short in any of those areas, we feel worthless, and all those negative thoughts come to forefront of our minds.
So stopping negative self-talk is not just about thinking positively about ourselves, but about thinking that is rooted in the truth of God’s Word.
Romans 12 tells us how we should think about ourselves:
If we struggle with silencing the negative self-talk, than we probably don’t think that we struggle with thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought.
But maybe we do.
Because negative self-talk is just as self-centered as thinking of ourselves as better than others. It just as full of comparing myself to others and envying what others have. It leaves just as little room for noticing the needs of others and being considerate of them. It’s all about how we’re feeling and what other people think of us. It’s all about us.
We need to think with sober judgement. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has given us a sound mind. A sound mind is a mind that is rooted in the truth of His Word, that is not driven by emotions but is directed by Jesus, that is focused on Christ rather than on self.
God has given us such a mind, the mind of Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:16) So how do we begin to think with this mind and use sober judgement to stop the negative self-talk? Earlier verses in Romans 12 tell us:
God is a merciful God.
Yes, we all have faults and failings. We mess up and make mistakes. We slip up and sin. We probably feel like we deserve that negative self-talk at times.
But God is merciful. He doesn’t punish us as our sins deserve, but sent His Son Jesus to take the punishment for our sins so that we could live in relationship with Him. And in relationship with Jesus, we are made whole and holy.
This is the truth we need to be telling ourselves.
Jesus offered His body as a sacrifice for our sins, and we are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. This includes our minds. Even our thoughts are to be pleasing and honoring to God.
2 Corinthians 10:5 says we are to make every thought obedient to Christ. Every thought. To have the mind of Christ, we first need to give our minds to Christ, and allow Him to guide our thoughts.
We are not to conform to the pattern of this world, a pattern of selfishness, a pattern of not trusting and obeying God, a pattern that places our identity in things other than Jesus, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
We are transformed from anxious to at peace, from despairing to full of hope, from insecure to confident, from discontent to filled with joy, by the renewing of our minds. By identifying the lies we are believing and replaying in our thoughts, and replacing them with truth.
The way we think about ourselves needs to be transformed, and our thinking is transformed by a mind that is renewed by the truth.
So what are some things we can do to renew our minds and transform our thinking?
Ask Jesus to show you the lies you’re believing and to renew your mind. Ask Him for strength to stop the negative self-talk. And listen to what He says to you.
Fill the mind with God’s Word
Jesus says in John 8:32 that when we know the truth, the truth sets us free. Knowing the truth sets us free from the pattern of negative self-talk and the downward spiral of our thoughts. God’s Word is truth. As we fill our minds with His Word, we will be able to recognize the lies and find freedom.
Think on that which is in line with God’s character
Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Our thoughts are to be in line with God’s perfect character, not following the pattern of this world.
Be mindful of our thoughts
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The devil will constantly whisper lies to us, and so we need to be aware of what thoughts we’re taking in and putting on replay.
Don’t take in the junk of the world
What we take in - what we watch, what we listen to, what activities we engage in - has great influence on how we think. If we’re taking in the junk of the world, that which is contrary to God’s character and will, it will make its way into our minds and cause thinking that is not in line with God’s character and will.
Don’t mindlessly scroll social media
When we mindlessly scroll social media because we’re bored or as a distraction, we’re not engaging our minds with sober judgement, and this opens the door for thoughts of comparison and envy, which lead to negative self-talk.
Give thanks to God
Praise and thanksgiving gives us a new perspective and new way of thinking, because rather than focusing on ourselves and the negative, we are focusing on God and His goodness.
As our minds are renewed and we are transformed, we begin to recognize God’s will for us and what He is calling us to do. Rather than listening to the negative self-talk that fills us with fear and shame, we listen to God and walk in His will with freedom and confidence.