Self-Talk and Parenthood: How I Manage My Natural Negativity

The ticker tape of thoughts unspooling through my head tells me that I'm not worthy of the life I've created for myself. That creates a real hazard for my children.

by Zachery Román
An older man and his grown sun on the front steps of their house, sharing a cup of coffee

Do you hear it? The voice. Always whispering and giving input, even when you don’t want to hear it. Sometimes it’s loud, sometimes it’s soft, but it’s always present. Periodically, it says positive things about yourself and others, but often, it’s saying things that shouldn’t be said out loud, especially in public. It’s that voice in your head. It’s self-talk. It’s a ticker tape battle between good and evil.

I’m not always winning that battle.

When I’m not being vigilant, the voice in my head is about the worse thing I can pay attention to. There’s negativity, which is all about being a naysayer. There’s judgment which is always giving an unwanted opinion. There’s self-doubt, which says I’ll never reach my goal or be the person I long to be. And then there’s my personal favorite, “worry” which gives voice to all things that could or could not possibly happen.

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My self-talk, unfortunately, directs much of my parenting. I find that it’s a daily struggle to have self-talk that’s not only positive, but based in truth. And that impacts my spouse and children. I find that when I allow my self-talk to be anything but reaffirming and positive, I’m on a one-way road to bad parenting and bad spousing. I actively need to take hold of my thoughts and control them in order to not go overboard.

There’s even a verse in the Bible, Philippians 4:8 for those keeping track, that goes like this: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” If those who lived in ancient times had difficulty with keeping a positive mindset, how much more do we who live in today’s fast-paced society?

Getting ahead of it helps. When I hear my children making negative comments about themselves, my wife and I step in to tell them that what their saying isn’t true. And I try to be conscientious about what I say in front of our kids. I don’t want to model poor negative self-talk. How do I do this? Well, I’ve got a few strategies/coping mechanisms.

  • Ask yourself if the self-talk holds any truth. More than likely there is a tad bit of truth in the negative self-talk, but when compared to reality, it pails in comparison. For example, “I’m a failure.” You might have failed at something, but that doesn’t define who you are, hence “I failed, but that doesn’t mean that I’m a failure.”
  • Talk to someone who you trust when you don’t know if your self-talk is true or not. Let them help you break down the narratives you carry with you.
  • When possible, try some positive affirmations that combat the negative thoughts you’re experiencing. These don’t need to be basic or silly. You just need to remind yourself that there are things you’re actually very proud of.
  • Get professional help. It works.

I’ve heard of famous athletes and political figures looking into the mirror and reciting positive mantras to themselves in order to build up their self-esteem. I’ve even done that from time to time. I look into the mirror and despite the human frailty that stares back at me, I choose to encourage that person who needs to believe that he is worthy of love, worthy of friendship, worthy of success and ultimately worthy of happiness.

After all, my kids are counting on that man in the mirror to be a positive force in their lives.