10 Negative Conversations Survivors of Childhood Trauma Have with Themselves

Negative self-talk is having limiting inner dialogue with oneself. This kind of self-conversation can not only limit one’s ability to believe in oneself, it can also keep you from reaching their full potential. Negative self-talk is thoughts that make it difficult to make positive changes or to build confidence in oneself.

This article will focus on 10 negative inner conversations survivors have, the four types of negative self-talk, and methods to defeat it.

The 10 Negative Self-Conversations

Like all ideas and many impressions, negative self-talk begins in the way we speak to ourselves. If we speak positive affirmations into our lives, then we will believe in ourselves. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

Below is a list of 10 negative self-conversations that survivors often find themselves engulfed in. With these negative thoughts, you will also find ideas on how to combat the negative self-messages.

“I am not worthy of self-care, there are others more deserving than me.”

Taking care of oneself is not being selfish nor is a crime for which one needs to be punished. After all, if you do not take care of yourself how can you help your family or others? It is not selfish to spend some time alone or to pamper yourself with a haircut or pedicure. It is also not a crime to say the magic word, “NO”.

“People are not trustworthy, so I should only trust myself.”

What a sad and lonely existence happens when this negative self-talk invades one’s mind. No one is an island and it is impossible for humans to face life alone. Reaching out in trust others may be frightening, but if you do, I guarantee you will find out most of us are pretty nice people. The only way to begin trusting others is to go out on a limb and just do it.   

“I must not feel or show emotion because it is too scary.”

Having emotions is normal for all humans and trying to limit yourself from acknowledging and expressing them is not healthy. Allow yourself to feel the full range of emotions from joy to sorrow, from anger to happiness. You are no longer a helpless child who can be harmed by an adult, so it is safe now to both show and feel all the emotions you denied as a child.

“I need to please everyone.”

No, you do not. It is okay to let someone down because it happens. You do not need to conform to anyone else’s expectations any longer. Try not saying you are sorry when someone becomes upset with you and feel the power that comes with controlling your own life.

“I cannot trust or believe in myself.”

Struggling with trusting or believing in oneself is a common trait of survivors. We spent our early years being told both verbally and non-verbally that we were untrustworthy. We were also told that we only had worth in what we could do for our abusers. Both these messages are hideous and yet they play back like old cassette tapes over and again in our minds.

One way to defeat this kind of negative self-talk is to look in the mirror at least once a day and tell yourself positive affirmations. Another equally important exercise is to make that decision you have been holding back on for fear of failure. Do it with the knowledge that, yes, you might fail but trust that regardless it is the right decision for you at that moment.

“I always choose the wrong partner for romance or choose none at all.”

Once again, the treatment you received in childhood is holding you back. The failure of your parent(s) to love you the way you deserved is getting in your way. Yep, people do make bad decisions in partners, but that is okay. Break-ups happen to the best of us.

One pervasive fear is that the person you are interested in will re-traumatize you. Trust your instincts. If someone feels wrong to you then you are under no obligation to stay with them. However, do not discount everyone who takes an interest in you because of fear. Use your judgement to decide if the person is safe or not.  

“I am always spaced out and can’t stay in the here and now.”

To be honest, because of a traumatic history, many folks are just like you, they space out or dissociate away from the present. Staying in the here and now is vital to enjoying one’s life and that means being aware of where you are and who you are as an immersive experience.  


Dissociating from one’s surroundings and people in our lives, while understanding from the hurtful lives we led in childhood. Learning to remain in the here and now takes practice and sometimes using techniques such as practicing mindfulness or yoga.

“My life is ruined by the actions of others and it is their fault I am miserable today.”

While no one can deny that what happened to you in childhood was bad and should have never happened, the only person keeping you miserable today, is you.

Now that may seem like a harsh statement for those of us who are dealing with the health consequences of the abuse in our past, but it is true. By allowing what happened to us in childhood to control what we do today as an excuse to not better ourselves and move forward is self-abuse.

To defeat this kind of negative self-talk one must work with a mental health professional and allow yourself to take complete responsibility for your life. That is a tough egg to crack, but the power you will feel of having complete control over your destiny is well worth it.

“I will never heal, it is impossible.”

The only person who does not heal from what happened to them in their childhood is the person who stops trying. Your healing began the day you acknowledged your past and took on the heavy duty of healing. It will continue until you can honestly tell yourself, “I am well enough now.” While those exact words may or may not be said in your mind, you will know none the less because of the peace you feel inside about who you are and where you are going.

It is urgent to remember that healing is a long process and sometimes it takes a lifetime.

 “It is taking too long to heal!”

As stated above, sometimes healing takes a lifetime. I will what my therapist once told me when I asked her what I should tell my readers about how long it takes to heal. She stated, and I quote, “Tell them it will take longer than what they want but not as long as they fear.”

The Four Types of Negative Self-Talk

People use self-talk as a mirror and as a magnifying glass to see themselves and the world. The messages humans glean from their mirror and magnifying glasses shape their self-worth and trust of others.

Negative self-talk can be placed in four categorizations, polarizing, filtering, personalizing, and catastrophizing. Let us examine each one.

Polarizing. Polarizing means seeing things in black and white, good or bad, without a middle gray area. It is the thought that you are must be perfect or a failure. To defeat polarizing reassure yourself that you are human and allowed to make choices that may be mistakes. Errors are how humans learn best, so it is okay. It really is.

Filtering. This term means you pay attention to all the negatives of a situation but filter out any positives. The method for defeating filtering is to write a list of all the positives in your life no matter how small. Begin having an attitude of gratitude instead of being so hard on yourself.

Personalizing. This term stands for the feeling that if something bad happens it is your faut. To end personalizing thoughts, ask yourself if there is any evidence to support your thinking or is it just your interpretation of what happened. Think on what else might have happened besides what you did.  

Catastrophizing. Catastrophizing is when you automatically figure on the worst happening. A good example might be planning a trip to see a relative but becoming afraid because of all the imagined things that might keep you from going or might happen once you are there. To combat this stinking thinking ask yourself how likely is it that the things you have conjured up in your mind will happen. Consider alternate outcomes such as having a marvelous time on your trip and when you arrive.  

Learning to recognize negative self-talk can and will change your life for the better. You will feel the strength and power that comes from owning and running your own life instead of listening to the old voices that echo from the past.

“If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.”
― Roy T. Bennett

“If you want to fly on the sky, you need to leave the earth. If you want to move forward, you need to let go the past that drags you down.”
― Amit Ray

“But you have to let go of it sometime, Gaby. You can’t change the past, any of it, and hanging on just eats your life away.”
― Soheir Khashoggi, Nadia’s Song

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