post written by: Marc Chernoff

15 Toxic Thoughts You Need to Drop For a Better Life


15 Things to Stop Saying to Yourself

It is ultimately only our own thoughts that hurt us.

Wait, what did you just say to yourself?

Were they the empowering, encouraging words you would speak to a friend?  Or were they the belittling remarks you would shout to an enemy if you had no heart?  Or the negative remarks about life you might utter if you had no faith?

All day long you speak silently to yourself, and a part of you believes every word.  So stay mindful, and meditate on this question:

“What do I need to stop thinking and saying to myself?”

Here are fifteen toxic thoughts to ban from your self-talk:

  1. “It’s too late.” – No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change and become an improved version of yourself.  Peace, strength and understanding will come to you when you manage to tune out the noisy judgments of others, in an effort to better hear the soft and steady hum of your own inner strength.  And once you hear it, you will realize that it’s not too late to be what you might have been.
  2. “If only I was stronger, smarter, more attractive, etc.” – The absolute worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.  It’s always better to be true to yourself, and risk incurring the ridicule of others, rather than trying to live a lie, only to incur your own self-contempt.  Remember, almost everything that happens to you is a direct reflection of what you believe about yourself.  You can’t possibly outperform your level of self-esteem.  You can’t draw from yourself more than you think you are worth.
  3. “What I have to say is not that important.” – Silence makes the inner battle much harder and longer.  Speak your truth.  Let it out… before it kills you!  Honestly, this is one of the saddest things about so many people – their most important thoughts and feelings often go unspoken and barely understood.  (Read Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.)
  4. “The less risks I take, the less regrets I will have.” – You miss 100% of the shots you never take.  Choices, chances and changes – start making them.  You must make a choice to take a chance, or your life will never change.  In the end, more so than the mistakes we make along the way, we regret the chances we didn’t take, relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.
  5. “I need their permission.” – Do your thing.  Don’t hesitate and waste all your time with lots of explanations.  Most people only hear what they want to hear anyway.  Just because someone doesn’t understand your point of view, doesn’t mean a great explanation doesn’t exist.
  6. “I’ll start tomorrow.” – Many great things can be done in a day if you don’t always make that day tomorrow.  Don’t let your fear of making a mistake stop you.  A life spent making mistakes is not only more enjoyable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
  7. “I just want to be comfortable.” – You will never improve yourself if you cling to what used to be, simply because it’s familiar and comfortable.  Great things rarely come from comfort zones.  You have to take risks.  You will only realize the full potential of your life when you allow the unexpected to happen.
  8. “Pain should be avoided at all costs.” – The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love, and to be greater than our misfortunes.  To hurt is as human as to breathe.  There is some kind of a sweet, innocent power in our humanness – in not having to be just happy or just sad – in the nature of being able to be both broken and whole at the very same time.  (Read Daring Greatly.)
  9. “It’s all their fault.” – If you sit around for too long blaming others for the things they did or didn’t do, or know or didn’t know, you’ll remain sitting in one spot until you pass.  Placing blame is easy, because it means you don’t have to do anything; you just have to sit around for your entire life.  But that’s not living; that’s dying.  To accept where you are without blame by seizing the present for what it is – for the opportunities it’s giving you every instant – that’s what injects life into your story and ultimately moves you forward.
  10. “It’s OK to break a few promises here and there.” – You make commitments to others and yourself all the time.  The question is: Do you keep them?  If you said you’re going to do something, do it!  When you fail to keep a promise, it tells people (including yourself) that you don’t value their time or relationship.  Don’t over-promise; under-promise and over-deliver on everything you do.  And a few words to the wise:  Never make a big decision when you’re angry, and never make a big promise when you’re overjoyed.
  11. “It’s OK to stretch the truth.” – It’s disheartening to think how many people are shocked by honesty, and how few by deceit.  Don’t be one of them.  Uphold the truth, always.  Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.  And you should be the one shocking them.
  12. “If I ignore the dark parts of myself, they will disappear.”You can’t change what you refuse to confront.  So confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with gradual enlightenment and forgiveness.  Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will eventually allow your angels to sing.
  13. “There are far too many obstacles.” – There will be moments when troubles enter your life and you can do nothing to avoid them.  But know that they are there for a reason.  And only when you have overcome them will you understand why they were there.  Accept this and keep your head held high.  There’s no use in wallowing in negativity.  You simply can’t expect victory while planning for defeat.
  14. “I have failed and lost too much to go on.” – If you have nothing, then you have everything, because you have the freedom to do anything, without the fear of losing something.  Confusing?  Not really.  Think about it.  Rock bottom is a solid foundation from which you can rebuild your life the way you always wanted it to be.  (Angel and I discuss this process in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  15. “I just want today to be over already.” – Don’t wish your life away.  Experience it.  Work at it.  Everything you go through grows you.  Sometimes you think doing something is a total waste of time, and then it ends up being one of the best things you ever did.  Amazing things can and do happen when you least expect them.  Let each day be a scavenger hunt in which you must find at least one of these things: a sincere laugh, an act of kindness, a realization, or a lesson that leads you closer to your dreams.

Afterthoughts

Using positive self-talk isn’t easy, especially when things aren’t going your way.  But watch what you say anyway.  Don’t give in to toxic thoughts.

Remember, the route to your destination is never a straight line.  You will take questionable turns and get lost sometimes.  But it doesn’t always matter which road you embark on; what matters is that you embark with the right mindset.  Either way life will likely get complicated sometimes, and bring unexpected hurdles and changes.  But that’s OK.  Sometimes you have to stumble and feel weak for a little while to realize how strong you really are.

In the end, the only things standing between where you are and where you want to be is the will to keep trying and the belief that it is possible to get there.

Your turn…

Truth be told, you can’t live a positive life with a negative attitude.  You can’t do what’s right while you’re telling yourself the wrong things.  So let’s revisit the question I proposed in the intro:

What do you need to stop thinking and saying to yourself?

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Photo by: Corrie

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47 Comments

  • How true! It is our inner chatter that makes or breaks us. The little voice in our head, keeps giving its opinion and we get swayed by it. For me the voice says - You cannot do it. It stops me from taking action. I sometimes think if there is a way where we could turn off the voice which does more harm than good. If at all there is a mechanism or a button using which we can switch on or off our self talk.

  • Thanks for the insight. I have realized that I am a strong person with the ability to put forward innovative ideas at the workplace and in my personal life. I need to remember to trust myself more and not beat myself up. I am strong enough to move forward even after setbacks, if others try to put me down or belittle my efforts. It’s wonderful to be me. I am a great person!

  • I wish I had learned #7, #8 and #13 when I was young, great things will not come to me effortlessly, a long time ago, but I didn’t. I was past thirty when I finally realized that anything worth doing is worth working hard consistently for. Now, I’m trying to help my 12-year-old figure it out, but I don’t know exactly how. She quits if she isn’t perfect the first time. I hope it’s related to her age, but I don’t know for sure. Still working on it. Either way, I appreciate your blog, newsletters and book. All are moving me and my daughter (indirectly) in a positive direction.

  • Your posts and quotes have changed my way of thinking and my life, gradually. Thank you.

  • This is all so true! For much time I used to feel that I’m being restricted, that I will have to wait for the bigger ‘opportunities’ coming my way. Or it was like, sure, I can make my own opportunities, but before that I’ll have to become more stronger and confident etc. I always thought that I’ve got a very positive thinking, but somewhere deep down, there was a negativity which I was simply ignoring, thinking that it will go away on it’s own ‘when the times change’. I realized it only recently that it’s basically me & my thoughts only that are controlling my life & restricting me, & not my surroundings or other people.

  • So True. It is mind over matter. It’s that self doubt that creeps in every now and then. But then I remind myself of something my Dad use to say. If you think can you will. If you think you can’t won’t. If you’d like to win but think you can’t it’s almost a cinch you won’t. Life’s battles don’t always go to the strongest man but the man who believes he can. The older I get the more I realize I don’t want toxic thoughts or people in my life. Too much drama. My struggles and hardships have taught me I can survive just about anything and there is something wonderful about being comfortable and happy with who I am not somebody else’s idea of who they think I should be

  • Why does “this” always happen to me? ”

    This” being something bad, or a negative occurrence. If we stop and think about it, we would know the answer to the question. Failing to take the time for introspection will create a negative belief that we attract bad things because of who we are, and ultimately, if allowed to continue unchecked, that we deserve it.

    Do not allow yourself to compile a list of everything bad or negative that has ever happened to you and lump them with the next negative event. Treat them as individual occurrences to learn from and grow.

    Things happen for a reason, and sometimes a minor correction will allow us to change the outcome when faced with the same situation again.

  • Thank you for #1. Thinking it’s too late, thinking that I’m too old at 55 years of age to dream a new dream, had been holding me back. But thankfully, I’ve been reading your book and newsletters in short doses every day for the better part of a year now, and your advice has given me the strength to break out of this self-defeating mindset. I have made more progress in the past year than I have in the decade prior.

  • I think it’s important to also keep in mind that it’s okay to reach out for help when we feel overwhelmed with these thoughts. Sometimes we just need someone else to help dispel the myths we tell ourselves or sort through the thoughts we internalize. Reaching out to a family member, friend, counselor or therapist can help tremendously.

  • I am really in the deep end of a depressive episode with my bi-polarity. Its been consuming for a week. When I read your words this mornning it felt like the thick dark clouds FINALLY had been pierced by a ray of sunlight.

    I am ready to make some big changes in my life and I know that I will get damn little support when I do them. All of my preparations, including being part of this community, are kept as big secrets. I am ultra-sensitive to criticism about my goals so I am not sharing with them with my close family or friends. I’d rather tell them what I did than tell them what I am planning to do.

    Thanks for all you do!

  • “I Give Up” - when pursuing a dream there are very many interesting routes to take you there. Just because somebody else’s route does not work for you does not mean that it is the end of the road. Look for other ways because they are there and above all, never ever give up no matter how difficult the journey.

  • Thank you! I really enjoy your blog and your book. This article reminds me of the importance of positive thinking in order to move forward in my life. People generally consider me to be a positive, happy natured person but I actually often catch myself thinking some of the toxic thoughts you explained above. It’s somehow easier to do the positive talk for someone else but it’s much harder to implement it yourself. However, I have noticed that when I tell myself that “everything will turn out just the way it’s meant to be” and I truly believe in it, things just fall into place.
    Have a great day, everyone!

  • This article could not be a better wake up call for me.

    I know that I need to STOP telling myself that I can’t do it.

    I need to stop wishing away the things that I regret.

    I need to stop regretting the chances that I didn’t take, and start taking them. I think that’s the biggest one for me.

    Thank you for this article. I really needed this today :)

  • Your ideas are well founded. I have MS which for me has exacerbated my emotional and physical problems. Most of the time, I feel like life sucks. Your suggestions are welcomed.

  • @Rachel: And thank you, Rachel, for your thoughts. Appreciated.

  • I really love this article!

    Thank you so much!

    Thoughts can be a dangerous thing but if used right they can be the greatest asset.

  • I love this. I shared with my daughter who struggles with direction in school, work etc. (she is 19). She feels like everyone achieves more then her or that she is never good enough. I think she is perfect, but sometimes it is good to be reminded that just because we don’t always know exactly what we want all the time, there are things within ourselves to help with reflection and direction.

  • I really liked your thoughts here and I think such positive article are going to help me in the long run. I agree we all should have a positive look towards ourselves and our lives… Negativity leads to nowhere… love yourself, love your life, and never say “NEVER” then surely your life will change.

    THANKS for this post.

  • “Nobody loves me”

    I’d give anything to stop that voice. It’s been there for as long as I can remember. It creeps in during so many situations. Recently I’ve tried to answer it by saying, “I love me”

    (p.s. I don’t get #2)

  • I woke up this morning with more doubt in myself than usual. After a good cry and the resolve that my doubts were valid I justified staying in bed and waiting until the day to end (it’s not even 9am). I decided to read some emails and after reading yet another M&A post I realized that if I stay in bed all day then I’m stuck alone with myself …and I suck today. So, i’ve decided to get up after all. Thanks, again for letting light overshadow my darkness.

  • I really enjoy reading all of the encouraging things that are written on this site. The biggest thing is to remember you are unique and there is nobody like you and embrace that.

  • When I found your blog 3 years ago, I quickly realized through your posts that I was abusing myself with negative thoughts. One day, I decided to count them, curious to see just how bad it was. I stopped midday somewhere in the ballpark of 50. This was equally eye-opening and heartbreaking. Epiphany. I was in a toxic relationship with myself. The next morning, the first negative thought was stopped right in its tracks. I did that for the remainder of the day, week, month. It took a few months but eventually, they stopped all together. To this day, I am a much better friend to myself. If I do have a critical thought, it comes through as constructive, rather than cruel. Just like that, I had changed the tone and intention of the voice in my head….which was a stepping stone to countless other positive changes. Lesson: The world can be harsh enough, we need to be in our own corner to thrive.

    M & A, you guided me through literally changing my life. I will be forever grateful.

  • Great breakdown. Many specialists in body and mind connections teach that your body eavesdrops on your words/thoughts and responds with sickness or wellness. Replace harsh thoughts with a positive one to counter it - takes practice, but so worth it.

    We’re dreaming anyway, so we might as well make it be a good dream.

  • A combination of 4, 7, 8: It’s just easier to accept what I have and do nothing…the devil I know. Change is hard work. People are affected by my choices. It’s hard work staying focused and working to the end goal. I constantly argue with the ‘devil’ to be quiet. I remind myself of who, what, where, why and how I need to achieve the goals.

  • “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Hillel

    Toxic conversations with yourself are really self-harm. Embrace your life by embracing yourself gladly. Your life is a gift so be grateful.

  • I am still struggling after the divorce of a 30-year marriage. There was great & many betrayals on his part. He didn’t have a job when he sumply walked out 2-1/2 years ago & has worked briefly since. I am 60 but not in good health but do not qualify for SSI as you are only allowed 2000.00 total to your name. I could get there (working diligently on ways to not) but even if so, they don’t give you enough to live on. I have 3 great kids but don’t want to burden them. One is high-functioning autistic with its own challenges. Both in 20’s & just don’t seem to “get” my dilemma. Autistic one simply cannot due to nature of disorder. Other lives in NYC, has no room for me, & 700 miles away. Parents deceased. Hit the jackpot of dads though for which I am so thankful but certainly miss. My only sibling, a brother, could literally care less & is very wealthy. Zero support of any kind. Have friends but they can only do so much. I’ve tried & tried to move forward & proud to say I have, but nothing tangible has worked out. Was to marry a man who turned out to be an alcoholic. Loved me dearly & me him, but that is not even remotely thinkable as a path to take. Cannot find even menial work. Getting sooo tired of trying & wrenches thrown in my way. Everything gone & too sick & sad to continue but will. Getting tired of “it’ll get better”…

    However, your blog has been very helpful & I will continue to try, along with prayer. The latter is what has kept me going. No, I do not routinely talk negatively per se to myself & always had a healthy dose of self- esteem. It’s getting harder & harder to keep trying & maintaining a good attitude but I do. So what gives???

  • @David Rapp: while I’m not bi-polar, I do struggle with depression and a toxic family. You can’t change your family (I have to keep as much distance from mine as I can), but you can change your friends. If your friends won’t support you to the point that you feel you can’t share the changes you’re going to make for the better and have them back you on them, remember that there are other people out here who will (including this community). Life is so much harder without support! For your sake, I hope you can surround yourself with caring, supportive people as you forge forward with making those positive changes in your life.

  • All of these 15 thoughts can be condensed into one lesson. The mind is the battleground which determines whether or not we will be successful. To counteract these negative thoughts, I like to try and say positive affirmations to myself (e.g. “I do the most productive thing at any given moment”). Thanks for posting this article, and on my birthday too!

  • A very wise article. The brain is indeed a very powerful tool! I truly wish for the person that caused me terrible heartache (and many others) to put into action #12. Relationships that this person had would still be intact today if they had chosen to face their demons and purge the trauma from their life. Very sad to live daily like this and to keep losing relationships because they’re too afraid to go there. Just get it done & live a happier more peaceful life!

    A response to David Rapp - I’m glad you got that ray of sunshine today. These things are manageable….keep up the good work you are doing! Making positive changes isn’t always easily done, but it can be done!

    Thank you again Marc & Angel for the support you give us all. You give everyone a different way of looking at things and the strength to make change.

  • WOW 1 and 2 strike a cord since those have been exactly my thoughts for months now and I didn’t realize how toxic these thoughts could be. Thank you for making me realize the truth behind them.

  • stella maris gomez alfonsin
    June 19th, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    I enjoy your articles a lot. Your telling me just what I need to hear. I’m sorry this points aren’t in Spanish it would be much easier to me to understand. Anyway you are a brilliant couple, thanks a lot. Keep helping people you will be recompensed by the Lord. Yours truly, Stella

  • Hi, thanks for the list of toxic thoughts that we need to drop for a better life. I’m sure that many of your readers can relate to this. It can really equate to whats happening in real life, these are honest to goodness thoughts that people tend to overlook and as a result we give in to it. Thanks for sharing. Great article.

  • My negative thought is “your ideals are unrealistic”. I spent 20 years trying to make my marriage work. I so wanted a loving family in which to raise my children. But it wasn’t meant to be. I moved on & am happier for it. However, it has been 7 years on my own now, in & out of a few relationships, one for several years now, but things are no longer as strong as they once were. My Negative thoughts say “it’s unrealistic to have happily ever after. ” & I find that very depressing indeed.

  • Yet another really inspiring post for people of all ages! Just wondering how much the youth has to learn from all that they read here! Thanks for sharing!

  • Hello and thank you for the article!
    I am on the path to getting better and some days I am soaring up there with the eagles - such joy, gratitude, love and fun… Some days I come crashing down with the naysayers, dark, lonely, hurtful, painful, pitiful place and unfortunately this place is where my partner is at and I have just struggled out of… Not easy to help him and I can not and will not go back there - for good, for some days I am weak.
    If anyone can shed some light here would be grand…
    Sending you love and gratitude.
    Cat

  • Thank you for these thoughts! Lateley I noticed I have been thinking this way, ’cause everything I do seems to be going wrong or failing. But your article has given me new and positive energy I need so much right now :) . Thank you for this eye-opener!

  • “The less risks I take, the less regrets I will have.”

    I recall this was always considered the”right” thing, when I was a kid. It seems the take risks, fail early, fail often paradigm replaced this. I think the risk/regret thing is more common maybe in places where if you fail, people never give you a second chance, labeling you as a failure forever. I prefer the fail early/fail often/succeed option, if it’s available!

  • I really like number 7. Being in the comfort zone is good because you feel that you are safe and at home, but you have to know that this world is full of many different things. You also have to go out to experience life. There can be struggles along the way but you have to go through it to reach your destination.

  • This is primarily to Kay and David, and Marc and Angel…

    @Marc and Angel: It was great and things I have been learning and working on most of my life and I am grateful that you are out there sharing this with others. We need it so badly.

    @Kay: Yes You need to learn how to love, accept,and forgive your beautiful you waiting to be found. Love her and nurturer her as only you can, because no one else really knows how to do that as well as you do subconsciously. The problem was you had people in your life who did not know how to properly love in a healthy way, and few of us really do, some are just more messed up than others. You are a beautiful unique child of your Creator. Never forget that.

    @David: My heart goes out to you also. I have know a number of beautiful people with bi-polar and it is a difficult situation. Stay on your meds and find some good supplements, particularly your B Vitamins, Niacin plus a good B Complex has helped many, but learn to believe in yourself, love, accept,and forgive you and others. My best friend had that and she was also a genius. We all have our own genius within we just have to find it and believe in ourselves and our Creator. Look for support groups and those who do believe in you. You both can do it.

    Tremendously,
    Dee

  • @Scott: I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    @Cindy: So happy to hear you made that decision. :)

    @Annie: I am so proud of you for taking the initiative to change. Each and every one of us really needs to learn how to be our own best friend. Thank you for sharing your story.

    @Marianne: We all have an idea in our heads about how things are supposed to be, and sadly this is what often messes us up the most. Realize this. Expect less and learn more. Let go and let life grow you – let it test you. You won’t always understand it and that’s OK. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. And then just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. Mentally strong people are appreciative of the obstacles in their path because they know the obstacles are necessary stepping-stones. So keep going, keep growing, and someday you will be able to describe your entire life in just one sentence: “It didn’t go as planned, and that’s OK.” You can do this!

    @Balaclava Blogger: I love the quote, so true. Happy Birthday! :)

    @Pam: When you lose something good, don’t think of it as a loss, but as an experience that gets you back on the path you were meant to travel. You WILL have happily ever after and you deserve it!

    @All: It’s safe to say we all have had these thoughts cross our mind a time or two. Know that you are not alone. We are all in this together. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and keep our lives on track. I challenge everyone who is dealing with negative thinking to read and implement Annie’s thoughts (read her comment above). Thank you for all the love and support.

  • I needed this today. I was catching myself in a little toxic thought spiral on my way to work after a very positive morning. Saw something that reminded me of a past failure and let it bring me down instead of looking ahead and focusing on what I am working to accomplish now. Thank you

  • Thank you for this post. I’m a mess right now, and I look around and I can’t find anything to hold on to, I don’t recognize myself, this is not what I was supposed to be doing, I shouldn’t have left… all of this. So I need to stop saying “It’s too late”, “This was a mistake”, “I don’t even want to keep trying, let’s just quit”.

    One step at a time. And now I feel that as long as I’m alive, it’s never too late to be the best version of me that I know that I can be. I can still be happy.

  • Grace L Briske
    July 3rd, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    I am crying right now because I’m so tired of doing things mostly alone. But I’m also happy to have found this sight. Its like a long lost friend telling me things that give me strength to go on with life because I’m important still. I know I am but sometimes I just feel so alone n sad. I want you to know Marc n Angel your words are God sent. You lift my spirits in every article. I wish I was back in the Army again. But I know I’m here and I got to know that God doesn’t give anyone more then they can handle. God bless you both for your wonderful words. SSG Grace Briske

  • Carolyn Beckett
    July 10th, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    I’m tired, I’m old and lately I feel that I haven’t done anything significant in my life. I used to feel optimistic about everything. This morning I went to the corner store where I encountered a stranger, a Harley-Davidson type of guy who was at least 30 years younger than me. He said hello and then lifted me up into a huge bear hug. He said that he couldn’t help it because I looked so happy. I guess my happy soul is still somehow shining out of my face and I just got separated from it in my feelings.

  • I need to let go and freely accept change, which is something that I can’t do right now. Thank God for the things he has already given me, and do things one at a time. It’s so easy for me to get distracted and take on too many commitments is fear of telling others no.

  • I’ve always had a saying.. “You would be amazed at what you can accomplish when you don’t have a choice .” It’s basic survival instincts that kick in. I’ve come from a horrible upbringing . I’m only 27 and I’ve learned this very young. My long story short.. My mother went crazy when I was an infant.y siblings and I fended for ourselves stealing to feed ourselves and snuggling with one and other as we slept outside,locked out of her apartment. Until we were thrown in foster homes and group homes our entire lives. Any horrible thing you could imagine did happen to us. Abuse,racism,hunger..

    I’ve never let that stop me from being a normal adult and living my life to the fullest. You have to be strong and be IN CONTROL of your own life. Do not follow the footsteps of others before you. Its your life ,take it back :) Hope this helps someone.

  • “I am afraid and lost too much to go on.”

    Marc you are right. It’s just our own thoughts that hinder us from doing what is right and what is needed. In life, there are many chances that we should take in order to achieve something that we want to achieve. We will not get any further if we just stay where we are and let life do it for us. That’s not what life should be lived. If you want something, you have to take risks. If you have a dream, seize it and it will be yours. Believe in yourself again and stay positive.

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