Negative Self-Talk: The Toxic Impact of Narcissistic Abuse

A narcissist creates an alternate reality – one where he (or she) is truly as successful, powerful and desirable as they believe is their due. They then attempt to suck anyone who is in their orbit, be it a spouse, partner, child or co-worker, into this fantasy world. Their victims become props in an untethered make-believe version of the narcissist’s life.

The narcissistic perpetrator aggrandizes himself by destroying his prey’s self confidence. In essence he manufactures his superiority by convincing the victim that they are inferior.

With time victims come to believe that they are unwanted, unlovable and totally dependent on the narcissist.

This is also known as learned helplessness. This devastating damage leads to negative self-talk, where the victims do the job of the narcissist and abuse themselves by proxy.

This means that narcissists take up permanent residence in their victim’s brains. They continue to make their lives hell even after the victim escapes, or in some cases, even after the narcissist dies – from beyond the grave.

replay the abuse

Your Mind Replays the Abuse

Last week I had a chat with a lovely lady on Twitter who is still struggling with the aftermath of abuse.

She had a turbulent childhood scapegoated by an abusive stepfather, but she has now moved on and is the mother of a precious little girl.

She told me that when she gave birth to her daughter she quit her job and set up her own business in order to be able to plan her schedule around her daughter’s needs. Since then her business has boomed and she just bought a new house.

To my shock, however, she was beating herself up and her self confidence was at rock bottom.

As we spoke I could hear the echo of her stepfather’s abuse playing like a recording in her mind. She told herself she was not good enough, not lovable enough, not capable of maintaining a relationship.

As she raked herself over the coals with her negative self talk my heart broke for her. I tried to make her see herself through my eyes and not through the eyes of that hateful, abusive man who destroyed her childhood.

She is a beautiful, successful woman who has managed to break the cycle of abuse and give her daughter love and stability.

However the mental recordings of her stepfather’s verbal abuse keep echoing in her mind in a cacophony of unconscious self torture. She no longer talks to the man, and yet he still manages to harm her every day of her life.

negative self talk

What is negative self-talk?

Negative self-talk is a type of inner dialogue that can have a negative effect on our mental and physical health. It often takes the form of critical, judgmental and demeaning thoughts that can keep us from achieving goals or feeling good about ourselves.

Negative self-talk can be damaging to our self-esteem and limit our potential for personal growth. It can manifest as anything from mild doubt or insecurity to all-out self-loathing.

The negative inner monologue could be directed at any aspect of yourself, from your physical appearance to your intelligence or abilities.

Negative self-talk can be incredibly damaging because it not only affects how you see yourself, but also how you act and perform.

When you believe that you’re not good enough, it’s harder to take risks or put yourself out there.

As a result, negative self-talk can have a significant impact on your success and happiness.

bad thoughts

Types of Negative Self-Talk


This is when we assume the worst possible outcome will happen. For example, “I’ll never get this job” or “I always make mistakes”.

The impact on our mental health can be paralyzing, as it causes us to think in all-or-nothing terms that prevent progress and success.


Labeling is when we use overly harsh language to describe ourselves or situations rather than recognizing an event as something temporary.

This type of language often does not capture the complexity of who we are and our potential for growth.

For example, “I am so stupid” or “I am a failure”.

The effect can lead to low self-esteem and poor self-image over time, which can limit our potential for personal development and happiness.



– Overgeneralization happens when we take a single experience and come to conclusions about life in general from it.

We may draw negative conclusions from one failure or mistake. If something bad happened once, then it must always happen this way in the future too.

For example, “I can never do anything right” or “Nothing ever works out for me” are two examples of how overgeneralization can lead to debilitating negative self-talk that limits our potential for success and joy in life.

Discounting the Positive

Discounting the positive means rejecting compliments or dismissing our own successes without acknowledging their significance in our lives.

This type of negative self-talk prevents us from having an accurate sense of ourselves and viewing ourselves with kindness and understanding.

We might say something like “It was just luck” after achieving a goal against all odds, rather than appreciating how hard work has paid off.

By discounting the positive moments in life, we stay stuck in cycles of feeling inadequate or discouraged about ourselves rather than focusing on what has been accomplished thus far with pride and gratitude across all areas of life!


The Impact of Negative Self-Talk

One could think that this negative self-talk is innocuous. After all, it is just a thought. It’s not like a punch or a slap – it’s ephemeral.

However the fact is that thoughts govern the way we live our lives. They influence how we view the world and the interpretation we give to what is happening around us.

The impact is even more destructive when the victim is a child and the perpetrator is a parent. Children need unconditional love and support to develop and thrive.

Their parents’ guidance and feedback is the foundation of their conscience, or as Freud would have put it – their SuperEgo. This means that children of narcissists (ACoNs, DoNF, DoNM, SoNF, SoNM) struggle with negative self talk all their lives.

Low self esteem and a negative outlook on life can lead to broken relationships and full potential not achieved. It can stop us from taking the leap to bigger and better things. It destroys our peace of mind, and sometimes even our bodies.

So negative self-talk is far from being innocuous. It is devastating, with far-reaching consequences throughout our lives.

The Devastating Implications of Negative Self-Talk

Poor mental health

Negative self-talk can lead to poor mental health and a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety-related disorders. This can be especially true if one lacks a positive support system in their life.

People who engage in negative self-talk are more likely to experience feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, a lack of motivation, loss of interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, and apathy towards life in general.

negative self-talk

Increased stress levels

Negatively charged inner dialogue puts us under psychological stress which can have an effect on our physical health as well.

Stress hormones like cortisol are released when we think negatively about ourselves or situations, leading to tension headaches, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, digestive issues, fatigue and weakened immunity among other physical symptoms.

Impaired judgment & decision making

Negative self-talk causes us to focus on the worst possible outcomes or outcomes that aren’t even realistic at times.

This can impair our judgment by making it more difficult for us to make sensible decisions about things that could potentially benefit us in the long run such as career opportunities or educational advancement strategies because the voice inside our heads tells us we’ll fail anyway so why bother trying?

Disrupted productivity & hindered success

By engaging in negative self-talk regularly we don’t give ourselves the chance to shine or reach our full potential because our brain has been trained not to expect anything good out of taking risks or attempting something new.

As a result, we may find ourselves procrastinating instead of getting started on tasks which could lead to greater success down the line and feeling overwhelmed when faced with challenges due to fears associated with failure or feeling inadequate in comparison to our peer


An Example of Negative Self-Talk

Chiara gets on very well with a work colleague, and after a while she realizes that she has feelings for him.

One day he asks her out on a date and at first she is overjoyed. However in bed that evening she is overtaken with anxiety.

“It is impossible that he actually likes me and even if he does I am sure to do something stupid that will destroy it.”

“Maybe he asked me on a date because he thinks I’m easy. Maybe he just wants a fling.”

“It never ends well. It’s too risky.”

The next morning Chiara is exhausted after a sleepless night.

As soon as she gets to work she sends her colleague an email cancelling dinner, without providing an explanation.

She is then too embarrassed to talk to him because of how she handled the situation. From that day onwards they hardly speak to each other, except when absolutely essential for work.

Chiara’s negative self-talk sabotaged a fledgling relationship and the possibility of her finding love and happiness.

How to Overcome Negative Self-Talk

It is important to remember that just as your thought processes were programmed by an abuser, so can they be reprogrammed.

The good news is that negative self-talk is something you can control.

negative self talk

With awareness and practice, you can learn to identify and reframe your negative thoughts. This will help you feel better about yourself and perform at your best.

The first step is to identify the problem and to understand how it is impacting your life. The next step is to catch the thoughts as they occur, and challenge them.

It will be hard at first, so reach out to family and friends you trust to ask for their help. You could also go to a therapist, who will teach you strategies to use when negativity floods into your head.

Together, these trusted confidantes will enable you to look at the situation from a different perspective, recognising that your negative self-talk is not rooted in reality.

Tips for overcoming negative self-talk

Acknowledge the thought

The first step towards overcoming negative self-talk is to become aware of the thoughts that are running through your head.

Recognizing the damaging words you say to yourself and how they make you feel is a crucial part of letting them go and replacing them with more positive affirming statements instead.

positive thoughts

Challenge the thought

Once you’ve acknowledged the negative thought, challenge it and look for evidence that disproves its validity.

Ask yourself questions like “What would other people think about this situation?” or “Is there any evidence that suggests this isn’t true?” so you can shift your focus from the negative to something factual that puts things in perspective.

Replace it with positive self-talk

Once you’ve identified and challenged the harmful thoughts, replace them with positive affirmations or mantras which will help reframe how you think about yourself.

Reminding yourself of your strengths and all that you have achieved can be a powerful way to boost your confidence and keep negative thoughts at bay.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness can be an effective tool for managing stress, anxiety, and unhelpful thought patterns related to negative self-talk.

It helps us become more mindful of our own inner dialogue as well as our physical sensations like racing heart rate or tense muscles when we start thinking negatively about ourselves or situations in life.

Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis can help us increase our awareness of these patterns so we can choose healthier ways of responding rather than engaging in self-defeating behaviours due to feeling overwhelmed by anxiety or fear.

Final Thoughts

I have to admit that overcoming negative self-talk is not easy. It has taken me many years to identify the negative self-talk as the voice of my narcissistic father, and even more years to drown him out. I did not manage to do it alone.

Fortunately there were people in my life who held my hand and guided me through. I would not have managed without the help of my support network.

If you believe that negative self-talk is ruining your life, speak up. Get help. You can reach out to your friends, or if you prefer you could even talk to a therapist.

Stop torturing yourself and get rid of your abuser’s voice in your mind.

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2 thoughts on “Negative Self-Talk: The Toxic Impact of Narcissistic Abuse”

  1. It’s a form of PTSD that never gets addressed. The worst part is how these abusers stay exaggerated in our minds even after we recognize that they weren’t simply projecting their insecurities onto us but directly into us. I like how you identify these thoughts and feelings as the abuser’s voice that needs to be challenged and stood up to. This is the same formula for battling OCD and it’s not an easy journey. I’ve read some therapists refer to it as reprogramming the mind (as in “no sweat”) but in my experience it’s more about confronting these thoughts in order to get to a new realization (or truth) about one’s self beyond the situation. The solution must become an integral part of life but the realizations, when they come, are what actually heals. It’s like receiving a small dose of wisdom in exchange for a bad experience. And when you notice that these abusers lack any capacity for self-awareness and this is what is causing them to abuse, there’s a part of you that’s grateful that they gave you the need to look into yourself, to define yourself apart from them, to experience growth. Well, this is one aspect. It’s difficult to stay in this frame of mind, but I do have glimpses of complete healing and it’s complex, just as beauty and wisdom are complex. <3

    • This is a very interesting way of looking at it. It’s good to extract some good from all life experiences, even hard ones, but as you say – it is very, very hard. At the end of the day we need to learn to talk to ourselves like we would talk to our best friend, with kindness, compassion and respect. It’s a process – I am still working at it.


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