4 Tools To Stop Sabotaging Self-Talk

Published by Hayley Gillard on

Hands up if you self-sabotage?

Ok, that’s probably every single person reading this then.

One of my clients described it perfectly this week. She said it feels like she has a poison parrot that sits on her shoulder and tells her she’s stupid. The parrot squawks in her ear that she’s not good enough. And, to make it worse, the parrot pipes up at the times when she feel most vulnerable, most alone and most stressed out.

Of course as a Coach working in the mindset area, I’ve heard self-sabotage from many of my clients.  “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not assertive enough”, ”I’m not a strong enough leader”, “Who am I to achieve this and be successful”,  “What if I can’t do this?” and loads more variations.

In fact, it’s so common and affects so many people, that I do a whole session on banishing it, releasing it and understanding it at my in-person workshop.

Our self-talk can be so horrendous it can actually make us cry. I use a technique sometimes in my one to one work where I ask people to write down all the horrible things they say to themselves in a big long list. I then ask them to read it aloud. I ask them to read it as though they were insulting me with it. They have to look me directly in the face and straight in the eye. It’s made more than a few people cry. It sounds like a harsh technique I know but sometimes you just need to hear it aloud to understand the extremity of it.

You need to know that it’s not your fault you self-sabotage. Everyone does it. It’s not your fault BUT… overcoming it IS your responsibility. Again, we talk about this a lot at my in-person workshop.


My own internal thoughts used to tell me that everyone else was making it (business) work but I wouldn’t be able to because I didn’t get great grades and was average (I actually have a first class BA Hons in Business Enterprise as well as qualifications in Leadership and Coaching but STILL my brain told me my GSCE’s mattered more!!!). You see, our beliefs, our internal self-talk is all just fiction. They’re all just thoughts and as my good friend Emily once said,

Beliefs are just thoughts you’ve given a lot of air time to.

They’re not fact. They are actually codswallop. Our beliefs were most probably first developed as thoughts around the age of 7 when you developed your emotional intelligence and your outlook on the world.

Think back, I bet you’ll find a scenario at school or at home when a teacher, parent or sibling told you something that you took on strongly. You believed it to be fact.

The way the mind works is like a catalogue. It’s formed a directory of experiences that it uses to help you stay alive. You were taught that mummy’s cup of tea was hot right? You were taught to look both ways before you crossed the road. We learnt that stuff and our brain uses it to keep us out of danger. The problem is our brain is still working the same way as it did when we lived in caves. The world has moved on at such a speed that our brain can’t keep up. We’re running on an outdated operating system.

Here’s the thing. Your brain doesn’t care if you’re happy! It just wants to keep you alive. Biologically it genuinely just wants to keep you alive long enough for you to procreate and continue the human species. Sorry folks. Your brain DOES NOT CARE if you’re happy.

But, I do!  And I’m pretty sure you do too.

Socially and culturally we want to be happy. And as science and philosophy has progressed we actually know that if we are happier our brain functions better. We’re less stressed, we’re more creative, we are healthier and more connected.

So, let’s get rid of that internal self-sabotage shall we!

Here’s some techniques I use with my one to one clients to help them overcome the paralysing emotions caused by their own brain!


1.Characterise it

The parrot idea I mentioned at the beginning of this blog is perfect! By turning your self-talk into a character you immediately reduce its impact. You are recognising it as a separate entity to your own thoughts and that makes it easier to combat it. It’s the poison parrot that’s talking to you NOT your own mind.

2. Laugh at it

After you’ve recognised what your self-sabotaging talk actually says to you, once you know the phrases you use, start to humour it. As soon as you notice it pop into your head, literally laugh (out loud if you want to). Laughing minimises its effect. Laughing devalues it and makes it seem silly. You could try something like “Oh, ha ha ha, there you go again silly parrot!”

3. Dismiss it 

We’re all on a journey. A wonderful, glorious journey of trying to understand who we are, what moves us and what the meaning of life is. Remember I talked about developing beliefs around age 7. Some of those beliefs will still be with you today. Age 31 year old Hayley will still be operating with beliefs that are over 20 years out of date! I call 7 year old me Hayley 1.0. She was great, but, 32 year old Hayley is older, wiser and has more life experience. I need a more updated operating system. I’m now running as Hayley 2.0.

So, what that means is, when some negative self-talk pops into your head we can dismiss it by saying “that thought no longer serves me” or “I have no place for thoughts like that in this new version of me”. This is a really powerful one. You can absolutely release a belief you’ve held onto for decades by doing this.

4. Counteract it and argue with it.

Create a character in your mind that is strong, powerful and positive. Something confident that is strong enough to argue with that poison parrot.

I have a few characters I summon depending on what’s going on. For example, when I’m taking life a bit too seriously and want to lighten up, I imagine the donkey from Shrek making me laugh and nudging me in the ribs! When I’m anxious, nervous or hyperactive I imagine a big drug-dealer from Detroit lounging back in his chair and saying in a street accent “It ain’t no thing!” It immediately chills me out!

Try it! It really works!

For tips and advice about things like this topic, and so much more, I’d love you to join us in Self-Belief School – my free facebook community for female entrepreneurs. We have weekly live training about subjects to improve your mindset (and therefore your business success).

Categories: Mindset

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