A Crash Course In Casual Negativity: The Not-So-Silent (Confidence) Killer

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The way we dress to go out to the movies or the mall looks pretty much the same as going to a five-star restaurant. Yoga pants are fancypants. Our smartphones have gotten so smart, they’ve started to recognize our abbreviations and acronyms as real words (at least mine does)…

Another thing that’s gone the route of dress codes and dating? The way we talk about ourselves.

“I am so fat.”
”I hate my _____.”
”I can’t do that.”
“My ideas are stupid.”
“I’m such a klutz.”

This is a very real virus I call Casual Negativity.

Casual Negativity is the automatic negative talk we use over and over again without thinking, so muchso it’s become a part of who we are.

Don’t get me wrong, we all have bad days: those days when we just don’t like the way our jeans fit, or skin looks, or when we see roadblocks everywhere and just want to give up.

But most of the time, we bring up these instances without even thinking. We’ll nonchalantly say we “look huge” or “hate our bodies” – and we’ll say it with the same kind of detachment we’d use to comment on the sky’s color.

We use Casual Negativity – and hear it being used – all. the. time. What we don’t realize is that the way we talk rubs off on others, making it seem commonplace and even acceptable to speak this way. Think about it: how many times have you joined in when your friends or family start criticizing themselves, “empathizing” by sharing what it is about yourself you’re dissatisfied with?

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The thing with Casual Negativity is that it’s an expert at sneak-attacking your entire way of communicating with yourself. What might seem like a few negative comments here and there start to work their way into your verbiage and morph into a daily diatribe that’s on loop both out in the open and under the surface. Sure, most negative talk is bad – but this kind is particularly harmful. If this is what our unconscious self talk sounds like, how can we ever expect to conquer the negative self-talk that’s conscious?

Sometimes we don’t realize how often we use Casual Negativity. Sometimes it happens so much, over and over again, that we don’t know how to get out of the pattern.

And so we don’t.

We get addicted to the problems instead of freed by the solutions.

We get addicted to the problems instead of freed by the solutions. Click To Tweet

So how *do* we move forward into a state of solutions, then? How do we just “get over” this pattern that’s now so engrained in the language that we use every single day?

Here are four steps to crushing Casual Negativity. Here’s what I do when I find myself hanging around in Casual Negativityville. Ask yourself…

1) Am I listening and recognizing where my Casual Negativity likes to hang out?

Listen to yourself for a day. What are the 3 things you criticize the most? Be aware, be honest, and listen without judgement. If a day seems too long, try an hour or an afternoon. Just like always, make this work for you.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s use the example of hair – “My hair is so ugly.”

2) Am I searching for some kind of validation, or am I truly interested in change? Consequently, do I like the reality of changing, or do I just like the drama of trying to constantly figure it out?

If your Casual Negativity likes a group setting – is this a way you’re hoping to connect with others? Are you hoping that by complaining, someone else will view you as more relatable? Are you just using Casual Negativity because everyone else is? Or maybe even because you’re craving a bit of positive attention? (ps. there is NOTHING wrong with wanting to be seen and loved – maybe this just isn’t the best tactic.)

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Of the things you listed in question #1 – and be honest with yourself – do you really want to change them, or is it comfortable to just critique? Do you really want to change, or are you addicted to the dramatics?

So if we’re sticking with hair here – do you want someone to tell you your hair is beautiful, or maybe even connect with someone else over your mutual hairdo loathage? Do you really loathe your hair, or do you just get a kick out of complaining about it all the time? There’s no right or wrong answer here.

3) Am I using complaints or grievances to keep me in a safe zone, distract myself, and/or convince myself I’m doing something to activate true, lasting change?

Casual negativity keeps us in a safe zone of sameness. It’s a deceptive mother-effer that sneaks up and distracts us, convinces us we’re doing something to activate true, lasting change.

Back to the hair. Is your life really how you want it to be and that is actually what you want to change – your hair? Or…is it that you’re not happy with other things – your job, your life, your relationships – but those are too big to handle? Are you using negativity as a buffer for other things you’re not bringing up/addressing?

Again, be honest. No right or wrong and absolutely no judgement necessary. You’re on the right track.

4) What’s my priority? Is this one of them?

Make a list of your top 3-5 priorities in your life. This is a great time to go back and find your through line. Now take a peek at your list from exercise #1. Are you critiquing your priority/priorities, or are you really critiquing the thing that’s going unspoken?

If the answers to #2 and #3 are NO (and the above answer is yes), there is nothing else going on and you genuinely dislike the thing you dislike about yourself – then great! Fantastic! You’re now in control and know exactly what it is you need to work on in order to be your very best self. Use your network of family, friends, and acquaintances. Search this site. Search Google. Write me! I’ll send you links! You know what you need so you can get what you WANT.

If your Casual Negativity is not in line with your priorities, then maybe it’s time to address that “something else” that’s going on. Maybe it’s your social life, your career, your hobbies, your self care habits. Recognize the areas that really deserve all that energy you’re spending on Casual Negativity, and then go use it to your advantage where it matters most. Use that through line you’ve been gifted. You’ve got this. You’re golden.
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WANT Yourself Action Plan:
In the comments below, let me know exactly where Casual Negativity pops up in your life, and one action step you can take today to either address that priority or shift your energy towards what really matters.

Remember to be specific – I know this is not an easy or comfy exercise to do, but I promise that it can change your life if you let it. It did for me.
P.S. I love my hair now.

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  1. Courtney

    I loved this. My casual negativity shows up in my self worth. “My body isn’t perfect” “I’m still a waitress not an actress” etc. my action plan is every time those thoughts come up to counter them with a positive affirmation. If my negative is “I’m failing because im still a waitress” then my positive is “im succeeding at living my life!” And repeat the positive 5 times

    • Katie

      HELL.YES. Love this, Courtney. So self aware. I felt the same way when I was acting on the reg – like I could only be one thing at a time. Nope! Being a personal assistant, spin instructor, copy editor, etc etc etc etc etc were all not only supporting my acting career (like a supportive parent or friend, just with $$ and 1099s :)), they were actually building my acting toolkit via real-life experiences and bubbling-up emotions. Love that you repeat the positive five times to let it sink in.

  2. J

    This is my first comment on the site. I’m a bit late for this article, but it was so insightful and eye-opening for me. Thank you so much.

    My casual negativity comes out when I feel lazy, or like I haven’t done enough. Somehow, dirty dishes or unfinished artwork to me means I’m fat or old-looking, or that I can’t do anything right ever. Anything I mess up or procrastinate on is met with a barrage of negativity about how I look. The messed up part is that I actually like how I look. But in the moment I’m feeling bad about myself, everything I tell myself seems true.

    I want to knock it off because I know it hurts my husband– he doesn’t understand it, and it makes him worry so much. Also, I know it makes it harder for me to get things done… which is ironic and silly, because not getting things done is what makes me feel bad in the first place!

    Thank you for giving us a place to do this safely.

    • Katie

      Thank you so much for sharing a little piece of yourself, J. I completely empathize, and I’m sure a TON of people reading do, too. Isn’t it crazy how much easier it is to feel bad about the way we look instead of what we’re actually upset about or held back by? I’m so glad you’ve recognized your patters and want to make a shift. You’ve inspired me this Monday morning to do the same. xo

  3. Aimee Guzman

    What a great post. I’m going to try this excersize this week!

    • Katie

      Thanks, Aimee! Let me know how it works for you – always curious to hear how it affects others! xoxoxoxo



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