Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Retro 2: Why Do Women Continue with NST (the NaSTy habit) When It Feels So Bad?

As part of my retrospective of intelligentwomenonly.com, I'm republishing an April 25, 2010 blog which asks an important question that I'm still wondering about. The more I've delved into neuroscience and learned how the brain works the more I am convinced that the underlying reason is very simple; once learned and practiced regularly, any habit is very hard to break, good or bad. Pop psychology can't help to eliminate NST. Nor can positive thinking, therapy, or religion. The negative self-talk habit is similar to an addiction; requiring a commitment followed by recovery which is long, hard, full of ambivalence, progress and regression. Finally after a year — or two  — you're unstuck, more productive, confident and less stressed.What a relief, pleasure, a reward!

During my presentation of "Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit" last week, Jennifer Waldron, a speech coach  (jenniferwaldron.com) asked the pertinent question, "What's the payoff or hidden benefit for negative self-talkers?" There aren't research-based answers that I know of, but lots of theories about why women continue to put themselves down when it continues to make them feel so bad!

• "The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know." Meaning that there's comfort in same old, familiar patterns. Changing to realistic thinking from NST may be scary — a risk that takes effort.
• Negative self-talk, spoken out loud, elicits reassuring messages from friends and family.e.g. "You have a great personality Mary. There's nothing wrong with you." "Of course you're smarter than most of your co-workers. They must be jealous of you and that's why they avoid you."
• The illusion that people who do a lot of negative self-talking are introspective, self-aware, and analytical as well as smart may keep the NST engine chugging.
• Cultural changes noted by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema Ph. D. in Women Who Think Too Much. (http://www.amazon.com/) e.g. decreased strength of values, greater sense of entitlement, the need for quick fixes, and increased self-absorption.

What thoughts do you have about why women — or you specifically, keep dumping on yourself even though it produces nothing good for you and may make you anxious or depressed or at least bummed out? I'd really like to hear your opinions and thoughts. Maybe you think it's really helpful to you and you don't agree that we should try to reduce our NST?

Retro 2: Why Do Women Continue with NST (the NaSTy habit) When It Feels So Bad?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


  1. How much of our default to NST as intelligent adult women begins with training in childhood? I'm suspecting it's a practice embedded deeply for girls and all the more entrenched with religious upbringing. In my case NST was couched as almost virtuous behavior - humbling yourself before God - I'm a bad person, forgive me, being the proper way to pray.

  2. AnonymousJune 06, 2012

    Positive self talk cannot create a positive reality even if the nst habit is broken. You said it. It is what it is. With Respect.


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