Negative Self-Talk, or Lizard Brain

Negative self-talk expands to fill up your brain.

You know the feeling. You are about to go into an interview and you think, “I’m going to screw this up.” And you do. “Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be,” you think. “The universe doesn’t want me to have this.” Give the universe a pass. This is your own doing.

The closer we get to success, the more we sabotage ourselves. Why do we do this? Because of a lump of cells close to the brain stem that broadcasts negative messages on lack and attack. The more we listen, the louder it gets.

Research shows that we need about a five-to-one ration of positive to negative feedback to be productive. Here are some other statistics:

  • 65 percent of American workers say they received no recognition for their work in the last year.
  • 22 million workers are not interested in their work or actively dislike it.
  • Bad bosses increase the risk of stroke by 33 percent.
  • When you tell yourself something is “too hard” your stress levels increase, and you are more likely to fail, even if you have done the same thing before.
  • Increasing your positive attitude even a little starts to add years to your life–as much as 10 years.

So what does this mean? It means that you have to start with yourself, turning negative thoughts and critical talk to positive talk. Then pass it on. How?

  • Stop the automatic critical thoughts when you see someone poorly dressed, fat, or with weird hair.
  • Hang around positive people. Negative people’s snark might be more fun, but when you aren’t with them, it’s likely to be turned on you, leaving you with increased paranoia.
  • Hang around positive people more. They are more productive. Negative people fill your head and heart with ideas that drag you down.
  • Tell people what they are doing right. They are likely to do more of what they are appreciated for.
  • If people need a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative, do your share to keep your own positive comments five times higher than your negative ones.

Think this is all new-age, woo-woo stuff? Nope.

  • Seth Godin, the entrepreneur who writes about change (and has written 10 bestsellers) writes about the damage lizard brain causes.
  • Steven Pressfield (the author of The Legend of Bagger Vance) encourages people to cover the canvas, fix the details later. But start, and do as much as you can in one positive swoop.
  • Pressfield’s advice: “My writing philosophy is a kind of warrior code—internal rather than external—in which the enemy is identified as those forms of self-sabotage that I call “Resistance” with a capital R (in The War of Art). The technique for combating these foes can be described as ‘turning pro.'”

So put down the negative anchor and pick up the positive wings and try them on. They’ll fit just fine.

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach who teaches businesses and individuals how to talk to each other, in positive ways.