Certain words can hold you back and play havoc with your self-worth. Read about 13 toxic words and phrases to stop using to move your life forward.

We all know that words can be hurtful. Most of the time we are more concerned about what people say to us, more than the words that we constantly say to ourselves. But the words we say to ourselves matter.

They matter a lot.

Negative self-talk can drag you down and fill you with self-doubt. With constant repetition, certain words and phrases can sneak into your mind and hold you back from being your best selves.

In other words, we start to believe them.

Not a good thing.

Let’s look at some words and phrases to stop using to move your life forward.

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1. I should

How many times do you say I should every day?

I should go to the gym, I should clean up the kitchen, I should spend more time with the kids.

You can torture yourself with all the should talk.

Perhaps in some way, we think we can should ourselves (or shame ourselves perhaps?) into getting things done.

Unfortunately, saying I should over and over again rarely gets us in a doing mood, more likely than not, it puts us in a mood where we distract ourselves and procrastinate (all while feeling more of that shame mentioned earlier).

What to think and do instead

First up let’s change the wording.

Instead of saying I should be doing the dishes, change it to I want to do the dishes.  Then state the benefit you are going to get by doing the task. For example – I want to do the dishes now because I will get the pleasure of seeing a tidy kitchen.

Put your focus on what you are gaining by completing the task.

For people who are more necessity-driven, using the word need (as in I need to do….) might work as well.

It might seem like a simple thing but it can help change your mindset.

Related personal growth content – 

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2. I shouldn’t

I was going to include this in the I should category but then I realized this one definitely deserves a category of its own.

Let’s think of the scenarios where you might be using this one regularly.

  • I shouldn’t eat that donut (bag of potato chips, chocolate or substitute any food you want in here)
  • I shouldn’t watch another episode on Netflix
  • I shouldn’t be shopping because my credit cards are maxed out
  • I shouldn’t be having another glass of wine
  • I shouldn’t be watching YouTube when I’m supposed to be working

(Yes there were definitely a few of mine in there in case you were wondering!)

What to think and do instead

Immediate action (without thinking too much about it) is the answer to this one.

This one is all about doing. It’s about putting the food away, turning the TV off, getting off the couch, etc.

This one is about self-discipline and doing what you know is the right thing to do.

Let’s be real here for a moment, there are times when we know we shouldn’t be doing something and there are times when we know we really shouldn’t be doing something.

Pay attention to the really shouldn’t moment and act on it immediately.

The best way to improve your self-discipline is by improving your habits. The more healthy habits and positive habit triggers you have the better because you won’t have to make as many decisions and you’ll be doing what is important to you naturally without having to pry yourself away from the chips or television.

Improve your habits, improve your life. Read my post on the 10 Best Books on Habits on how to break bad habits and create new ones.

3. I should be or I should have

You might think the should topics are all the same but there is a difference.

The first two are generally about what we think we should or shouldn’t be doing but this one is more about what we think we should be or should have.

It might go something like this –

  • I should be married by now
  • I should have a nice car
  • I should have children
  • I should have more money

Our age can play a big role in these types of feelings. We might get caught up in certain milestones we think we should (there’s that word again) hit or achieve by a certain age.

What to think instead

The fact is people move at their own pace and we all have our own paths to take. Life is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. You might get married at 22, 45, 60, or not at all (and that’s okay).

Everyone having their own path doesn’t mean you just leave it all up to fate though, you have to work and plan to make things happen in your life.

If you want a certain car by a certain time then you need to have a goal for how to make that a reality.

If there is something you want, then set a goal to get it. Map out how you are going to make it happen and get in and do the work required.

4. I’m such a loser

I remember in the dark days of not loving myself I used to say this to myself on occasion.

I don’t like hearing this word used in movies and I don’t believe it is something you should call someone else, let alone yourself.

Please, don’t speak to yourself like this. EVER.

As long as you are in there fighting the good fight to be a better person, you are not a loser.

What to think and do instead.

Awareness is paramount in all situations where you are saying unpleasant things to yourself.

Pay particular attention to what you think when you are feeling anxious and stressed or have suffered a setback as this is often when you start going down this road.

When you hear yourself calling yourself a loser or idiot or telling yourself you suck notice it immediately. Then you can do a few different things (different things work for different folks depending on what caused the words in the first place).

One strategy that I have used myself is laughing at myself. While I hardly ever say this to myself anymore, if I do, it’s normally when I am really frustrated at something (and it’s usually something tech-related as tech is not exactly my forte). If I call myself a nasty name, I make myself laugh about it. I turn it into something funny by saying it in a funny voice or in some other comical style. It snaps me out of it every time.

The other option if humor is not going to work is being kind to yourself. Replace your nasty words with kind ones. It might be something like – ‘I am not a loser I just make a mistake. I will fix this mistake and everything will be okay.’

It doesn’t have to be these exact words, of course, just make it kind and positive.

5. I’ll never

I know how easy it can be to fall into this one. If you’ve been job hunting for an extended period of time, you might start thinking I’ll never get a job.

Other situations might be I’ll never find love or I’ll never have money.

Never is a very long damn time though folks! It’s also incredibly pessimistic so not a good thing to be saying to yourself.

What to think and do instead

Usually, when we get into never territory we are feeling pretty bummed so the first thing you need to do is something that is going to make you feel better. It could be a walk, talking to a friend, spending time with your pet, or whatever it is that gives you a quick feel-good pick me up.

Once we have ourselves in a more positive mindset, then we need to get goal-oriented. If you are worried something is never going to happen, map out your plan to make it happen.

You might already have a plan but it might not be going the way you want it to, so it’s time to think of extra things you can do to get where you want to be. Maybe you need to change your strategy or look at things from another angle.

If you are struggling with self-doubt, Mel Robbins runs an excellent online course over at CreativeLive on How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence. I took this course myself and it really helped me. Read my review of the course on how it can help you as well. I tend to rave a bit about this course because I totally loved it. 🙂

6. I can’t

Fear is one of the big drivers behind I can’t statements.

We are too scared to try to do something, so we say we can’t do it.

We also often jump to I can’t when what we really mean is I don’t want to. If that is the case, fine but be honest with yourself instead of putting such a negative and inaccurate spin on things.

Get clear in your own mind about what you aren’t doing because you think you can’t or because you really don’t want to try.

What to think and do instead

Focus on the stuff you can do. Feel confident in the tasks that you can do well.

If you keep saying to yourself, I can’t do this, I can’t do that, then it’s time to get your confidence back on track because you can do a lot more than you give yourself credit for.

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7. I could never do that

As I have mentioned before in some of my travel posts, I hear this all the time when I get back from traveling by myself.

I tell someone about my trip, they ask me who I went with, I tell them I went by myself and often the first words they say is ‘I could never do that’.

This one is often a combination of I don’t want to do that and honestly believing that they aren’t capable of traveling on their own.

What to think and do instead

Okay so you might not want to venture off overseas by yourself but what about achieving something on your I could never do that list. It’s fine to start small but start somewhere. The first step is the most important, do something that you thought you could never do.

If you do decide to go on an amazing travel adventure, gather a collection of your favorite photos and design your own gorgeous hard copy book. Have your book on display as proof that you could indeed do that and that you had a brilliant time doing it!

8. My life’s a mess / My life sucks

This is one of those big generalizations that might spring up from time to time.

A key trigger for these sorts of statements is comparing yourself to other people.

If you’ve spent an hour looking at touched-up photos of celebrities and Instagram influencers and you suddenly start coming out with these types of statements, then you are comparing yourself.

The same goes for looking at perfect designer rooms on Pinterest, then looking around your house and suddenly deciding that your life is a mess because your home doesn’t look anything like the ones in the pictures.

What to think and do instead

First up if you are struggling with comparison, particularly on social media remind yourself that things don’t look that way all the time in the real world. Remind yourself the photos are altered, filtered, and photoshopped.

Next read one of my comparison posts on reasons why you shouldn’t compare yourself to get yourself back on track.

Posts that can help you stop comparing yourself – 

9. Why bother?

Just reading these two words makes me feel a bit flat. I can only imagine how harmful it would be if you kept repeating them over and over again!

Don’t beat yourself up if you think this one every now and then when you are faced with a big setback. You are a human, not a machine so it’s normal to have the odd moment when you feel a bit down and ask yourself – why am I doing this? Why do I bother?

What to think and do instead

Don’t berate yourself but don’t let yourself wallow either.

Bothering is always worth it.

Bothering is how we move our lives forward even when life is hard, even when it’s a struggle and we are feeling sad.

Because when it all comes down to it, life is precious. The people we love, the planet we live on, the amazing animals.

It’s worth it and it’s why we should always bother.

If you are struggling with this one, you might need to build up your resilience and find better ways of dealing with setbacks.

CreativeLive had a great course by Tabatha Coffey on How to be Bold, Resilient and Better Than Ever.

Tabatha can help you learn from your mistakes, deal with adversity, and build resilience to enable you to push forward.

10. Nothing will ever change

Unfortunately, with that attitude, you could be right.

If you sit around doing nothing, thinking negative crap all live long day then yes nothing will change.

I am currently working on one of Brendon Burchard’s amazing courses. Brendon mentions for change to happen – ‘Something new comes into your life or something new comes out of you.’

Don’t worry, nothing Alien-ish going on here when I say coming out of you but if you want to change your life it pays to start with yourself.

You can’t sit around and do nothing and expect everything to suddenly be different.

You need to decide what it is you want to change in the first place.

Start with something in your sphere of influence as in something you have control over. Think of something you can do (which hopefully will bring more peace to the world or at least your corner of it).

Help the people in your community, volunteer, and give someone who needs it your time and attention. Be kinder and nicer to strangers. Be less judgmental of people.

There are a million ways you can start to change yourself and the world around you.

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11. I always

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • I always make the wrong choice
  • I always pick the wrong guy
  • I always screw things up

This one can eat away at you if you allow it because you are slapping a big fat holding yourself back label on yourself.

Always implies that you do it every single time – not 40% or 80% but every time (which I am sure is not the case).

What to think and do instead

Mindfulness can help you with this one.

Focus on right now. Always refers to the past. You need to get yourself back in this moment. Right now.

When you find yourself slipping back into always mode, get yourself back into the moment.

Learn from your past and use it to make better decisions about your future without dragging out the ‘always’ references.

12. I hate

Hate is such a strong word and we throw it around like it’s nothing.

You probably use this one a LOT more than you realize.

What to think and do instead

Focus on the stuff you love instead. If you are stuck in traffic you might love that you can sing to yourself or listen to your favorite radio station or audiobook. You might appreciate that you get some much-needed time alone to think.

Brendon Burchard suggests that you embrace the suck. He has a great video on how hate can turn into a monster. Well worth a watch!

13. I’m bad at or I’m bad with

This one can sneak up on you, so make sure you stay on the lookout.

It might seem to start innocently enough but can turn into a self-limiting belief. You will start believing you are bad at something and therefore not even try to attempt it.

What to think and do instead

First up accept that you don’t have to be good at everything. Each of us is good and bad at different things and that is perfectly normal and okay.

If you want to be better at something then it’s time to start learning about it and put what you learn into practice. 

Learning more about the basics of money and relationships is always a good idea.

Books are always a great place to start.

If you want to work on your financial situation you can read books by Tony Robbins and Dave Ramsey

If you want to improve your relationships, have a look at the range of love language books by Gary Chapman. (In particular, I’ve been hearing great things lately about his book The 5 Love Languages.)

The first step in eliminating these toxic words and phrases from your thinking is through awareness. 

Be aware of when you are thinking and saying negative things and then take action to change your behavior.

Though they may seem like small harmless words they can cause damage and stop you from moving forward in life. Break free of these toxic words and let yourself shine!

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Read Next – 12 Things To Remember When You Think You’re Not Good Enough