Our internal dialogue plays a huge part in shaping our opinion about ourselves. What happens if your internal self is always in hypercritical mode, always telling you that you’re stupid or ugly or fat or can’t do anything right?

Having an inner self that says things like this to you on a daily basis destroys your self-esteem and erodes your self-confidence. It is best to learn how to turn this little internal harpie off once and for all. If you have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) chances are you know exactly what I am talking about but you may not realize the extent of the damage it does or how to stop it.

This little voice inside you will be a powerful deterrent for you to achieve your goals in life. It will stop you from figuring out how to set goals to begin with because it will tell you that you can’t. This can become a real problem when you are in social situations such as at a party where you might tell yourself that no one will want to talk to you. If you believe that, you might stay off in a corner by yourself thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Everyone’s thought has a powerful influence on the way they feel throughout the day not just people with BPD but this effect is even more profound for people with BPD. For us, negative self-talk can turn a happy mood into a self-destructive one in a matter of minutes. If you tell yourself that you can’t possibly successful at something, then the chances of you actually being successful at it are very small. Having a negative self-image of yourself is also an attitude you will convey to those around you. This is usually an unconscious behavior but one people can and will pick up on.

The key thing to remember is that you do not have to continue to be a victim of your own personal brand of verbal abuse. But the question is:

How do you stop it?

The first thing to do is to begin to become aware of the behavior when it is happening. Pay attention to where your thoughts are taking you. Remember that if someone else said those exact words to you, you would probably take exception to them. Do that for yourself. Challenge the thought and ask for “proof” about the statement. In most cases, you will discover that you can not back up the thought with real, bona fide proof.

Make an effort to stop dwelling on the negative thoughts. Make a conscious effort to shift your thoughts away from the negative. I do this by practicing gratitude each day. When I start to go down the negative thought road, I will tell myself something I am grateful for Practicing daily gratitude has completely changed my life for the better. Even if you can’t stop the problem you are worried about if you make an effort to try to stop thinking about it, you will feel better. Brooding about a problem is not a component of active problem-solving. Its part of the problem and it will get you nowhere except run you around in circles.

Think about how you would respond if another person said the exact same words to you. Would you be angry about it? Would you challenge them? Would you talk about it with them? Try to reframe the thought in a different manner and put a positive spin on it. I believe in the power of positive thinking 100%. Most people with Borderline Personality get sucked into negative thinking patterns and can’t find the exit ramp. I am telling you that it IS there. Signal your lane change and make a deliberate decision to move off the negative thinking highway.

Take a good, hard look at the evidence which supports your brain’s thoughts. If you are telling yourself that you’re a failure, sit down and write a list of your most recent accomplishments. If you criticizing yourself for being overweight, take a good, long look in the mirror. If you give yourself a truly objective once over, chances are you will see the truth reflected back at you there. If the evidence does not support your thought, it’s time to change it.

Reframe, reframe, reframe. Negative thinking can be changed by simply changing certain words. Words like “never” or “always” can be changed to “sometimes” or “often”. So, if you are thinking, “I am always so clumsy, change the words to “I am sometimes clumsy” and then try to figure out how to be more aware of your surroundings to reduce the chances of a careless accident. People with BPD engage in a lot of black and white thinking. Learning how to change that is one of the skills taught in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Changing some of the words you use is a good place to start.

Realize that true, lasting, fundamental change takes time to occur so be gentle with yourself. Three steps forward and two steps back is still forward progress. Remember that it takes time to change learned behavior and you must replace negative behavior with something new if you want to change it for good.

Dee Chan is a mental health advocate who lives in Toronto, Ontario. She is a long-term survivor of Borderline Personality Disorder who has managed to put her illness into complete remission.