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How to Reframe Negative Thoughts to Build Confidence — Bright Space Coaching | Leadership Development for Women in STEM

(Last Updated On: July 25, 2021)

Last Updated on July 25, 2021 by Admin

Have you heard that we think more than 50,000 thoughts per day?

Well, new research shows that number is actually closer to 6,200 thoughts.  

Still, that’s a lot to process every day. That’s about 258 thoughts per hour or 4 thoughts per minute!

And how many of those thoughts are negative?

If you’re like most women, negative thoughts are almost part of your DNA.

You may not even notice how often you think negative thoughts about yourself, because they’re so ingrained in your thought process. 

Negative thoughts erode your confidence by causing you to lose trust in yourself. And a deep trust is the foundation for building sustainable confidence.

If negative thinking is your default thought process, read on to learn how to reframe your thinking and choose empowering thoughts instead.


Here’s how to reframe negative thoughts to build confidence:

Types of Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts are thoughts that cause you to slip, lose hope, or give up on your goals. They can stand in the way of achieving what you want in life by discouraging you from taking action. They are often criticisms about yourself.

Negative thinking can be caused by cognitive distortions, or thought patterns that cause you to view reality in inaccurate – and often negative – ways.  

Most people experience cognitive distortions from time to time, but if they become a default way of thinking, they can lead you to feel anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, or afraid. They can also steal your confidence and lead you to believe that you’ll never be good enough.

Cognitive distortions wreak havoc on your confidence, often without your knowing. Here are some common types of cognitive distortions you might be experiencing:


Polarized thinking

Polarized thinking is also known as all-or-nothing thinking. This occurs when you think your only options are in extremes. For example, if you look at things as good or bad, success or failure, or right or wrong, you are experiencing polarized thinking. This is unhelpful because it limits your ability to see the gray area, or the options between the extremes. In reality, things are rarely one or the other – and you can find creative solutions if you look between the extremes.



When you overgeneralize, you form a conclusion about one event or situation and apply it to other similar situations moving forward. For example, if you launch a new product or service and no one purchases it, you may think that you’re a failure at your business. Or, if you had a negative experience with one client, you may think all of your clients will be terrible, or that you’re a terrible coach. This is unhelpful because one negative situation doesn’t set the stage for other situations in your future; each person or experience will be different.



You may catastrophize when you automatically assume the worst-case scenario will happen in a given situation or event. This is one of the cognitive distortions I think most often! For example, if a friend is five minutes late to meet you for lunch, you may think, “Oh my gosh! She must have been in an accident!” Or, if a client payment is late, you may fear that you’ll never receive that payment, and you won’t be able to pay your bills that month. These thoughts are unhelpful because it puts you immediately into fight or flight mode. You’ll respond or make decisions from a place of fear rather than creativity or curiosity.



This is one of the most common forms of negative thinking, and one that has a huge impact on our confidence. Personalization is the act of taking things personally when they are not connected to you at all. One of the most common examples in the business world is when someone unsubscribes from your email list, causing you to think you did something wrong, or you said the wrong thing in your last email. When in reality, it has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with that person’s preferences. Personalization may also involve you blaming yourself for things outside your control, or falsely assuming you’ve been excluded or targeted.


Mind reading

Mind reading involves assuming you know what someone else is thinking. For example, if you are on a sales call with a potential client and they pause after you share your prices, you may assume they are thinking it’s too expensive. This is unhelpful because it takes you away from the present moment when you should be listening to others instead of assuming what they will think or say next.


Mental filtering

Mental filtering is the tendency to ignore positives and focus only on the negatives. This might happen when you received bad news, or a situation or event didn’t go as planned, or even when you think about yourself. For example, you may only focus on the negative qualities of yourself, the way you look, or a mistake you made, instead of recognizing the positive qualities about yourself or the accomplishments you’ve made. This is often the case with impostor syndrome, when you don’t believe you are successful because you only see the negatives.  


Discounting the positive

Similarly, if you discount the positive, not only are you focusing on the negative, you are also pushing the positive away, or explaining it away as luck or a fluke. For example, if someone compliments you on your outfit and you respond by saying, “oh this old thing?” Or, if you hit your sales goal for the first time in your business, you might think, “that was just a one time thing, it will never happen again.” This kind of thinking is unhelpful because it makes you feel like you don’t have control over your circumstances. And that can lead to feeling helpless, overwhelmed, or even depressed.


Should statements

This is one of the other most common forms of cognitive distortion, and I’ll bet you even said this to yourself at some point today! These are some of the most nefarious thoughts you can have because these thoughts begin to deplete your confidence by reducing your self-trust. When you think, “I should have exercised today,” or “I should be working on my next blog post,” or “I shouldn’t be taking this break,” you’re silently chastising yourself and the choices you made. This can lead to low self-esteem because you don’t have confidence that you’re making the right choices for yourself.  Repeat after me: “I will not should on myself today!”



Labeling is a cognitive distortion in which you reduce yourself to a single – often negative – characteristic or descriptor, like “loser” or “failure.” This is one of the biggest ways we berate ourselves, and it’s often based on a single event or situation. For example, if you don’t see results in your business, even though it has only been a few months after you started it, you might begin to label yourself a failure. And if you believe that about yourself, you’ll continue to act in ways that reinforce that belief. 

Related: How to Overcome Limiting Beliefs and Achieve Your Goals


Reframing Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts about yourself can hold you back from achieving what you want, and they can turn into limiting beliefs over time. Luckily, there is a way to reframe negative thoughts and choose positive, empowering thoughts instead.

This might be the first time you see me mention this, but it certainly won’t be the last! Paying attention to the thoughts you think throughout the day is a critical first step in understanding the way you think, and how your thoughts can impact your productivity, motivation, or mood.

It helps to recognize negative thoughts as they occur and immediately replace them with an empowering thought. When you catch yourself having a negative thought, imagine saying “Stop!” to yourself. Then, choose a new, empowering thought.

Here’s an example I share often: A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work in my business full time. Before I recognized the importance of morning routines, I would wake up and immediately start working on my content for the week. That usually meant I was still in pajamas and probably skipped breakfast. One day, after working for a few hours, I walked past a mirror in my hallway on the way to the bathroom. I said to myself, “ugh, I look so tired and ugly!” Then as I walked through the bathroom door, I caught myself and said out loud, “No! I look like someone who is working really hard for her dreams!”

It was in that moment that I realized all of this mindset work had been working! It won’t happen overnight, and it does take time and consistency, but it is possible to begin to shift your negative thinking.

Choosing an empowering thought in the moment is important because it gives you praise for what you have already accomplished. It helps you rebuild a new thinking pattern and recognize your reality instead of focusing on the cognitive distortion.

But you can only choose a new thought if you’re paying attention! This is why it’s also important to practice mindfulness and pay attention to your thoughts throughout the day. Then, when you notice a negative thought:

  1. Catch yourself. Think, “I am being negative about myself.”

  2. Say “Stop!” to yourself. Say it out loud like I do! You can also picture a huge stop sign if that helps.

  3. Choose an empowering thought. It also helps to say this out loud to yourself! You might say something like, “I’m not a failure because I don’t have a client yet. I’m still learning, and I’m working hard each day to build my business!”


Journal exercises for reframing negative thoughts

If you have trouble paying attention to your thoughts or noticing when you have a negative thought, you can also try journaling. Journaling is one of the best was to reframe our thinking and begin to replace negative thought patterns with positive and empowering patterns.

Here are some journal prompts you can use to practice reframing your thoughts:

  • What negative thought am I experiencing?

  • Is there truth behind this thought?

  • What do I secretly believe is true about myself that’s causing me to think this?

  • What evidence do I have to disprove this thought?

  • How can I look at this differently?

  • What happened to cause me to think this way?

  • What can I learn from this thought/situation?

  • How might I approach this differently next time?

You can choose one journal prompt each day and challenge yourself to journal daily for a week, or you can tackle a few at a time. With journaling, it’s important to do what feels good to you and build on a cadence you can commit to.


The Takeaway

Negative thoughts erode your confidence by causing you to lose trust in yourself. You can reframe your negative thoughts and build confidence by noticing the thoughts, stopping them, then choosing more positive or empowering thoughts. 

Take action now: Start paying attention to your thoughts throughout the day. Each time you notice a negative thought, note it, say “stop,” then choose a new thought. Practice this each day for a week to begin to build a positive thinking habit. Alternatively, you could journal about your thoughts each day and write new, empowering thoughts for yourself.

Then, leave me a comment and let me know: what is your biggest cognitive distortion? How can you reframe it with the strategies in this blog?


Sign up for the free masterclass, Thrive Beyond the 9-5, where you’ll learn how to turn your strengths and passions into a thriving business. You’ll learn how to leverage your strengths, skills, and career experience to start a business that aligns with who you are, so you can get paid for what you already know – at double (or triple!) your current rates. Click here to sign up for instant access to the free training!

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