WANT, Women Against Negative Self Talk

Have you ever had self-deprecating thoughts about others or about yourself? How often do they come up for you? Are those thoughts actually true? It seems that many of us suffer from negative self talk, and over time we either learn to dance with it or it can sabotage our lives. Which path are you going to choose? 

Katie Horwitch, founder of WANT - Women Against Negative Self Talk, is initiating a landmark movement. On her site and podcast, she shares stories about where negativity comes from, tools for how to deal with it when it seems to swallow us whole, and ideas on how to take thoughtful action that might change the situation on the next go-around. We need this wisdom now more than ever, and there is plenty of it in the following interview. Let's learn how to ride this wave together, shall we? 

Q+A with Katie Horwitch of WANT, Women Against Negative Self Talk

Q: What inspired you to start WANT?

A: Isn’t it funny (not ha-ha funny, but hmmm funny) how life seems so random at times, yet everything ends up weaving together like a finely crafted novella? I cannot think of a time in my life that has not led up to WANT’s inception, leading to its fruition.

For the majority of my life, my self-image was in the gutter. Self-confidence was sky-high, but the way in which I actually viewed that confidence was with trepidation, guilt, shame, and under the assumption that I should be living smaller in order to fit in. I grew up surrounded by many adult women, and as vivacious as many of them were, there was not only a culture of self-deprecation in which they bonded over, but any outward show of my own pride in my abilities, talents, and looks was met with raised eyebrows or being outright told to “get over myself.” I so wanted to be adult and I so wanted to be loved. And as I saw it, to be an adult woman meant to put yourself down both personally and professionally. To be an adult woman was to never be good enough. Being negative or lamenting about aspects of myself I wanted to change became a way I could bond with the woman I loved the most. At the same time, I was praised and admired for my talent and my looks – perpetuating the idea that I had something to be ashamed of. “Women supporting women” was anything but trending.

My lowest point came in college in 2004, when I developed an eating disorder that’s fortunately getting a lot of press as of late: Orthorexia. Since there was literally ONE website devoted to the disorder back then, the next few years were my own up and down journey with the recovery I knew I needed. Fast forward, and my own personal healing path led me to becoming acutely aware of how the women around me spoke to and about themselves on a regular basis. I realized how involuntary it was most of the time, and how engrained in our culture it had become to say such things to ourselves – and not just about our bodies! With body-positive and affirmation-laden media campaigns gaining momentum, I was dumbfounded to realize there was no place where women could actually ACCESS tools, tips, resources – as well as inspiration and motivation – to get to that place of self love and actualization. And from that realization, WANT was born.

Q: How does one begin to stop their own negative self talk and replace it with positive self-talk?

A: Our self-talk patterns are like muscles that are constantly being strengthened. The method of how we’re strengthening them, however, is what’s tricky. We can choose to strengthen them either negatively or positively.

It’s not about ignoring our negative self-talk or burying it under mantras or isms. It’s about recognizing what the negative self-talk is actually speaking to, and working to shift THAT around.

An important practice to get into is to think about how you’re actually feeling physically, mentally, and spiritually. After you pinpoint that “how,” keep asking “whys” until you get to the root of why you’re feeling that way. This works wonderfully if you’re having, say, a “bad body day” (you know, where you just feel ICK) – rarely does how we feel about our bodies really have to do with what we’re bemoaning on a surface level.

I’m also a big fan of what I call “moving forward fearlessly.” It’s the tagline of my podcast, the WANTcast. Fearless isn’t about not feeling fear – it’s about feeling less fear and feeling more faith. So many times we let that fear-to-faith ratio tip extremely to the former. The more we just go – just do – just take the action, make the call, send the email – then slowly, the scales begin to tip in the opposite direction. Think about the choice later or how scared you are later. For now, just act.

Q: Where do you think negative self-talk stems from? 

A: A big reason we fall prey to negative self-talk’s power is due to a lack of confidence or clarity in your unique purpose. Negative talk is simply a filler for uncertainty in purpose and imbalances in your mind, body, and soul. We use negative self-talk to sabotage ourselves when we’re not sure if what we’re doing is “right” (so we set ourselves back so we won’t have to feel pain), and it gives us something emotionally “heavy” to latch onto and care about instead. How crazy is that?!

I call this unique purpose, or rather, mode of operation, your through line. It’s the common theme in everything you love, and the common goal in everything you do. When you’re solid in your through line, everything feels just a bit more cohesive. Your highs are higher and you begin to feel your purpose from the inside out. I have a great (simple!) exercise to find your through line on the site here.

Sure, your through line will morph as you go through life; and sure, you won’t always be feeling bright and sparkly 24/7. But that’s part of the process, and as long as you’re on the track of your through line, it’s easier to see the light in the dark and the calm in the chaos.

Q: What are some of your favorite books that inspire you to feel good about you?

A: I love books that help me learn about myself. I recently read Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed and it’s one of the most stunning reads I’ve enjoyed in a while. Maybe ever. I also LOVE The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. And both The Firestarter Sessions and The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte – that woman knows what’s up.

Q: What are some of your top tips or exercises for getting into the flow of positive talk?

A: My #1 favorite exercise to get into the positive self-talk flow: compliment others. Like I said before, your self-talk is like a muscle, and you get to choose how you build that muscle up. An easy way to build it positively is to practice on others. Get compliments into your vocabulary and into your brain so that they become like a really fantastic habit you can’t break. It’s way easier to practice on others and focus on someone else’s strengths. The more you do it, the more you’ll unknowingly start saying these lovely things to yourself – whether you’re looking in the mirror or just having a really shitty day.

Q: Do you think it’s 100% possible to eradicate all negative self-talk?

A: Hell no! And honestly, we’d probably be unrelatable robots if we never felt an ill feeling towards a part of who we are at one point or another. Negative self-talk is opportunistic – it capitalizes on our low moments and gives us something to grasp onto and feel strongly about when we’re feeling weak. It’s not truth, but it’s also not fiction. Some people advise to tell yourself that you’re feeding yourself information that’s not true – works for some, but honestly, it just doesn’t work for me or anyone I’ve talked to. Because it sure feels real when I’m in it. Negative self-talk, when the real vs. not real conversation is taken out of the equation, is simply INFORMATION: a clue as to what your body or your gut is trying to tell you, or a red flag alerting you to what needs some attention, or an indication that you’re either overextended or under extended in some aspect of your life (when it comes to how you are alone or how you are out in the world).

I’ve been very conscious in the language of WANT to avoid phrases like “Get Rid Of Negative Talk.” Because you can’t. And I know it’s sexy and eye-grabbing to say you can. It’ll sure get the clicks on Facebook and the emails on the opt-in list. But that would be a false promise. I’m more of a fan of exploring negative self-talk tendencies and building a solid base of pragmatic positivity – so that when you’re feeling down, that’s there to catch you. Or at least help you back up.

Q: What do you do if go down the negative self-talk rabbit hole?

A: Why Why Why. I always ask why. I try and remove my emotions from the situation and look at things from the outside. Why do I feel the way I feel? I keep in perspective that I’ve been at some pretty low lows before and some pretty high highs. Nothing is permanent. If I need to feel a certain way – sad, hurt, confused, overwhelmed – for a short amount of time, I allow myself the time I need to feel that way without letting it define me. I’m not lazy – but today, I feel lazy. I’m not incapable – but right now, I feel overwhelmed by the world. The more I try and force myself out of the way my soul wants to feel, the more it tries to fight that. And so I allow myself to feel that way while finding the glimmer of beauty in the moment. It’s always there, and always guides me out of the darkness when I let it.

About Katie

Katie is the woman, warrior, and wellness activist behind WANT: Women Against Negative Talk, a website and initiative that helps women move forward in their lives by giving them tools, resources, motivation and inspiration to shift their own negative self-talk patterns. WANT was founded out of the realization that there were zero places for women to not only receive inspiration, but actual tools and resources to change their negative talk patterns in a lasting way that works very personally and specifically for them. 
She has spoken around the country, from SXSW to body-positive pageants, on the subject of self confidence and self image, and has worked with countless publications such as The Chalkboard Mag, Darling Magazine (both print and online), The Girls Lounge, Cameron Diaz’s Our Body Book, and HungryGirl.com. She's performed off-broadway and regionally, recorded with Disney, and appeared in both feature films and television as well as national print campaigns. She also serves as a mentor in the Chrysalis Women's Empowerment Program each year to help homeless and underprivileged women in Los Angeles take control of their lives via employment opportunities.

Katie is an activist, writer, speaker, performer, artist, and entrepreneur, as well as a lover of cinnamon, kale, frosting, and popcorn. She lives and breathes for the expression of love, in all forms. WANT is not her passion project - it's her purpose project.