We all know that feeling that creeps up on us from time to time and leaves us feeling less than good about ourselves. We’ve all been there – heck, I know I have taken a trip down low-self-esteem-lane often enough, doubting and criticizing myself all the way. Well, that’s life for you. It’s not always roses and peaches, is it? Like I said, we all go through this. Everybody struggles occasionally.
The issue with negative self-talk is (apart from the fact that it doesn’t really get us anywhere) that we forget that somebody is always listening and really taking it all in. Every single word of it! That somebody is you – your inner self. And believe it or not, that inner self is being affected by the destructive things you’re telling yourself and will eventually start believing them.
I’ve been through that, telling myself over and over again that I wasn’t attractive or smart enough. I was constantly focusing on all the negative details and never once stopped to acknowledge all the positive things I have to offer. I put an awful lot of pressure on myself to be perfect and let me tell you, I nearly collapsed under my own pressure. I realize now that for the past years I have been beating myself up and putting myself down, resulting in a very low self-esteem. I was unable to measure up to my own expectations and the scary part is, I did this all to myself. No outsiders to blame. Nope, that was all my doing.
I’m not saying that I have stopped the negative self-talk altogether, but thanks to my therapist I have developed coping techniques, which definitely help mitigate the damage and build up my self-esteem in the process.
First things first: Don’t be so damn hard on yourself for having negative feelings. That’s right, I am not starting this post by telling you not to have those negative feelings in the first place. That would be like telling you to stop thinking about a pink elephant (I bet you are picturing a pink elephant in your head right about now, aren’t you?). This is basic psychology for you. The more you try to ignore or not think about something, the more that thought will keep popping up in that pretty little head of yours over and over again. The trick here is to replace that thought with another (preferably more positive) thought.
Accept the fact that you are not feeling too good about yourself (it happens to the best of us) and just take a minute to really acknowledge that thought. Perhaps you feel fat and unattractive because you helped yourself to that second serving of pasta. Or you feel sad and lonely because you feel like nobody loves and cares about you. Sound familiar? Excellent, we’re on the same page. Now take a pen and a piece of paper and write down the following sentence: “Just because I feel that way, doesn’t make it true”. Pin this note on your fridge, your front door or your mirror. Anywhere you walk by on a daily basis. Make this your personal mantra and repeat it to yourself every time you feel disappointed, angry or sad because of a certain situation.
Next time that negative thought pops up in your head, you’ll respond to that very thought (again, don’t try to push it aside and ignore it – it will only come back later) by reading that sentence out loud. The more you do this, the more you’ll come to realize that feelings and reality don’t always correspond. Just because you feel a certain way doesn’t make it real. So, you might feel fat but in reality that second helping of pasta will hardly have caused you to gain 2 kg since eating it.
Or say you feel like a failure for not nailing that job interview and obtaining the job of your dreams. Repeat that sentence to yourself and you’ll come to realize that you feeling like a failure certainly doesn’t make you a failure. Perhaps you’ll have to read the more than once for the message to really stick and sink in, but it eventually always does, trust me.
Now that you have realized that that negative thought was really just your feelings trying to make you believe something that isn’t necessarily true, your next step will be to turn that negative thought into something positive and constructive. For each negative thought about yourself, name at least two positive things about yourself. For example. While your negative thought might be: “I’m so fat”, your two positive thoughts could be: “I have great hair- I get a lot of compliments for that. Also, I am grateful for my expressive eyes”. Everybody has positive traits and attributes, you just have to acknowledge them, point them out and remind yourself that you are indeed a fabulous and unique person. Take the time out of your busy day to actively tell yourself that you are amazing. With time you’ll believe it and start to undo all the damage you inflicted on yourself with all that negative self-talk.
Unfortunately, it is in our human nature to tend to focus on bad/negative stuff and ignore the things that are going well. Try to keep this in mind whenever something goes “wrong” and ask yourself, what went well instead. There is something positive to be found in every situation, you just have to look for it.
So, you didn’t get that job despite all your efforts and hard work. You might argue that there is nothing positive about this situation because you really wanted that job and now you’re disappointed. Well, how about the fact that you were invited for a job interview in the first place? That’s a huge step right there and you came a long way. Maybe you’ll even find that your answers to some of the interview questions were actually really smart. Or you might even be proud of how well you looked in that new suit you were wearing. Remember, in the end the only person you have to impress is yourself. There is absolutely no point in trying to impress others because the truth of the matter is, we are all self-absorbed creatures, preoccupied with ourselves for 90% of our time anyway. It’s simply not worth it. Who cares if you didn’t get the job? While your feelings of disappointment are totally valid and may help, you do better next time – the fact that you gave it your best shot and can walk out of that office knowing you did, is all that counts. Be proud of how far you have come instead of thinking you have not come far enough.
Another powerful sentence, which always helps in situations like these is:”I’ll do better next time”. Because there is always a next time and every experience is a valuable life lesson even though it may not seem so at first.
Focus on the positive (your strengths, your accomplishments in life so far, your friendships and relationships) rather than on the negative. This will take some practice but you can actually train your brain to think that way. Your brain is a muscle after all and muscles can and should be trained. The more you practice this, the easier it will get over time. Trust me, I’ve been there and have gotten better at it with time.
We are our best friend to ourselves and we should nurture and value that relationship. By doing so we become the best version of ourselves and that’s when we create the best relationships with other individuals: by being in complete sync with ourselves. If we aren’t in a positive place with ourselves, we’ll seek that validation and appreciation from others. The relationships we’ll form with other individuals will be based on how these people make us feel. We’ll become completely dependent on others and their opinions of us because we don’t value and respect ourselves enough. Let me tell you, this is not a great recipe for a successful relationship. Rely on yourself. You don’t need anybody’s approval. You are fabulous and amazing just the way you are. If others don’t see it then that’s their reality. It has nothing to do with you.
It’s very simple: If you want to shine bright on the outside, you have to shine bright on the inside. You can only do that by respecting your inner self and treating it the way you would treat your best friend. Don’t talk down on it and shower it with love, compliments and humor (life doesn’t always have to be so damn serious).
Love yourself for who you are. You are amazing and fabulous!