But what about those negative thoughts that get in your way? That monologue you've practiced for years about how you're not good enough, you're not pretty enough, you're not smart enough? What on earth are you supposed to do to get past THAT wall of negativity? And that brings us to part 2 of this self esteem series.
First, you are not the only person who does this negative inner monologue. Everyone does it on a daily basis. Just some people are better at it than others. And those people are usually the ones with mental illness. But this was also a learned technique. You learned it from your parents, your teachers, your caregivers, the media, and even from prejudice and stigma in our society. The problem with that? It's one of the hardest things to unlearn. Breaking that pattern of negative thinking is crazy hard. And with mental illness, these thoughts have only gotten worse over time, so it becomes ever HARDER to undo them.
There are a million and one different negative messages you can tell yourself. "I'm a jerk. I'm a loser. I never do anything right, No one likes me. I don't deserve to be loved. I'm a crappy mother. I'm a horrid father. I should have done that differently. I must change my ways today. I could've done way better." Some key words you may have missed in that? Should. Must. Could've. Those are usually right in line with a negative thought. Or maybe you didn't realize that WAS a negative thought. You ever done something, only to have to get messed up or go wrong part way through? You think to yourself, "Why did I do that? I should have done it like I usually do. Then it wouldn't have been messed up." That's a negative thought! Surprise! If you calculate how many times you do that to yourself, on top of the obvious negative thoughts, you're probably in the hundred's of negative thoughts a day, not just a "typical" handful or two. Do you see the need for a brain re-wiring now?
The first thing to do is really start paying attention to what you are thinking. You have to start really listening to that inner monologue, and not just let it run wild. Then, when those negative thoughts make an appearance, you have to address them.
Is this message really true?
Would a person say this to a normal person? If not, why am I telling myself this?
What do I get out of thinking this thought? If it makes me feel icky about myself, why do I keep
The next thing you have to do is have a list memorized of positive thoughts. Did you know for every one negative thought, it takes 3 positive ones to counteract it? The negative is always easier to believe, that's what it's so easy to listen to the negative. It's less work to deal with. But the positive will make you feel so much better. It's because of that ratio that you need to have about 12-15 positive thoughts about yourself in your arsenal, ready to fire when one of those "bad boys" pops into your head. The key to this is to NOT use the following words: worried, frightened, upset, tired, bored, not, never, can't. Instead of saying, "I'm not going to eat junk food anymore," use, "I'm going to start eating more fruits and veggies." And try to use the present tense as much as possible. I am smart. I am creative. I try my best all the time.
Take a piece of paper. Fold it in half like a hot dog. On the left side, write down a handful of negative thoughts you catch yourself thinking during the day. On the right side, write down three positive thoughts to fight the negative one (remember that 1:3 ratio). Example:
I have never accomplished anything.
1. I have two wonderful kids that love me.
2. I am open to trying new things.
3. I am creative
Tell yourself these thoughts whenever you get a minute of brain silence too! When you're going to bed, when you wake up, while you're in the shower, stuck in traffic, cleaning under the fridge, whenever. The more you repeat these positive thoughts to yourself, the faster those negative thoughts will dissipate.
Tomorrow, I will be going into more depth about some BIG activities you can do to really jump start feeling better about yourself. I'm pretty excited about it, as I'm trying to do some of these myself, and I'm becoming a bit more craftier in the process!
Keep thinking positive!