I’ve written before about 5 Steps Toward Self Acceptance. Those aren’t the only steps, and I’m sure to write about more later. Today though, I want to expand on the second one in that post. Work on fighting negative thoughts.
The Truth About Negative Thoughts
The truth is, they aren’t the truth. Negative thoughts are our brain catastrophizing the situation. It is really good at coming up with the worst case scenario. These are irrational thoughts, and not based on the facts of the situation. If your conclusions about yourself or your situation don’t take positives into account, they aren’t accurate. There is a good reason pro and con lists are so common. You can’t just look at one side of an issue and make an accurate judgment. The same goes for people.
Why to Fight Them
Your life, your choices, your self-worth should be based on reality. Since negative thoughts are irrational, they are not what your life should be based on. We need to fight them so choices and self-worth can be made with a balanced, authentic view.
The truth is, we do have negative aspects to us. Everyone has negative traits. That isn’t all there is to us though. We each have plenty about us that is positive also.
Focusing on our negative thoughts can also lead us to feel there is no point in shooting for our dreams or trying something new. If you find yourself indecisive, always procrastinating, etc. you are probably struggling with negative thoughts.
I want you to take a moment and either print off this worksheet, or find a sheet of paper and number it 1-10. Now come up with 10 positive things about yourself. It can be anything from “holds doors for people” to “I like my math skills”. Really, anything positive you can think of. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you.
Now, put that list up somewhere you will see it every day. It may feel silly, but it is important to give yourself this reinforcement. You need to be reading that list over at least once a day, and there is no such thing as reading it too much.
Next Step – Fight Back
Now that you’ve had practice with positive thoughts, we will talk about fighting those negative thoughts. A pervasive problem with negative thoughts is that we get so used to hearing these thoughts from ourselves that we aren’t even aware of them anymore. Not as what they are anyway. We give them the same, or more, importance as our other thoughts. To fight them, we need to be more aware of them.
Some negative thoughts are more obvious than others. Thinking you are a horrible person, are bad at something, etc are obviously negative thoughts that you should work to counteract. If you feel you everyone is against you, you have bad luck, or constantly think “what if”(what if I went to college after all, what if I had/hadn’t married them, what if I had taken that job, etc), those are all nonconstructive, negative thought patterns also.
I want you to start paying attention to how often you have a negative thought. Every time you do, mentally (or even out loud), say, “Stop!” and don’t allow that train of thought to continue. Then, counter the negative with a positive version. It helped me to come up with counter thoughts to each negative ahead of time.
For example, a common negative thought I would have is that I was a terrible mom. On a good day, I could see my kids were doing well, my husband thought I was doing great, and my parents thought I was doing a good job also. So, on my bad days, the thought of me as a bad parent would come up, and I would think, “Stop!” and then remind myself of all of those positives. It helped me to see that just maybe I wasn’t seeing things very clear right now.
So, for this exercise, get a new piece of paper, or print off this worksheet and write down 2 or 3 of your most common negative thoughts right now. Then, write at least 2 counter arguments to each. Ask a friend or loved one for help if you need it. Arm yourself with positive statements to remember when these destructive thoughts come to mind.
At first it may feel silly or pointless, but keep at it. Before long, you will be able to replace those negative thoughts easily and eventually they will stop coming.
When you stop telling yourself negative, destructive things, you can start building yourself up, and eventually work toward improving things you may want improved.