When things don’t go your way and the world seems to have a special ‘stiffy’ with your name on it, how do you react, or more importantly, what do you tell yourself about your situation? Do you walk around and tell yourself, “I’m not good enough,” or “I’m depressed,” or I’m broken?”
When we’re getting the shaft, it’s natural for us to take it personally and feel down. It’s even okay to allow yourself to engage in a mini pity-party, as long as you recognize what you’re doing and as long as you don’t allow it to become your permanent state of being.
The problem comes when we mistake our feelings for the truth about ourselves. Our self-talk is a very powerful thing and left unchecked and unguided can make a bad situation worse, and even perpetuate negative events in our lives. Negative self-talk can become a self-fulfilling prophesy; if you think the worst about yourself and your world, you tend to subconsciously keep putting yourself in situations where you are going to get what you ‘deserve.’ However, if you change your self-talk, you will tend to change your view of yourself and…miracle of miracles…your life, luck and circumstances will usually change along with them.
The trick is to recognize that our feelings and emotions are simply that; temporary states of feeling. They are not who we are and don’t define our self-worth. I’ve said this many times before (and I’m going to keep saying it until you actually GET it); change your self-talk and you change your life! (In my business we call this ‘Cognitive Restructuring.)
Ok, now you may well be saying to yourself, “Easy for you to say, but how do I actually change the thinking habits of a lifetime?” Good question! I admit it’s harder done than said, but there are positive, systematic steps you can take to take back control of your own thinking. Allie Bernhard recently posted an article that lays out a program to do just that. Here’s what Allie says:
- Identify your feelings.
Where in your body do you feel it? What does it feel like? What thoughts come up?
These thoughts are what your mind is defining as your “truth.” You can redefine your truth. You may be thinking, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m weak,” “I’m broken,” or something similar. These are not feelings; these do not describe how you feel. They describe what you think you are, your false “truth.”
Change “I am” to “I feel” when these “truths” come up.; when you hear, “I’m broken,” replace it with, “I feel broken.”
Now that you’ve recognized you aren’t this thing—you only feel this way—dig deeper. Ask yourself why you feel this way; what’s behind the feelings?
- Accept your feelings.
Repeat them to yourself. Don’t judge them; just feel them. If you feel like crying, let yourself cry. If you have tension, sit with that tension; breathe it in and breathe it out.
I felt incapable because I had performed poorly in jobs before, and I used this as evidence that I truly was incapable of doing better. This acceptance hurts, but it ultimately brings us peace by releasing the negativity that we are holding onto.
- Replace your old truths with new ones. Back them up with reasoning, and trust that this is the real truth.
For example, you might change “I feel that I’m not good enough” to “I am good enough. I am having a hard time because… and I accept that. I am working on these issues to become even stronger.”
By accepting that I felt incapable because of the past, I could now remember the good things that happened at work—the projects I was proud of, the people who I had helped, the difference I made.
- Repeat the new “truth” back to yourself.
Notice what feelings come up and compare them to the feelings that came up from step two.
Which feels better to you? Which sounds more true to you now?
The intent of going through these steps is to examine these “truths.” In your gut, you know the real truth. You may feel a sense of relief after doing this once. You may not feel much different at all. But if you trust your intuition, the new “truth” will become the new voice in your head, after going through the steps more times.
- Do something constructive with these good thoughts.
Write. Make art. Make music. Dance. Exercise; do something physical. Do something that expresses how you feel now, that solidifies in your body as well as your mind what your “truth” really is, and how good you deserve to feel about yourself, no matter what unpleasant circumstances you may be going through.
Our bodies contain memories that we don’t consciously know of. Doing something active with these new ideas and feelings will bring positive body associations.
I find journaling and yoga to be very healing. I sit and give myself time to really think and feel instead of never questioning the false “truth” that I sometimes carry around with me. I write that out. And I reinforce the new truth when I am going through the movements in yoga poses. My body remembers that feeling.
Each time the old “truth” comes up, go through these steps. Your brain currently has a habit of jumping from a negative feeling to a false truth in your consciousness as a single thought. Sometimes these thoughts are also subconscious, as they were for me, because you’ve ignored them for so long as your mind tried to shield you from the pain of admitting negative feelings.
Even better than waiting for these thoughts to come up, practice this daily. Soon, you’ll change the habit of clinging to false truths so to the positive, real truth becomes your first thought. Instead of the old thoughts festering, these new thoughts are mindful, and they creative positive energy, which will continue to build.
If you still can’t get yourself to really feel that this new truth is reality, just try to trust it. Once the habit forms, it starts to feel like the truth.
Allie’s suggestions may sound simple and if you actually follow them they’ll make a profound change in your life, but they require you to actually work. Rewriting your default negative mental programing is a process and it’s one that may take several attempts to actually get the hang of and make it into a habit, but the positive rewards far outweigh the mental sweat they require.
Give them a try. What do you have to lose but a lousy self-image?
By the way, hypnotherapy is an evidence based and highly effective way to help facilitate this process. In hypnotherapy, we bypass your ‘stinking thinking’ and go directly to the subconscious mind to help you rewrite your mind’s operating system to a more positive world and self-view. You still have to do the work, but hypnotherapy makes it faster, easier and more permanent.
So, to paraphrase a ubiquitous television advertising campaign, “What’s in your thinking?”
Here’s hoping you have an intentionally great and intentionally self-affirming day.