When was the last time you looked in the mirror and told yourself, “I`m ugly” or “I`m so fat!”?
Negative thoughts. The seemingly all-powerful alter-ego whose job is to always put you down.
I used to bombard myself with negative self-talk. Whenever I looked in the mirror my thoughts were predictable, “How thin you are! Stick-thin, like a skeleton. Oh, and look at those big crooked teeth. You´re disgusting!”
I hated the bullies who were always around most of my life, but I became my own bully. What the bullies told me, I also told myself. The only difference was I believed my thoughts more than the bullies.
Limiting beliefs about our self are damaging; and unless we learn to overcome these beliefs, we´ll never become a natural, elegant flirt.
If a guy I liked wasn´t into me, I told myself, “He´ll never like you. Didn´t you know you´re ugly?”
All those negative thoughts were caused by my low self-confidence about my appearance and an overall low self-esteem. Bullied since my childhood and being constantly compared to how others looked better than I was, were the roots of my low self-confidence about my beauty.
To some women negative thoughts are about their skills and capabilities. They tell themselves, “You´re stupid”, “You´re not good enough”, “You don´t deserve to win”, “You don´t have what it takes to succeed”, “You´re a loser”, “You don´t know how to date”, “You don´t know how to flirt”, and on and on.
To others, their negative thoughts are about their worth. They may think, “I´m hopeless/useless”, “I´m a lousy dater”, “Nobody likes me”, “I don´t deserve a happy relationship”, or “I`m destined to be alone forever”.
Getting rid of negative self-talk isn´t easy, but it can be done. I say this with conviction because I´m a living proof. I´ve won over those destructive negative thoughts about me. As a result, my self-confidence improved which in effect boosted my overall self-esteem.
Sure, negative thoughts still creep in me every now and then, I can never totally eradicate them, but I´ve learned to deal with them so that they don´t cripple me and they don´t stop me from achieving what I really want in life.
If you too have been struggling with them, here are my tips on how to stop negative thoughts about yourself.
1. Remember that you are not your thoughts.
I´ve read many psychology books written by both secular and Christian writers. One thing I often meet in my readings is the fact that our thoughts are bias. We believe what we think, we feel strongly about it without realizing that our thoughts are one-sided.
Thoughts are stories about how we see life. These stories were shaped by our upbringing, cultural + religious background, and experiences. Our thoughts tell us how we are and how we should be, who we are, what to do and what to avoid.
But those stories in our head are only words, they are not us. Those stories are also affected by our feelings. For example, if we feel upset because we failed a test, we think we´re stupid, but that thinking is only a result of our feeling.
We should learn to identify if our thoughts are helpful or destructive. If they ruin our happiness and well-being, then we should eliminate them.
2. Externalize your negative thoughts or negative feelings.
Different personal development authors have different terms and approaches for this method but it all boils down to externalizing it. Because we know that our negative thoughts are only stories that do not correctly represent us, our next step is to detach our self from them.
We will assume that someone else is telling us that story, someone whom we have the authority to question.
Let us take for example the negative thought, “I´m not good enough.”
In front of it insert this phrase, “I´m having the thought that …”
So you will say, “I´m having the thought that I´m not good enough.”
When you phrase that thought in this way, you are putting distance between yourself and the story. You´re able to step back and assess if the story is true or not.
Next, insert the thought to the phrase, “I noticed I´m having the thought that …”
So you say, “I noticed I´m having the thought that I´m not good enough.”
By paraphrasing the thought this way, you are having more authority over it. You are also distancing yourself more from it giving you more space to evaluate the thought. By stepping back you avoid getting beaten up by the thought. You will also see that your thoughts are just words that are passing in your head. Nothing more.
Another phrase you can use is, “I´m aware I´m feeling …”
If you say “I´m depressed”, change it into “I´m aware I´m feeling depressed.”
If you say “I´m mad”, change it into “I´m aware I´m feeling mad.”
By paraphrasing the feeling this way, you avoid being stuck in that feeling. Now you have control over the feeling instead of the feeling having control over you.
3. Diffuse your negative thoughts.
Have you heard of the musical thought? I first encountered it in the book, The Happiness Trap. (Note: I`m a Christian and I don´t believe in evolution. But although this book is built on the premise of evolution, the steps it recommends on beating negative thoughts I found helpful).
This approach is about diffusing negative thoughts by turning it into a song. Instead of being a towering authoritative noise in your head, you´ll hum the thought out like a non-serious (or nonsense), funny song.
Let´s take the common self-judgment, “I´m not attractive”, as an example.
Turn it into a song using the Happy Birthday melody. ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬
I am not attractive
I am not attractive
I am not …
I am not …
I am not attractive
By singing the negative thought out loud, you have challenged its seriousness without actually realizing it, without exerting effort. You didn´t spend energy debating with it or proving it wrong. You simply sang it out to remind yourself that this thought are just words in your head. They are not you.
Does it sound gimmicky? Don´t bet on it. This approach has been proven effective in several clinical treatments. So feel free to try it out.
4. Be Your Own Cheerleader.
Have you noticed how good and empowered you feel after watching some inspirational talks in Youtube or after reading some inspirational books? You feel motivated to change, set goals and achieve them, only to go back to default the next day.
But did you know that you can be your own motivator? You can be your own cheerleader.
Write down all the good things about you. If you´re unsure about them, think of the good things that people have said about you. How do friends and family describe you? Focus only on the positive things about yourself.
The next time you wrestle with negative thoughts (and you´ll know you´re dealing with negative thoughts because your mood will quickly change from feeling good to bad), read these good things that you´ve written about you.
Make it accessible, print them big into a poster and stick it on the wall or on the fridge.
You should be your number one cheerleader.
Prayer is a tool that has helped me throughout my dating journey. Whenever I faced rejection, I prayed. Whenever I was brokenhearted, I prayed.
Prayer continues to be my secret in having a happy, fulfilling marriage.
Certainly, prayer has helped me overcome my self-defeating negative thoughts too.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ~ Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
I thought, if the Holy Spirit is with me, I would be gentle to myself.
If the Holy Spirit is with me, I would have kindness and gentleness not only for others but also for myself. I would have the strength to avoid feeding my mind with destructive self-talk.
I will not be harsh to myself in spite of failures and disappointments in my relationships, or despite the mistakes I have made. I will have self-control against the urge to beat up myself over and over again.
Prayer is powerful.
I´ve said this a few times here on the blog — before I met my husband, I wanted to find a man who would genuinely love me for me, but I didn´t love myself. Instead, I often fed myself with self-destructive, self-defeating negative thoughts.
It´s only when I learned to successfully handle those negative self-talks that I learned to truly love myself. I began to see my worth. I began to believe that I`m a woman with value. I started to develop genuine self-esteem.
Men will value us as much as we value our self. Men will love us as much as we love our self.
If that sounds attractive to you, then start learning how to stop the negative thoughts about yourself.