Our minds create connections between things and it's constantly trying to figure out the world around us and how it works. For things it isn't sure of, our mind makes its best guess. However, often times to us, it doesn't feel like a guess. It feels like truth. Our assumptions, or stories create our reality. Our unconscious interpretations of situations create how we consistently feel and act. No one is immune to this process. How we consistently see problems and how we interpret life creates our reality.
None of us were born with the predisposition to fearful or negative self-talk; we learned to think that way. You didn't believe you were dumb until you heard that you were dumb. You didn't believe you couldn't learn until you heard someone say you couldn't learn. Your lack of belief in yourself is the result of something you heard about yourself. The more you heard it, rehearsed it, and maybe even argued about it, the more you began to believe it.
And yes, this includes those time you repeated it and said that you didn't believe it. Every time you face a challenge, have a disagreement, or hit a low place, do those voices come back up for you? We have to change the voice inside of your head. One valuable skill we can learn is to open up space for new stories so that we can silence the negative, inner voice.
We are all where we are today because we thought ourselves to this moment. When we find ourselves leaning more toward negative thoughts, we have to remember that just because we think something negative about ourselves or even others, doesn't mean it's true. We have to understand that how we consistently think, leads to how we feel. We each can choose how we consistently feel by choosing which stories, which interpretation of situations we consistently believe. Opening up ourselves to different ways of seeing, we can choose which thoughts line up with the values we want to act on.
"I don't feel myself today."
"I got up on the wrong side of the bed."
"I am not a morning person."
"Today is not going to be a good day."
"I don't think I'll be able to make it through the day without someone setting me off."
"I'm not in the mood for this."
If you say these things to yourself each morning, your brain will find ways to justify what you just said through your thought processes. Your day will start tumbling all based on how you started it. Learn to call out those voices that criticize you, tell you what you can't do, or tell you that you will never be anything. Call out those voices and tell them that they are lying on you. Reframing your thoughts to instead think:
"I'm proud of you."
"I believe in you."
"You can do anything you want."
"You are powerful."
"I can do this."
"This might be the day."
Challenging and changing the way you think is the whole determining factor of where you will be able to go in life. It will require bravery and a willingness to allow yourself different ways of seeing things. Here are three questions to ask yourself.
Is my story truthful?
We have to examine and determine if there is any self-deception, if there is any self-justification, and if there are any cognitive distortions at play in the stories that we tell ourselves. (For more on cognitive distortions see our article: "Eight Thought Distortions and Ways to Cleanse Your Lens".)
Is my story kind?
For me personally, kindness is one of my values that I aspire to uphold. So in any story that I tell myself, I have to pause, reflect, and ask: "Is this kind?" Whether it is a story about myself or a story about others, I have to determine if my line of thought is kind. Is this story giving people the benefit of the doubt? Am I looking for the best in people and myself? Do I assume that people have a good reason behind their actions? Choose a narrative that aligns with the truth and your values. Mind you, this isn't to say let people run over you or take advantage of you. There are definitely times to set boundaries and protect ourselves in which our communication style will play a part. However, is our first thoughts in line with our values and who we aspire to be?
Does my story give me the power to act?
Have you seen those AITA (am I the asshole) posts on social media? There are whole groups and sub reddit discussions on different topics where people really want to know other's opinions. Let's face it. In our day to day lives, people will sometimes take us there and we get carried away by our irritation, frustrations, and anger. Focusing on whether something is good or bad or whether or not you are the asshole or if it's the other person, often times leaves us feeling powerless. Our time and brainpower are better served asking:
What is in my control?
How can I change this situation?
Am I getting so bothered by the situation that I am acting the same or worse than the person I am bothered by?
Check for the value that you wish to see and ask yourself, "Am I living that?" If you feel too wrapped up in the situation that you cannot see it objectively, take a break from the situation and come back to it when your head is clear. Whether you watch a funny show on Netflix, read a good book, go for a walk, get out in nature, pray, journal, or get another person's perspective-do things that help you find personal peace. Afterall, sometimes people really are that awful and really are trying to push your buttons. Or sometimes you really did take a misstep in handling a situation. Don't wallow in those emotions; find your personal peace to move forward.
Reframing our negative mindset is not a simple process. It is so easy to sit and settle with the mindset, "That's just how I have always been." It takes courage to shift and grow. Rather than label ourselves, our situations, or others as good or bad (thus making us feel worse) we can instead see each new challenge as an opportunity to learn something new or become a better person. And please remember, as you begin this journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading.
"Pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; it reproduces itself by crippling our willingness to act." ~Howard Zinn
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