“Self-talk,” the way we talk to ourselves in our minds, plays a hugely significant role in determining our level of happiness and confidence. Why? Because we usually become what we tell ourselves we are. Indeed, speaking to ourselves positively is the most effective way to create positive self-beliefs.
Since we now understand the power of choice and the power of our minds, we know that our thoughts can be directed. Why would we allow negativity to pull us backwards into undesirable states, or allow the programming of our past to control our present and future? With effort and perseverance, we can re-direct our thoughts and enjoy positive self-beliefs.
To do this, use the same steps that direct thoughts in positive ways. Just as soon as negative thoughts enter your mind:
- FOCUS FORWARD
- “This rain stinks! Now I can’t play golf!”
“Gee, that was a negative attitude. We really need the rain and I can play golf tomorrow.”
- “My mother-in-law hates me. No matter what I do it’s not good enough.”
“Woops – negative attitude. Hey, that woman raised an awesome daughter.”
- “What happened to my life?! These kids are sucking it away and they don’t even care!”
“Hey! What happened to my positive outlook? They’re just kids! You know, I should go outside with them and play and get some fresh air.”
Another way we can direct thoughts in positive ways is to practice ignoring the negative ones.
We all have thousands of thoughts each day. Some are going to be positive and productive, and others will be worrisome, fearful, covetous, etc. The question isn’t whether or not you’re going to have negative thoughts – it’s what you choose to do with the ones you have.
You really only have two choices. You can either worry about them, analyze them, think more and more about them, or you can dismiss them; not take the negative thoughts seriously and let them go. Of course, we want to learn how to do the latter, so think on this: When you have a thought – any thought – realize that, that’s all it is…just a thought. It truly can’t hurt you without your permission.
Think of a negative thought as a match that has just been lit. You can either blow it out immediately and stay healthy, or you can let it burn, hurt and scar you. The choice is yours.
LET’S LOOK AT AN EXAMPLE
Karen, painfully shy, was completely convinced that her introversion and her low self-esteem were her parents’ fault. Karen bitterly explained, “My parents didn’t do a very good job, and that’s why I’m a social failure.”
Karen let the negative thoughts fester and wound her; convincing herself that she should indeed be unhappy. Instead, she should have realized that although her childhood was difficult, in this present moment, she has a choice and can direct her thoughts.
Darrel and Katie had a quarrel just minutes before Darrel left for work. Darrel “blew out the match” and let the negative thoughts go soon after he left the house. Katie, on the other hand, was still stewing and angry about the issue when Darrel came home at 6:00 o’clock that night.
While Darrel was able to have a productive day, Katie didn’t get anything accomplished because she spent hours fuming and fretting, calling family and friends to complain and get advice. What she didn’t understand is that an argument that happens in the morning is no longer an actual argument; it’s a thought in your mind. And we can do with our thoughts whatever we choose.
As you learn to ignore and dismiss negative thoughts – blowing out the flaming match immediately – your ability to do so will increase, and you’ll become a more peaceful and loving person.
In addition to the negative/positive self-beliefs you’re working on, I’d like to suggest you make an effort to eliminate all negative expressions, no matter how benign they may seem. Your subconscious mind takes it all in – and anything negative becomes part of who you are. So we should get rid of the “little negatives” that clutter our conversations and weaken us:
• “I don’t think I can do that.”
• “I’m afraid I’ll be late.”
• “I’ll never get through this – there’s so much to do.”
• “If I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all!”
• “Yep – I knew it! Just when things were starting to go well, this had to happen.”
Other negative expressions to watch for (and discard) come in the form of questions. One of the best keys to behavior change is to stop asking yourself bad questions and start asking good ones. Let’s look at some commonly-asked “Why” questions:
• “Why does this always happen to me?”
• “Why can’t I figure it out?”
• “Why can’t I ever remember names?”
• “Why am I depressed?”
• “Why don’t they like me?”
What are you focusing on when you’re asking those questions? Negativity. If you’re feeling miserable it’s usually because you’re deleting all the reasons you could be feeling good. Far better are these “What” and “Who” questions, which help us ignore the negative.
• “What could I do to make myself feel happier?”
• “What is really great in my life right now?”
• “What can I learn from this that will make me a better person?”
• “Who can I help today?”
• “Who loves me? Who are the people I love most in the world?”
I guarantee that if you ask questions like these you’ll focus on the positive and feel better. There are two more important questions to ask yourself at this point (reflecting on these may feel like you’re looking in the mirror at long-hidden parts of yourself): “If I don’t change my negative patterns of thinking and questioning, what will it cost me in the long run?” and “Isn’t it about time that I start enjoying the results of developing new, empowering habits of positive self-talk?”
~ Dr. Paula