As children, each of us live with the barrage of commands from the adults in our lives: stop fidgeting, pay attention, sit up straight. For some, those commands became a consistent source of pain, maybe you heard words such as “You’re stupid” or “You’re lazy.” As we grow into adulthood, we don’t leave these remarks behind us, but instead, we continue them on our own, telling ourselves over and over again how inadequate we are.
Our negative thought patterns have the ability to reap havoc on our lives. Sometimes, we create our own reality by what we say to ourselves each day. For example, if we have one or two lousy things happen to us in the morning, we tell ourselves what a terrible day this is. Throughout the day, as we repeat this over and over, we begin to focus only on what has gone wrong. By the end of the day, we have convinced ourselves it was the worst day ever. If instead, we had accepted that the morning started off poorly, but the rest of the day looked promising and repeated this to ourselves all day, we would view our experiences differently and look for the good in what was happening.
And so it goes throughout our lives. When we continue to barrage ourselves with negative thoughts of ourselves, we tend to believe them. We view ourselves in this negative way.
Although difficult, you can change your thought process and change your outlook about yourself and about your life. This takes practice and work and dedication. But the results are definitely worth it. According to several psychologists, the process of changing negative thought processes into positive can take months, slowly, though, you will begin to notice a change in how you think.
Steps to creating a more positive thought process:
- Be aware of your thoughts and what you tell yourself each day. Keep track of the negative on a piece of paper for several days. Notice how many times you put yourself down through your thoughts.
- Use a piece of paper folded long ways down the middle. On one side, write down each negative thought. On the right side, write down a positive thought to replace it. Be as specific as possible. You might write down a correction to the thought, as well as a goal. For example, if you wrote down “I can’t believe I lost my keys again, I am so stupid” as a negative thought, your positive side might include such phrases as “I am fine just the way I am” and “I lost my keys today, I am going to start hanging my keys on the hook each day so I know where they are.” Your list should now include the most common negative thoughts you tell yourself each day.
- Use a black pen and cross out each negative thought. As you are crossing them out, tell yourself these thoughts no longer have any control over you.
- Begin to read the positive side to yourself several times each day. Each time you find yourself sliding back into your negative thoughts, tell yourself “STOP” and repeat your positive statement instead. As you begin to do this continually, you will notice the negative thoughts do not come as quickly as they used to.
- Keep a tablet with you and write down any new negative thoughts you may have. At the end of the day, go through the same process, exchanging, on paper, negative thoughts for positive ones. Cross out the negative and add your paper to your previous one, so that you can continue to feed yourself positive statements and goals each morning and evening as you read your list.
- Make sure you complete this entire process each day. The act of writing down your positive thoughts will make them stronger, reading them out loud several times a day will make them stronger still.
- As you begin to see progress, note how many times each day you are writing down negative thoughts about yourself. If you are completing all the steps above consistently, you should begin to see your negative thoughts decrease. Maybe in the beginning you were constantly writing down negative thoughts and filled up pages quickly. Several weeks later, you might see that you are filling up only a half a page in the same amount of time you were filling up a whole page.
No matter what, keep it up! This can be a long process. It took you years upon years to get the point you are at now: constantly barraging yourself with how you are not good enough. Don’t expect to undo years of negativism in just a few days. Keep working at it and you will have a better and more positive self image!!
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.