Over the course of the past couple years, I have been doing a lot of work on myself.
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard people say that phrase before and probably wondered, what does that even mean? “Work” on yourself?
Well, for me, it meant taking a good, hard look at all of the emotions, stories, lies and baggage that I had been shoving down inside and dragging around with me for years.
It meant staring those demons down in the face, actually feeling the emotions that were associated with those memories and experiences, and then really, truly letting them go.
Once I started digging, I realized there was a lot of “stuff” there… unresolved grief, betrayal, doubt, conflict and just an overall sense of fear. Like I needed to hold on to my life with a death grip, or else somethingmight happen.
It was how my body had been trained over the years… after a series of traumatic events back to back. It learned to brace for the worst, because the worst is what always seemed to happen. It was trying to protect me, trying to do its job.
Except somewhere along the way, that negative voice took over entirely and before I knew it, I could barely get a positive thought in edgewise.
My brain was always telling me how bad everything was – there wasn’t enough time in the day, I didn’t get enough sleep, I would never have enough money, people didn’t like me, my job sucked, my health would never get better… and on and on it went.
It was like an extremely annoying soundtrack that I couldn’t shut off.
Until I realized that I could.
The stats on Negative Self-Talk
And so can you.
It’s been estimated that we can have up to 60,000 thoughts per day and that a whopping 80% of those thoughts are negative.
Did you catch that?
Most of us are walking around having about 48 THOUSAND negative thoughts every day!
That might sound extreme until you really stop to take notice of your thoughts. How many times have you thought…
I’m too fat.
I’m too skinny.
I hate my hair today.
I hate my job.
I’m going to be late.
I don’t have enough money.
I hate my boss.
He/She doesn’t love me.
I don’t have any friends.
No one really cares about me.
No one recognizes how hard I work.
But that’s just a fraction of the myriad of the negative things that run through our brains on a daily basis.
And we wonder why we’re all stressed out and irritable most of the time? It’s amazing that we’re able to find any joy at all with that Negative Nathan (or Nancy) living in our heads!
Unfortunately, we often get so used to that negative voice though, that we willingly succumb to it, believing there is no other way.
In fact, it wasn’t until I had done all of the other work on myself, that I even realized how much junk I was saying to myself.
After I got all of the other people’s voices out of my head and let go of the experiences and emotions that were still lingering from the past, I realized there was one big problem left –
I was tired of being told by myself that I wouldn’t… I shouldn’t… and worst of all, I couldn’t. I was over it. And I was ready to shut that negative voice up once and for all.
You are too?
Good. Here’s how to do it.
Figure out what your old story/stories is/are.
We all have a “story” – whether it was one that we made up ourselves or one that was given to us by other people. It could be “I always fail at everything” or “I don’t deserve money” or “I’m unlovable.” Our stories are usually written early on, in our childhoods, but they stick with us into adulthood, shaping our very beliefs about ourselves. The good news, you can change your story. But you have to know where you’re starting from first, so take some time to meditate and self-reflect, dive deep and write down what “stories” you are carrying around.
Pick apart those stories.
Once you’ve written those stories down, go through them with a fine tooth comb and address each and every part. For example, maybe your story is that you are a screw-up, that you will always fail at everything and you will never be a success. Then, take the first part “I am a screw up” and think about it. Is that really true? Have you never completed something without screwing up? Ever? Or have there actually been times when you have completed something without messing it up? How did you feel in those moments? THAT is the truth. Do the same thing with each part of your story (or stories)… have you ever succeeded at anything? You graduated from school right? Even if you didn’t graduate from high school… did you finish grade school? Did you learn to read? Surely, you have succeeded at something, which means that story is NOT true. And it’s time to rewrite it.
Rewrite your story.
This is perhaps the hardest part since your brain has been wired to think differently for so long. In fact, as you attempt to rewrite your story, you will probably feel your mind and body fighting back against you. I definitely did. But just because your mind has believed something as reality for so long, it does not make it real. Start turning those lies around into truths.
“I finished high school.”
“I take care of my family.”
“I bring home a steady paycheck.”
“I am a hard worker.”
I used to think that affirmations were silly. I had tried to use them before at different times in my life, to combat anxiety or low self-esteem. But every time, I always thought the same thing – I’m full of it. I knew what I was saying “wasn’t true,” so it seemed useless to repeat these things to myself. Except what I didn’t realize was, the negative thoughts in my head… the ones that I was giving every bit of my attention to… they weren’t true either. But I was taking them to heart like they were the Gospel. If I thought “I look awful today,” then surely, I must look awful. Right?
Wrong. But this is exactly why affirmations do work. If you start telling yourself “I am capable of success” enough times (even if you don’t believe it at first), eventually your brain will jump on board and say “Oh! This is what we’re doing now? Okay! You are capable of success!”
As your thoughts change, your emotions will change (like confidence, strength and courage), which will then change your actions. Allowing you to take new chances, seek new opportunities and trust yourself to do new things.
Basically, you fake it til you make it.
They say an idle mind is the devil’s playground, so stay on top of your thoughts. Don’t let yourself slip into a “default” state of negativity. It may take a while for your thoughts to remain positive (if they ever do), so don’t slack on actively controlling them. Just because a thought passes through your brain, does not mean you have to give it the time of day. You can imagine it vaporizing, replace it with a positive thought, imagine a big ol’ stop sign, start singing a song, whatever you need to do to NOT latch on to it and give it any weight.
Remember, YOU are in control of your thoughts, NOT the other way around.
So choose thoughts that are positive, encouraging and loving and tell anything else to take a hike!