In my mid-teens I put myself down every chance I got. Constant belittlements or feelings of self-doubt prevented me from being me. Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect and never think negatively about myself – however, I have tactics on how to manage, control and repurpose these thoughts.
Right now, many of us are struggling and a common trend has been ‘self-growth’ and ‘introspectively examining ourselves’. This can be incredible daunting and if not done with a loving mindset can be incredibly damaging. Imagine bringing to the surface suppressed emotions and feelings only to not know what to do with them. The common answer: suppress further, ignore, punish yourself, overthink it. Now ‘how’ we do this is by negatively talking to ourselves. That demon that pops into your head and makes you feel out of control.
I think there is a two-step solution. Firstly, we have to recognise what we can and cannot control because as humans we have a natural urge to own our decisions and the environment we’re in. Secondly, its to recognise the way we think and from that: how to speak to ourselves (and others) on a daily basis in a freeing and loving way.
- We have to understand what we can and cannot control
As stated, we love to be in control of our environment – whether that’s mentally, physically or emotionally. But this is incredibly understandable if we break it down:
We see an input that always produces the same outcome.
Over time we expect these outcomes to be constant.
In specific examples:
Physically: we eat less and exercise more = we expect to lose weight/tone up. If we don’t – dissatisfaction.
Emotionally: we pour your heart and soul out to a friend = we expect them to listen. If they don’t -lonely
So, when things are unbalanced: we negatively view ourselves or the situation surrounding us, leading to negative thoughts of self doubt, unloved and maybe not worthy. So, to combat this we need to find the root problem.
Input-output energy relations (how scientific I know).
So, in other words, we expect an equal outcome from what we input. If you put in love, you expect love of the same quantity and quality. Or even if the ‘emotion’ or ‘object’ changes – the percentage of effort you expect to see an equal balance.
When things aren’t balanced there is dissatisfaction, anger, frustration and exhaustive emotions which obviously will manifest into negative thinking about ourselves and other people. We are ‘out of control’ of the external outcomes yet have inputted so much internal effort. The problem: we are controlling external problems with internal solutions.
To reframe: we need to change our perception of ‘control’. We can’t always know the outcome of an external situation: therefore, meaning we have to focus on what we can control internally.
Maybe you don’t know what that involves – don’t worry I made a list
Things you can’t control:
- Other people’s perception of you
- Others’ words/actions/beliefs
- Pleasing others
- Someone’s behaviour
- The past
- The future
- Making others like, or even love, you
- Your physical needs
Things you can control:
- How you react to situations
- How you treat other people
- How you treat yourself
- Your words
- How you spend your time
- Letting go of frustrations and anger
- How you react to your own emotions
- Your priorities
- Your expectations
- How you live your life
So, don’t worry as you can see – there are more things you can control than you can’t control.
- Reread that list
- Write down what you are currently trying to control
- If you notice you are trying to control things that are out of your control: reprioritise this.
This will in turn get rid of many negative thoughts: let’s say 80%. The remaining 20% of negative thoughts we can now go on to the next stage. But by switching your perspectives to focusing only to things you can control you are liberating yourself. You aren’t investing time on external factors validating you, you are investing time on the internal perception that works on your growth.
2. Identifying negative thoughts – and why…
As stated before, I have been the victim of basically self-bullying. The constant put-downs and disbelief in myself created an immense amount of pressure and anxiety. Now, yes reframing the way I look on that I am one determined and motivated person. However, I realised the way I was speaking to myself was horrific and unacceptable. When I started being conscious of my negative thoughts and what environment I had them in I could then start to process ‘why’ I was having them.
- For a set period (a few hours, a day, a week) go about your day and be conscious of the language you are using towards yourself.
- note if it is purposeful or subconscious.
- Look out for:
- ‘I can’t’
- ‘I won’t’
- ‘I’m not’
- ‘why is it…’
Once you become aware of it, and only then, you can really work out where and why you are speaking negatively about yourself. It could be a number of factors:
- childhood traumas
- being restrained in the past
- self-belief being knocked
My main point here, and I can’t stress this enough, if you can’t pinpoint it: don’t worry and more importantly if you do: don’t go around with new resentment, acknowledge the pain and accept it. Remember you can’t control the past: but you can control how you react to new thoughts.
3. Repurpose negative language – and how
Once you’ve established this now you can try and rethink and repurpose your thoughts.
One environment you may see yourself putting yourself down in is empathetic language. Below, I will show you how you may talk to yourself -and how I have talked to myself- and how you can re-word this:
- ‘I didn’t do enough’ -> ‘I did my best and that’s all I could have done’
- ‘I have to finish this’ -> ‘I’ve reached my limit and it’s okay to stop now’
- ‘I should have finished this by now’ -> ‘what I’m trying to achieve is actually really difficult and it’s okay if things don’t go to plan’
- ‘I’m shit at this’ -> ‘These thoughts and feelings don’t define me’
- ‘I should do more’ -> ‘This actually isn’t fair on me. I deserve better’
Pro Tip: Talk to yourself as if you’re talking to your friend: this may lead you to laugh at a stressful situation or empathetically guide you through it.
I think it’s also important to know how to talk to other people. We may be loving and understanding but our language doesn’t resonate with what we mean.
- Start noticing how you speak to other people.
- Do you apologise, ask, command a lot?
- Do you spend a lot of time explaining yourself or do you give one worded answers?
- Do you listen and empathise? Or do you try and rationalise why?
You may have noticed a pattern emerging with the way you speak to a group of people, or a specific person. But understanding and speaking with compassion to others will help their own way of thinking. Here are some examples of rewording common phrases to being more compassionate:
- ‘don’t worry, you’ll be fine’ -> ‘that sounds really hard.’
- ‘at least you have…’ -> ‘I’m sorry you’re going through this’
- ‘just move on’ -> ‘I hear you say you feel x. is that right?’
- ‘you’re overthinking it’ -> ‘I’m here for you/it’s okay we can talk it out’
- ‘you should just do this…’ -> ‘thank you for sharing this with me’/ ‘would you like to know how I would approach this?’
4. Self-Despair Question usage and Affirmations
The other type of language choices we use is in self-despair questions. Sounds drastic but you may be familiar with some of the questions (I definitely am):
- ‘why is it always me?’/’why is this happening to me?’ -> ‘what can I learn from this?’
- ‘why can’t they change?’ -> ‘I can’t change people’s behaviour. I can only control my reaction’
- ‘why am I not enough?’ -> ‘I am me, and if I am not enough- god help others.’
Now you may be thinking – oh lizzie this is such an amazing article: but when will this become useful? Now don’t immediately click off the page (if you haven’t already 😉) but saying one positive thing about yourself and your attitude towards the day/person/life can help your perspective on life. You can:
- think it
- tell someone – if you don’t have anyone: you can tell me
- write it down
At the end of the day: these are affirmations. To summarise what a good affirmation needs to be, it needs to be:
- Present tense
- I am capable of getting through the day with a sense of calmness
- I am strong enough to try new things confidently
- I am in control of how I present myself
Overall, it’s so important to be able to create a solid relationship with yourself. Understanding your triggers and how to manage your own emotions will help you be liberated from unnecessary emotional strain.