I’m so stupid! I’m ugly! I hate myself! I don’t want to be me anymore… Do any of these sound like the voice in your head? Somewhere along the line this habit of blaming yourself when bad things happen, has turned into self-hate or self-loathing. However with patience, kindness and compassion it is possible to turn it around…
Firstly, know that it is not possible for everyone to like you, or me, or anyone else for that matter. Sometimes you love a person, but something they do might mean you don’t like them for a while. Sometimes they do things or behave in a way that is an affront to your own values or beliefs – then at that very moment maybe you don’t like them very much – but it does not mean that you don’t love them anymore… Deep down we know that people are not the action they have taken – that who they are is not defined by what they do. This same logic applies to you as well! You are not defined by your actions, or what you look like – you are lovable regardless of these things. But to change the cycle of negative self-talk it helps to believe this of yourself. So how to start?
Beliefs we have about ourselves and the world come from our daily learning and life experiences that we each individually encounter. Our beliefs cause us to view the world (and our place in it) in the unique way that we do. Being able to discover why we behave and think as we do can often uncover the root cause of a particular belief. Beliefs can be helpful or unhelpful. An unhelpful belief may have started by someone significant in your life who had a habit of calling you stupid (or fat, or ugly, or…), and you have since adopted the mantra for yourself. You now have this belief that you are stupid – despite there being much evidence to the contrary. Note that some people might find it helpful to enlist someone to help identify which beliefs are not useful, and to help understand why they arose in the first place.
The first step is to become aware of the negative self-talk, by becoming aware you are then able to do something about it. Notice if you may be feeling stressed or anxious at the same time, begin a short practice of abdominal breathing. Count three deep, slow, belly breaths – ensure that your shoulders are down and relaxed. Do a quick scan of the rest of your body and try to relax any other areas which feel tense. Notice that when you are counting your breaths that the chatter in your head has slowed down – maybe it has stopped altogether? Abdominal breathing is a very effective tool to reduce anxiety and stress, it also helps quieten the negative chatter in your head.
Knowing the difference between things we can control and things we can’t is often the difference between accepting what happens and blaming ourselves (or other people) for things that happen. If you are emotionally or physically exhausted then this can be when the negative self-talk is at its most intense. We all know how much better we feel after a good nights’ sleep. So if you aren’t getting enough sleep, or there is a medical reason why you aren’t sleeping well – then get some help to start getting this sorted.
If there is genuinely something about yourself that you don’t like – is there anything that you can realistically do about it? If there is, then start. Even if it is the smallest thing, make a plan and start the journey, get help if you need it, build on small successes and remember to celebrate milestones along the way. If there is absolutely nothing at all that you can do about the aspect of yourself that you don’t like – then perhaps you should consider enlisting someone to help you to find ways to cope more effectively.
Think of all your good qualities and attributes – write them down – remind yourself of your good qualities and practice gratitude for all the small kindnesses shown to you during the day. Practice random acts of kindness yourself. Perhaps you are grateful for the sunshine, the flowers, or a pet who is always glad to see you! Spending time each day being grateful will help improve your mood and also help reduce negative self-talk. Rather than feeling negative most of the time, you’ll notice that there is more positivity in your life. Building up your own self-esteem, practicing gratitude and showing kindness are all very powerful tools which can be used to combat negative self-talk and improve levels of happiness.
We all get to choose our responses to things that happen. Choose to actively practice not minding what happens, or having little or no expectation of what should happen. By not being attached to a specific outcome, it will help you keep your own sense of peace. We become less reactive to the minor irritations in life, and find that our levels of happiness increase as well.
If you are religious, and you believe in God – then you know that God always loves you – your faith can help you build your self-esteem. If you are not religious you may have other beliefs or philosophies on life – consider how these might help you build your love of life and of yourself. Know also that being with negative people can drain you of your energy and vitality, so instead seek to engage with people who are positive about life and who want you to be the best you can be.
If you want some help to feel better about yourself then give me a call!