BREAKING THE CYCLE OF NEGATIVE SELF-TALK
Tell me if any of these thoughts sound familiar to you:
“Why can’t I do anything right?” “I never have enough money.” “People are always disrespecting my boundaries.” “I’m too fat / too skinny / not pretty enough.”
For most of us, thoughts like these flow in and out of our minds all day, every day. We’ve become so familiar and comfortable with these sentences that they’ve been etched into our identities. At some point, these statements went from a simple thought to our actual identity. They have gone from something descriptive to something that actually determines who we are.
We tend to think it works like this: something happens, and it creates a feeling – positive, negative, or neutral. Then thoughts flow from our feelings, and from there, we take action. However, it is actually our thoughts that are in control. Our thoughts determine our feelings around the situation and they direct what action we take.
The truth is, we become our thoughts.
What we think about controls our life. Our thoughts inspire our feelings and actions, and when repeated over and over again, they create our reality. Our mind is an extremely powerful thing. It can cause a ruckus in our lives if we let it, leading to emotional and even physical pain. But – our perspective is also incredibly powerful. It’s kind of like magic.
By choosing our thoughts, we are choosing our perspective – the way we look at the world or a certain situation. This perspective becomes our new reality. Get it? This is great news.
Once this idea sinks in, it has the potential to change. your. life. Because here’s the thing: we have 100% control over our thoughts. And therefore, we have 100% control over our feelings, actions, and the way we see every single circumstance in our lives.
I know it doesn’t always feel like we have this control (trust me, I’ve been there). Things happen every day in which the situation itself is outside of our control. For example, let’s say you just found out a loved one has cancer. This is not something you have control over, and of course you are going to be devastated. But (this is the good news part), you do have control over how you respond to this news. And this is everything. This is how you create your reality. You are the one who decides whether or not you let it take you down a deep hole of depression and anxiety, or whether you use it as an opportunity to wake up, enjoy life to the fullest, love that person more deeply than you ever have, forgive, and not take things for granted. It’s your choice.
Even in the toughest of circumstances, joy is yours for the taking.
So, the question is: how do we do this?! In a nutshell, here is how to take control of your thoughts and begin to change your reality.
Step 1: Pay attention.
So much of what we think, feel, and do happens below the surface. We’ve built habits without consciously realizing it, and we live according to belief systems we don’t even know we hold. So, we have to start by simply paying attention to what’s happening between our ears.
I recently realized I was living according to the belief that “I never have enough time”. And it was creating a ton of stress. I was constantly saying to myself and others, “I never have enough time to ____.” I had never noticed just how often I was thinking this! I needed to bring my awareness to this pattern before I could even begin to change it.
Step 2: Find out where that thought originated.
A lot of the thought patterns we hold onto started when we were young, so this might require some deep digging. If you believe, “I never have enough money”, then I ask you: what did you parents think about money? Did they view it as “bad”? Did they talk about how there is never enough? Did you watch them arguing over finances as a child?
Take some time to sit quietly, silence your phone, and think back to your earliest memories. Try to remember the very first time you heard whatever “truth” you’re currently digging for. Maybe it was from a parent, teacher, church leader, sibling, commercial, or friend. Go through your memories and think about each time this truth was solidified in your mind. Now that you’re older, you’ll be able to see with more objectivity that, well, maybe that “truth” isn’t so true for you after all.
Step 3: Replace the thought with a new one.
For every false belief, there is an opposite one that has the power to bring you a fresh perspective – along with sweet freedom and joy. “I never have enough money” can be replaced with: “I am rich in so many things! I am grateful for the money I have which allows me to have a roof over my head and food in my stomach. My life is filled with abundance.”
Step 4: Repeat.
Every time you think of your old false belief, replace it with your new thought instead. Then repeat this process with other beliefs that are holding you back. The more you go through this, the more you’ll find out that you’ve been living according to beliefs you didn’t even know you had!
Now, please don’t hear me wrong. I’m not saying this process is easy peasy lemon squeezy. There are often other factors that need to be addressed alongside our thought patterns. Things like nutrition and exercise, genetics, toxic relationships, an unfulfilling career or terrible boss, our home or work environment, etc. But taking back control of your beliefs and thoughts is one of the most important things you can do (and can start today) to get your life going in the direction you want it to.
Lastly, a quick example: Let’s say you walk into the bathroom, take a look in the mirror, and immediately get sad because you’re not as thin as you think you should be or would like to be.
Step 1: Pay attention to your thoughts. Dig into them and know what they are specifically. (“I am not good enough.” “I am not beautiful.” etc).
Step 2: Where did those thoughts come from? Sit and really think about it. Who told you that? Parents? Classmates? Magazines? Instagram? Think back to your childhood, and through the last five minutes too.
Step 3: Find a better, more beautiful, and gracious thought to replace it with. Look into the mirror and say to yourself, out loud: “Dang girl, you are beautiful! I am so grateful for my body that allows me to live and experience the world.” Go through your whole body and thank your strong legs for holding you up, your arms for allowing you to embrace the people you love, and your eyes for letting you see all the beauty around you. Disclaimer: Yes, there’s a good chance this is going to be totally uncomfortable at first. That’s okay! Do it anyway.
Step 4: Keep doing it! Tell your body how beautiful it is and how grateful you are for it all the time. Eventually, your perspective on your body will change. Not only that, but you will actually be empowered to take better care of it!
Voila! A new reality. It’s not magic – it’s perspective.
Photos by: Eun Creative