Think about your life for a moment. Think about some negative thoughts you’ve had recently. Even if you’re the happiest person in the world, you probably have some moments of doubt, right?
Maybe you’ve had some intrusive thoughts about how your friends don’t actually like you. Or you’ve recently convinced yourself you’re a horrible person who is somehow tricking people into caring about you, and I can guarantee neither of those things is true.
Instead of arguing very specific points, I want to talk about how we can rewire our brains to stop (or at least minimize) those kinds of thoughts.
Change how you react to failure
A big trigger for negative thoughts is failure. Here’s the thing, though, failure is normal. You’re going to fail the first time you do something; you might even fail the 100th time you do it too. The thing to remember is that failure isn’t a bad thing. The bad thing about failing is that we become so afraid of it that we don’t even bother trying.
It will take some time to change how you feel about failing, and a lot of the time, it’s still gonna suck. If you keep at it, you’ll be a lot more willing to try new things, and life will be a lot more fun.
Give yourself some slack
Learn to hold yourself to the same standards you hold for everyone else. Let yourself make mistakes and let them go. You wouldn’t hold a grudge against your best friend for little things, so stop holding grudges against yourself.
I know it’s all easier said than done, and sometimes we don’t even realize we are holding grudges against ourselves. Sometimes we just feel angry and frustrated for no reason. It can cause us to lash out at the people around us and make us even angrier and frustrated because we don’t know why.
Those grudges you hold against yourself can be sources of negative thoughts which bog you down.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes and do what you can to make up for them. If there’s nothing you can do, then you must learn to let them go. You’ll be happier and will be able to live life more positively.
Stop talking down to yourself
When you screw up, it’s easy to self-deprecate and call yourself names. You may not spend much time even thinking about it, but every time you put yourself down with those negative thoughts, you subconsciously internalize that image of yourself. Even small things like calling yourself an idiot because you forgot your keys on your way out the door.
Putting yourself down over and over is similar to getting an x-ray. If you only do it once or twice, there’s not going to be much harm. If you’re a technician who is exposed to radiation repeatedly every day, you’re going to take a much bigger hit than you realize from those small doses.
To put it another way, you carry more of a burden every time you put yourself down, and over time it gets bigger and bigger. Eventually, it will be so big you won’t be able to carry it anymore.
Hype yourself up even when you make a mistake
A simple way to start changing how you view yourself is to stop putting yourself down when you mess up. You can still call yourself out over little things but instead of putting yourself down, hype yourself up instead. Begin replacing negative thoughts with more positive ones.
In the same way forcing a smile can actually make you happier; forcing a positive image of yourself can actually make you feel more positive too.
Rather than calling yourself an idiot or a klutz because you tripped over nothing, announce that you are the epitome of grace and elegance. You’re going to feel dumb the first few times you do it but over time you’ll actually trick yourself into being more confident. You’ll internalize a more positive (if grandiose) image of yourself.
Other exaggerated phrases you can use to hype yourself up:
- “I am the most amazing thing to ever exist on this Earth.”
- “Batman got nothing on me.”
- “My intelligence is unparalleled.”
- “I’m really goated with the sauce today.”
It doesn’t matter if you feel like what you’re telling yourself is true or not; that’s not the point. The point is to change your negative thoughts into more positive ones to improve self-esteem.
Challenge your negativity
Old habits die hard, so you’re likely to still find yourself dealing with negative thoughts even after making a conscious effort to change them. You’re a work in progress, don’t beat yourself up about it. Whenever you catch yourself thinking bad things, think about what led to the bad thoughts and how you can avoid them in the future.
I’m not saying to never let yourself feel negative thoughts. Toxic positivity is a thing, and you’ll just stress yourself out if you police yourself to that extent. I’m just saying that starting with small changes will help you improve your overall outlook on life.
It isn’t healthy to never let yourself have negative thoughts, but you don’t have to let them control you.
It won’t be an overnight change, and you may feel like it’s useless to even try, but you will notice the changes over time. At the very least, you’ll be able to look back and realize you’re in a better place than you used to be, even if you didn’t notice things changing.
For more resources on changing negative thoughts and building self-esteem, check out mentalhelp.net. They have tons of resources for mental health, addiction recovery, and even online communities you can join. You don’t have to do this alone.
Negative thoughts feed into your mental health badly, so remember to take a mental health day every once in a while, too!
How do you challenge your negative thoughts?