Replacing Negative Thoughts
The barrage begins…
You’re not qualified.
Who are you kidding?
You’ll never be beautiful.
Why would anyone pay you for that?
What’s wrong with you?
Don’t say that!
Don’t BE like that!
Anything there sound familiar?
If another human spoke to us this way, we’d be angry, upset, hurt. If it was friend, we’d distance ourselves. A family member? We might drift away.
But here’s the thing – phrases like that, they aren’t the sort of thing other people usually say to us. And yet, we “hear” them all the time.
Where do they come from?
Well, like the classic horror films of yore…
They’re coming from inside.
It seems we have these insidious little voices in our minds that churn up all sorts of dirt that we then hold against ourselves, repeating it again and again like a mantra, desperate for someone else to somehow refute it.
When really, the only one who can take a stand against it is US.
We can choose what we want to focus on, and we can choose to change a negative narrative to something that is more life giving and positive. After all, the average human is thinking over 60,000 thoughts a day…but 90% of them are repetitive. So a “few” negative thought patterns or untruths may not seem like a big deal, but they are when the get played on repeat over and over, day in and day out.
Give this a try:
NOTICE – bring some simple awareness to what it is that goes on in your mind
ACKNOWLEDGE – consciously recognize that the only person saying or thinking those thoughts is you, and make a mental note that you don’t believe that to be true.
REPLACE – choose a new, empowering thought that you can replace the negative thought with. The two thoughts should speak to the same thing (appearance, intelligence, education, career, etc)
This doesn’t work immediately!
Just like a habit, you have to do it consistently for it to take effect. Eventually, however, you’ll start to notice that your replacement thoughts are coming to mind much more quickly – or even coming FIRST!
Something interesting you might notice – sometimes it’s almost like you WANT to think negative things. You notice a thought you don’t want to think, and you know you could change it…but you don’t.
It’s like when you’re eating something you know is going to make you feel really gross…but you just keep on anyways.
This could be happening for a few reasons, but we’ll focus on the two biggest:
1. You don’t want to change.
Sometimes we can acknowledge we want change in our lives, but when it comes down to it, we aren’t serious about making it happen. Why don’t you take a moment to clarify what’s truly on your mind and heart; if this isn’t something you’re ready to change, it’s alright to start somewhere else first.
For example, you might feel a lot of pressure in the personal development world to change your thought patterns, but honestly…you’re not sure it’s really for you. Instead of forcing it because other people are telling you that you should, why not find something that resonates with you and starting there?
What is a change you would prioritize?
What would you like to work on right now?
2. You’re invested in self-protection.
Most of our bad habits and self-limiting beliefs come from a place of self-protection. We developed them as coping mechanisms; ways to protect ourselves from something we fear.
For example, it could be that a fear of embarrassing yourself in front of others causes you to shrink back, or prematurely tell yourself you’re too stupid, naïve, unintelligent to speak up or provide input. The negative thoughts you’re telling yourself are meant to keep you safe – but over time, they’ve become limits that are preventing you from growing.
If you recognize a thought pattern connected to self-protection, spend some extra time acknowledging how that thought has served you, and consciously commit to changing it because you now desire something different. This can help ease any resistance you have to actually stopping the original thought and replacing it with something new.
For example: I used to think that getting through the work day without being noticed was what I wanted, so I fed myself a narrative to keep it that way. I don’t want that anymore. I intend to speak up, be brave, and share what I know!
I’d love to hear your replacement thoughts! What is something negative you’ve reframed and started internalizing?