First off, It’s important to recognize the messages that you’re sending yourself and how they're influencing you. Many of the messages that you send yourself are likely influenced by your past (i.e., parents, teachers, siblings, schoolmates, etc.).
You may have repeated these negative messages to yourself over and over again. These messages may have likely changed your thoughts about how you feel about yourself and how you may think others perceive you. These are likely to be more powerful when you’re down and having a hard time.
Some examples of common negative messages that people repeat over and over to themselves include:
- I’m stupid
- I’m a loser
- I’m a bad boyfriend/girlfriend
- I never do anything right
Carry a small pad with you as you go throughout the day and write down any negative thoughts that you may have about yourself. Some people have reported to experience more self-criticism or negative thoughts when their sick, tired, or stressed.
Once you have created your list, take a closer look and observe how true they are. Provide balanced thinking to each scenario (i.e., you may have failed a test, but you have passed others in the past).
You may find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the message really true?
- Would I say this to a friend in a similar situation? Why am I saying this to myself?
- What do I get out of thinking this thought? What would help me challenge this thought?
Develop a list of balanced thoughts to replace your negative thinking. You may have failed at something, but this doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It’s important to recognize that failing at something is normal part of life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve failed at everything. Developing a balanced thought will help you challenge your negative thought. For example you may want to look at the ‘evidence for’ and ‘evidence against’ for each thought you have. For instance, ‘I may think I’m stupid, but many people compliment me on my work and I have received good grades before.’
Another exercise that you might find helpful is to create a list of negative thoughts and contradictive positive thoughts. Once you’ve developed your list, develop a list of activities that you can do to raise your beliefs for each statement in the positive column.
Negative Thought = “I have never accomplished anything”
Positive Thought = “I have accomplished many things”
Activity to support positive thought:
- Try new activities I’ve never tried before to say that I’ve accomplished something (i.e., completing a painting).
- “I’m stupid” - Get a tutor to help me with my educational goals.
- “I’m unattractive” - Eat healthier and exercise.
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