Tag Archives: sadness

Are You Acting Like Your Best Friend Or Your Worst Enemy?

What do you do when you become aware of an aspect of your life that doesn’t please you?  Do you become your greatest enemy or your best friend?  It’s easy to tell.  If you find that you’re saying things to yourself like “I’m so stupid,” “there, I’ve done it again,” “how could I be so dumb,” or anything along those lines, you are not your best friend.  Would you say any of those things to your best friend?  What if this is not the first time they did it, would you say that to them?  What if they weren’t careful enough or acted in an irresponsible manner, would you say that to them?

Chances are that you would not say stuff like that even to a stranger, much less to someone you know and love.  Most people wouldn’t talk to us that way either, yet when it comes to ourselves we turn into our worst enemies when we should be the ones offering kindness, support, love, understanding and encouragement to ourselves in any situation.

It is very possible, in fact probable that the unkind words we say to ourselves are not our own, or at the very least, we did not pick them out of thin air.  Most, if not all, of that negative self-talk we’ve been repeating to ourselves we picked up along the way in the form of direct or indirect comments or expressions that made us feel that way.  We heard those words or the essence of those words so often that at one point we adopted them as our own without even realizing it, and we’ve been repeating them to ourselves ever since.

And has that helped at all?  Has the negative self-talk and self-criticism helped us to improve our situation or behavior at all?  Did it then?  Did it make us more productive, more efficient, more aware, more determined to try again, more confident? I’m willing to bet that it did not and has not.  In fact, if anything, it exacerbated the problem.  The negative self-talk turned situations into bigger deals than they were, making us feel even more embarrassed, ashamed, depressed, sad, guilty, afraid, etc. which only kept us focused on what went wrong and prevented us from seeing the good and making real progress.

So why, then, is negative self-talk our go-to tool for fixing ourselves? Why do we even think that we need to be fixed?  Whether we realize it or not, that is the essence of our negative self-talk, isn’t it?  We can easily wrap the entire scope of negative self-talk into this statement: “I’m bad, I’m broken, and I need to be fixed.” But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The truth is that we’re neither bad nor broken; we are human, and as humans, we make mistakes. We mess up, sometimes due to negligence or carelessness and sometimes due to lack of knowledge or experience.  But this does not make us bad or broken, no matter how many times it happens. Each of those experiences has something to teach us, and our job is to get the message, learn the lesson and keep moving forward. Our self-talk should encourage us to do just that, instead of paralyzing us and keeping us from trying again.

We must treat ourselves the way we would treat a growing baby who is just learning to walk. We would never call him foul names or verbally put him down no matter how many times he fell down.  We also should not go the other extreme and turn to feel sorry for him, gasping or making sad faces, to the point where he feels sorry for himself and doesn’t want to try again. We would use a chirpy tone and kind words like, “It’s OK baby, you can try again! Come on, get up, you can do it! I know you can!”  If he hurt himself in the process, we would not say, “See that’s what you get for trying that! Serves you right.”  We would nurture him and still tell him to try again.

Can you imagine what would happen if we used negative feedback every time the baby fell down?  He would learn, soon enough, not to try to walk again because whenever he does, not only does he fail to accomplish his goal and possibly get hurt, but he gets yelled at, called bad names, or made to feel like a horrible creature.  Would you want to attempt walking again?  And yet, Isn’t that what’s happening to us as adults? Aren’t we keeping ourselves from walking (substitute the word “walking” for any endeavor you’ve given up on) because we don’t want to experience the negative feelings that result from the way we scold ourselves?

So today I want to invite you to be kind to yourself.  Whenever you accomplish something good or whenever you make a mistake or fall on your face (literally or metaphorically), treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend.  Use encouragement, love, kindness, understanding, support, and all forms of positive reinforcement.  I guarantee you that you’ll see great improvement, not only in the way you feel, but in the way you approach life. From now, commit to be your own best friend.  You’ll thank yourself later.

Do you have any input on this subject?  Drop me a line in the comment box below or email me directly at jc@effect180.com.  I’d love to hear from you!

To your success!

JC

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How Negative Thinking Can Twist Your Reality And Ruin Your Life – Part 2

In my last post I talked about automatic negative thoughts being the reason behind our negative emotions, and explained that it is the meaning that we have attached to people, circumstances and events that trigger the automatic negative thinking cycle rather than the people, circumstances and events themselves.

Today we’ll be looking at ways to identify those negative thinking patterns as the first step towards stopping them and ultimately changing them.

Here are some characteristics of automatic negative thoughts to help you identify them.  As you read, try to see if you can relate to any of them:

  • Automatic negative thoughts often express themselves as one or two words which we already associate with some negative meaning, for instance, fear or loneliness. Sometimes they don’t express themselves as words at all, but rather as flashes or brief images, or even as memories of scents, sensations, taste, etc. I my case I experienced this in an intensified manner. The memory of a person who had broken my trust in the past was enough to put me in a bad mood, and that memory could be triggered by the mere mention of the person’s name.  All of a sudden my demeanor would change to the point that it was clearly discernible to those around me that something was bothering me.  This happened because the utterance of single word (the person’s name) triggered a series of automatic negative thoughts associated with that person breaking my trust.
  • Automatic negative thoughts are usually very believable to us; when they occur, we tend to grant them the same validity as the validity we ascribe to things we perceive with our senses such as the color or texture of an object. Basically, we think it therefore it must be true.
  • Automatic negative thoughts often involve words such as should or ought to, which imply a certain level of expectation whether from ourselves or from others. A person may think, “I should clean the house because it’s a mess.” This is a self-imposed expectation which, if not fulfilled, may result in negative emotions such as self-blame or feelings of failure or low self-esteem.  And while it’s true that some “shoulds” are valid, they happen so automatically that we tend to take them at face value without analyzing them or modifying them to fit the situation.
  • Automatic negative thoughts tend to exaggerate (or as the book “Thoughts and Feelings” calls it, “awfulize”) the situation. They tend to predict and expect the worst in everything. And while this may have its function in helping us prepare for worst-case scenarios, we must learn to keep these thoughts in the proper perspective as tools rather than as reality.
  • Automatic negative thoughts vary tremendously from the way we describe our circumstances or events to others. When speaking to others we tent to describe our situations in a cause and effect context; however, our self-talk about the same situation may include words of blame or guilt or detrimental predictions. For instance I could say to someone, “I’m feeling sad because I hurt your feelings.” But internally, my self-talk would be more like, “I’m a terrible person. I can’t believe I did it again.   What kind of a monster am I?”
  • Automatic negative thoughts are generally theme-based, especially in the case of chronic emotions. For instance, chronic anger may be caused by thoughts about deliberate hurtful words or behavior from others, and chronic anxiety may be caused by thoughts of danger or impending doom. I could see now that my chronic anger stemmed from my thoughts about other people looking to intentionally hurt me or take advantage of me in some way.

These are just a few of characteristics to help you identify automatic negative thoughts.  On my next post I will provide some tips on how to go about stopping the cycle before it spins out of control, and we’ll explore some techniques we can implement to change the direction of our thoughts.

Do you have any additional input on this subject that you’d like to share? If so, please do so in the comment box below.

I’d love to hear from you!

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