We all have thoughts wondering around in our head all throughout the day. Some of those thoughts might be a list of things we have to do at home, with the kids, with our significant others, at church. The list could be endless. Other thoughts could be positive and encouraging while some maybe not so much. As often as I try to stay on the positive side of things in my mind or in reference to others, those negative thoughts creep in more frequently than I would like.
Truthfully I’m much kinder to other people than I am to myself. I often give the benefit of the doubt to people when they respond to me a certain way or exhibit certain behaviors. If they’re rude or say something that hurts my feelings I usually go “Well maybe they are just having a bad day.” If they make a mistake I’m more likely to lift them up and remind them that mistakes happen but for a long period of time I didn’t do this for myself. I’ve gone through some rough patches in life where I really wasn’t too kind on myself. I realized when I was much older that the things I said in my head to myself had not been so kind for years-going back as far as my teenage years.
One particular stage I went through was very hard overall but especially mentally. Maybe one of the toughest stages of life that I have encountered in quite some time. While I was balancing a lot and dealing with a lot of things emotionally my mental thought process did not help me at all. As hard as I tried to encourage myself or be positive I still had thoughts of “You’re not good enough.” “You can’t do anything right.” “You just keep messing up!” “You’re not valuable.” “You’re not important.” “You aren’t helpful to those around you.” Some of these thoughts even carried into feelings of just wanting to be left alone. I didn’t want people to rely on me or ask me for anything because I struggled with being able to rise to the occassion. My thought life gradually got worse and worse. Have you ever noticed when you’re in a negative space that it will seem like there are people in your life that will confirm the negative thoughts you think about you? That’s how I felt! And it wasn’t always what people were saying, it was how they responded to me or how they didn’t respond that would send me into a mental tail spin of self condemnation.
I dug myself into this black hole. I couldn’t get over the feelings of inadequacy and loneliness I felt. I would just sit in those thoughts for hours. They would build up and spill over bit by bit every day. Things that I used to be able to overlook or move on from with little to no effort grew like weeds in my mind. I felt like I was constantly at war with myself. The positive attributes I knew I possessed; who I knew myself to be were constantly battling who I had convinced myself I now was. I had moments where I would be like “How did I get here?” “What is wrong with me?” “Why am I doing this to myself?” It was a vicious cycle that I wanted to be free from but didn’t know how to get out of it. Even if someone said something positive to me I couldn’t recieve it. I had one person who consistently told me how great I was. She wasn’t the only person who said kind things to me but she was most consistent. She would tell me how great I was or how much she appreciated me and it got to a point where she would say it and I’d think “She does not know how badly I messed up today! Otherwise she wouldn’t think I was so great!” How sad is that?!
I got to a point where I knew something had to change. I couldn’t continue to operate like this. With several different steps and the support of those around me I started to turn the unworthy train I was riding on around. It takes work, real work to change your thoughts. It has to be something you are conscious of and that you practice on changing. It’s not an overnight fix or an easy, quick turn around. There are steps that have to be taken to see growth and change. Before I share some of the things that helped me get better I want to ask you to think of the things you say to yourself. Write them down and then write things that contradict those thoughts. We are all confident in certain areas of life but struggle through something else.
For instance, we may be confident at work but struggle as a wife/husband. We may feel like a great partner but struggle with parenting. We may feel like an awesome employee but a terrible friend. Sometimes because we are thriving in one area of life when we say negative things about where we are struggling we feel like we are ok saying those negative things to ourselves because it doesn’t apply to everything. Because it doesn’t apply to everything then the harsh way we treat ourselves about that one thing isn’t so bad is what we think. Or we convince ourselves that every one says negative things to themselves so it’s not that big of a deal. I’ve done and said both of these things. I felt like a great friend but an awful employee! A great wife but an awful mom. Because I felt like I was doing well in one area I convinced myself that it was ok to condemn myself in the area I didn’t feel great at. But that negativity seeps over into every area of your life at some point. You’ll start speaking things that are not true to yourself even in the areas of life you initially felt you were prospering in which is why it’s important to learn to control your thoughts.
Some of the steps I took to help me get into a better head space were:
- Seek therapy. What I like about therapy is that it’s a neutral party. They don’t know anything about you except for what you tell them and what they observe while you are with them. They don’t tell you what you should do about whatever issues you may be experiencing but they give you the tools to figure things out for yourself. They help you to think more clearly.
- Pray & read the Bible. During this particular time frame I found it hard to pray for myself. It was difficult for me to find the words so I consistently asked God to help me. Whenever I had those overwhelming moments when I would doubt myself or tear myself apart I’d catch myself and just say “God help me! Help me to see myself the way you see me.” Then I would look up scriptures to read about who God is and who God says I am. This opened my prayer life back up.
- Write things down. Journaling helps. Not everyone likes to journal. Writing isn’t for everyone. I like to journal and it really helps me process my feelings. I can often look back at what I wrote and recognize how irrational I am being in that moment. If you don’t like to journal get post it notes. Write nice things to yourself and leave them on your bathroom mirror or where you will see them most.
- Talk to friends and family about how you feel. When you have a great support system it really helps because often times people around us see us totally different than we see ourselves. Those that love you can be realistic with you but you’d be surprised at how much more positively they see you than you see yourself.
- Go against the bad, negative, poor thoughts that you say to yourself. I am currently reading a book recommended to me by someone that I respect and admire. It’s called Me, Myself & Lies by Jennifer Rothschild. One of the things she shares is an interview she had with someone and this person discussed how she went against the negative thoughts in her head. She has a three step approach that goes as follows: Refuse things that are inaccurate, unkind, or unedifying; replace them with what is good, pure and just; and then repeat that process for as long as it takes to bring your thoughts under control.
We all go through hard situations in life. Life is not always easy but somethng that can help us get through those tough moments is how we talk to ourselves. How we treat ourselves is important. I remind myself everyday that I am not perfect but I am doing my very best. I am amazing, I am loved, I am valuable, I have purpose and whatever negative thing somene else feels about me is not my problem. I really want to encourage you to get some positive affirmations about yourself and start speaking them to yourself. It will change how you handle life and how you respond to those around you. You can do it because you’re amazing!