You may not be aware of it, but sometimes that age-old adage is true: you are your own worst enemy. Oftentimes it’s the subtle negative self-talk (“What if I can’t…” “I am so stupid!” “I’ll never be able to…”) that clutters our minds and prevents us from seeing who we really are – and what we can truly accomplish.
You know the story – it starts with one negative thought in a moment of weakness, and next thing you know, you’re fretting about what might happen 20 years down the road! Well, here’s a newsflash – even though you think you are master of your destiny and have control, there are too many variables out there. So why worry about what could happen? Focus on the now!
A really helpful book for these sorts of issues was written by a psychologist named Edmund J. Bourne. According to his seminal work, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, when it comes to negative thoughts, there tend to be four personality trends – the worrier, the critic, the victim and the perfectionist.
How to win
Think about situations that plague you – gas prices are hurting your wallet, your relationship is rocky, your job isn’t your favorite place to be – and analyze your thought patterns. If you’re a worrier, you’ll want to concentrate on leaving your “what ifs” at the door. It’s good to be prepared for a worst-case scenario, but apart from that, your excessive hypotheticals don’t help anyone. If you’re overly self-critical (critic) – sure, you may have made bad decisions in your life, but there is no reason to tell yourself you suck. Try something more positive – it will lift your mood. For the “why me” people (victim), think about how much you accomplish when you feel hopeless, and then think about how easy it is to rise to an occasion when you have a positive outlook. Perfectionists – you’re not perfect. Your self-worth is not dependent on getting that “A.”
Now that you’ve done some analyzing, write out your most worrisome issues, and include details on what bothers you most. Next, write out alternative arguments.
Situation: “What if my career and relationship go into a tailspin, and I can’t do anything about it?”
Counter-argument: “I can breathe and take care of things one step at a time. Just because one thing looks difficult right now does not mean that all of my happiness will be in jeopardy.”
Writing things out and recognizing patterns are the first steps toward recovery. Affirmations will help calm you, and keep you moving toward a positive future. Some general ones you might want to try include:
I can learn to cope with this, and with any difficulty life will bring.
I will not feed worry – I choose peace over fear.
I am a person of integrity and purpose.
I am lovable and capable.
My feelings and needs are important.
I don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
And remember – to read more about eliminating those negative thoughts, check out The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook.
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