We’ve all heard that little voice in our heads who says the meanest things.
You’ll never get that high paying job.
You’ll never find your soulmate.
You aren’t a good enough singer to go to karaoke night.
You are so fat.
It’s too easy to assume that she is telling you what everyone else is thinking. That she speaks the truth when she slams your weaknesses and minimizes your strengths. You’ll never be good enough for that voice.
The voice tells you that you either aren’t enough, you’re too much, you can’t do or you can’t have something because of your inherent unworthiness. She goes by lots of names, but here we will call her limiting beliefs.
And while it is important for you to not beat yourself up yet again because you are having negative thoughts and limiting beliefs (the irony), there are some tactics you can try to get the upper hand.
Accept that the negative thoughts are happening.
It sounds so simple but it is hard to separate yourself from the negative thoughts and limiting beliefs if you don’t recognize that you’re listening to this voice the whole time. If you recognize when you are being fed these lies, then it’s easier to separate yourself from them.
Is this really, 100% true?
Be serious. Is it really true that you’re stupid, fat, lazy, good for nothing, or that you always fail? Chances are that those statements aren’t true. Yeah, you can always do better, but I can guarantee that if you are reading this, you aren’t a complete failure.
Is it really this black and white?
This is related to the point above. Notice how a lot of the examples of limiting beliefs above are black and white thinking? They either are or they aren’t. You’re 100% in or not. But the thing is that life is never that way. We live in a world of shades of gray, baby, and you should embrace it!
Are you catastrophizing?
This is when you believe that the world. will. end. if you fail or even try to do something. You believe that failure will bring death. Every action has high stakes beyond what they should be. I’ve been realizing that most things in life have lower stakes than I treat them as. I know that I have an enormous amount of privilege, however if you are lacking the basic safety nets that ensures that at the end of the day you will be okay, then a more productive discussion would be on the institutionalized poverty or systems of oppression that your life is being controlled by.
Is this really your job?
Is it your job to make sure that everyone approves of your choices? Is it your job to dress a certain way for the people in your life? Is it your job to live for someone else?
No. No, it is not your job. You’re job is to self-actualize.
Self-actualization may sound familiar to you because it’s the pinnacle of Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs. Psychologist Joaquín Selva writing for positivepsychology.com describes self-actualization as “the full realization of one’s creative, intellectual, and social potential through internal drive (versus for external rewards like money, status, or power)”.
Would you say this to your friend?
If it isn’t okay for you to verbalize the things you are saying to your friend, then the voice in your head shouldn’t say it to you. And if these comments aren’t true about your friend, I can almost guarantee that they aren’t true about you either. We generally become close to the people that we respect and have commonalities with.
Try writing it down. How would you respond?
Seeing words written out on paper or in a word doc can take them out of the emotion and into the light. Suddenly, words that seem so devastating in your head lose their impact. Hopefully, they seem as laughable as they truly should be to you. Chances are, these words could hardly ever be true for anyone, let alone you.
Why do you think you feel this way? What purpose has it served? Is there an alternative to meeting that need?
There’s probably a reason why you have given the voice credence. Perhaps the mean voice calling you fat helped you stick through the diet and exercise regime that got you to your goal weight. That’s all well and good, but is there a kinder alternative that boosts your self esteem instead of beating yourself up? Perhaps focus on how these healthy foods will boost your energy and the extra energy will make your girl’s weekend way more fun. Or think about how healthy foods boost your immune system and you are going to be strong and healthy through the next cold season, or just life in the COVID-19 world.
This is not a quick fix. Fighting negative self talk and limiting beliefs is a lifelong battle. You will evolve throughout your life and have many variations of negative thoughts. However, I hope having the skills and coping mechanisms for understanding and changing those mean thoughts can help you no matter where in life you find yourself.