Young children do not appear to experience self-dislike. As we mature, however, we learn to over-think. We judge, compare, criticize, worry, blame, and obsess about faults. We want what we don’t have, and we forget to appreciate what we do have.
We lose patience with ourselves and others, and don’t accept things as they are. As we lose self-compassion, we also lose our compassion for others. As adults we often become highly judgmental, and may even prize judgment, confusing it with the quality of discernment.
I find that it’s easy to become overly critical, especially of ourselves. We need to pay attention to this. Because when we apply a negative eye to ourselves, it erodes our sense of intrinsic value and self worth. Unreasonably negative thoughts intrude into our minds forming a stream of background chatter that drowns out appreciation and enjoyment.
Getting Rid of Negativity
Without doubt, one’s own critical nature eats away at self confidence more than any outside judgment, mistake or failure. Over-active negative mind chatter can cause us to react defensively in neutral situations.
Many of these habits of thinking are learned and can be unlearned. Forget about blaming parents, teachers, and people who didn’t like us when we were growing up. No matter what happened to us or how we ended up with negative reactions, we can learn to disconnect from harmful automatic thoughts.
We can replace negative thoughts with positive ones that will make us more effective, happier, and self-confident. Ultimately we are responsible for the thoughts we choose. We can’t control many things in life, but we can control our thoughts.
Here are a few of the distortions that show up in negative mind chatter:
We lose confidence when we apply negative thinking to ourselves or other people. No one escapes these intrusive thought patterns. The key is to become aware of them. Once we catch ourselves engaging in automatic distortions, we can re-think, reframe, and revise our thoughts.
For example, we might be thinking, “I can’t possibly get this done in time. I’m too slow in the mornings. My brain doesn’t work that way.”
We can reframe the self-talk like this: “I don’t like having to work in a hurry, especially so early. I’m not sure I can finish, but at least I can start. Maybe my brain will wake up after a few stabs at it.”
By acknowledging the reality, we avoid catastrophizing and assuming, and we agree to do what is possible by starting.
When we look at what we can do, instead of what’s wrong, we give ourselves a chance to succeed and grow from the experience. When we guard against distortions and negativity, our confidence grows instead of withers. Our minds start to acquire more positive thinking habits. We set ourselves up for success and build self-confidence.
What has been your experience? Have you caught yourself with one of these negative distortions? Does this make sense to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. As always, I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.