Changing Your Mindset
Welcome back! Yesterday we learned about pleasing people and why it’s not good for us to do it. Today we’re looking at changing a negative mindset.
After making a mistake, do you tend to beat yourself up after it? Do you ruminate on it over and over? Negative thoughts are called cognitive distortions. And the thinking around these originated in the 1980s by Dr. David Burns.
They are also known as negative automatic thoughts (NATs). NATs can pace through our mind without us even noticing, and they can become involuntary.
When we’re in a negative mind frame, we tend to believe we are either a total success or a massive failure, with no in-between. We don’t see the things that go well, only the mistakes.
NATs are responsible for maintaining a negative mind frame. They create a negative default view of you. They distort our thinking and can be convincing and cause us to act in unhelpful ways.
We need to be much kinder to ourselves. When our thoughts sink into a negative downward spiral. Our brains become too scared of trying something new. So we go through our lives, feeling discontented and just going through the motions.
We also tend to overlook the positive. We can’t accept compliments or praise; we can’t handle it or own it. We make judgmental comments about ourselves, or we make fun of ourselves.
Familiar phrasing can include:
• “Oh, it was just luck.”
• “It was a team effort!”
• “Anyone could have done it.”
• “I was in the right place at the right time.”
Now, have you ever heard a man say this? Probably not, because they don’t tend to do this as often as us women. If you do a good job, you tell yourself it wasn’t perfect enough.
You make constant excuses for your success. Because at your inner core, you feel unworthy of your achievements. And, when you can’t acknowledge your success. When you can’t recognize your own value, worth, and achievements you know what happens?
It takes the happiness and passion and joy right out of your life. It makes you feel unfulfilled and unrecognized, unappreciated or undervalued. When we discount the positive, it makes us feel inadequate.
And, well it’s a very misleading way of viewing anything that you do. It distorts your reality. It is a cognitive distortion.
Are our mindsets permanent? Or can they be changed? They can be changed but with hard work and with lots of continuous practice. It’s essential to learn:
• Our feelings and emotions do not result from what happens in our lives. Our thoughts about what’s happening, or what might have happened trigger our emotions.
• Depression and anxiety can be caused by constant illogical and misleading thoughts. What you’re telling yourself is not true.
• When you change the way you think, you can change the way you feel.
You are not your thoughts. Stop believing your thoughts. Stop giving them power over you. Start learning to acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without attaching to them.
How Your Inner Critic Works
Imagine a mean and bullying cat is following you around everywhere shouting abuse at you:
• Why are you such an idiot?
• Why did you say that and make everyone look at you?
• Everyone else is much more stylish than you!
• Can’t you do anything, right?
Having to walk around listening to someone criticize you every minute of the day would start to make you feel low.
Unfortunately, many of us think that this is who we are. We believe our self-talk is a core part of our personality and identity. So we resign ourselves to it. This isn’t your truth. No matter how cynical and overbearing your inner critic may be. It’s possible to change it and train it to be less harmful.
But before we can begin to change our habit of negative self-talk. We need to get better at noticing it and becoming aware of it, including when it tends to pop up and what it tells you.
How to Track Your Self-Talk
To become more aware of your self-talk. You have to get it out of your head and down on paper or save notes on your phone.
• Anytime you catch your negative self-talk piping up, jot down exactly what it’s saying.
• Identify the emotions.
• Challenge your critic.
• Rewrite to a new and real thought.
• Repeat as often as possible.
Label your emotions: To develop more of an awareness of my thoughts and feelings. I find it helpful to recognize and name them: “I think that I might mess up that job interview.” Or, “This is the feeling of anxiety”.
Listen to and make a note of how you talk to yourself when something goes wrong. Spend a few days listening closely to your self-talk.
Are you supportive and kind to yourself? Are you critical or negative? Would you feel comfortable speaking to a loved one in the same way? Are there any common parts or themes repeated? Write down all of your frequent negative thoughts.
And then, think it through:
• Am I overreacting?
• Am I overgeneralizing?
• Is this an all-or-nothing thought?
• Is this good or bad?
• Black or white?
• How truthful and accurate is this thought?
Your task: Change the negative stories that your inner critic is feeding you. Write down any triggers to your thoughts and give each thought a rating regarding how strongly you believe it (0 being “not at all”, 10 being “completely”).
Find evidence to prove what your inner critic is saying is wrong. Is it an opinion or a fact?
In the next lesson, we’re going to learn how to say “no”.
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