One night, my friend broke down in tears after waiting for a date that never showed up. After a lifetime of being her own worst enemy, her negative thoughts took over.
“I have a greasy face.”
“No one will ever love me.”
She cried for an hour and revealed negative thoughts she had maintained her entire life. I was in shock from this revelation. I look at this girl and see someone who also has flawless makeup, cute clothes, and is fun to be around. She doesn’t see anything like that when she looks in the mirror. All she can see are imperfections.
This made me wonder, why do people hurt themselves like this in the first place? And is it possible to change our thinking?
I used to have a huge issue with self-deprecation, and I still have to catch these thoughts all the time. To be honest, for the longest time, I didn’t even know I was doing it. I had no idea what self-deprecation was. I’d never even heard of it.
Self-deprecation is “belittling or undervaluing oneself,” according to dictionary.com. This includes being excessively modest.
To be humble, I thought I had to reject every compliment given me. I would, and people always said I was so humble. That meant I was doing something right. Right? When I rejected the compliments, though, I was telling myself that I couldn’t possibly be that sweet or well-dressed or whatever the compliment was. That seeped into my living. Growing up, I didn’t have much of a problem with my self-esteem, but after years of undervaluing myself, doubt and fear started to grow. Did people actually like me, or were they just saying that to be polite?
When I was living in Salt Lake, I went through a lot of really hard times. I was serving as a missionary for my church, and I felt that I wasn’t making a difference. A lot of trials piled up on each other, and one day I broke down in tears in front of my leader. He soothed my hurting heart with his words, gave me some advice, and encouraged me to pay attention to the negative thoughts I had. I followed his advice.
I started paying attention to my thoughts. I noted when I had negative thoughts, and I began replacing them with positive ones. I had tried this before and it had never worked. However, I discovered that if I took 5 minutes to find five things that I really and truly loved about myself, I could believe those thoughts. Before, I had tried to believe things that may have been true, but I didn’t believe in the slightest. For me, two attributes I came up with that I loved were my eyes and my personality. When I had negative thoughts like, “your thighs are monstrous,” I would think, “but my eyes are beautiful” or “I have a great sense of humor.”
Slowly, I rewrote my thinking. My negative thoughts lessened and my esteem increased. I began believing that I had worth and that people loved me. Since that time, I am very conscious of my thoughts. I let honest critiques in, but not hurtful lies. I haven’t had problems with my esteem to that degree since I began rewriting my thinking. This didn’t happen overnight, though. It took me about six weeks before I started to see myself really change. It won’t be easy, but I promise it will be worth it.
Some people think they can’t change. They think they’ve gone too far and had negative thoughts too long. Don’t think that! I’m here to tell you that this negative thinking can stop! I promise it can. But you have to take the first step. It most definitely will not be easy. I can guarantee that too. But it will be so worth it.
Begin today. Here is your challenge:
- Take five minutes to think of any negatives thoughts that have crossed your mind in the last 24 hours. This might be a long list. That’s okay. That just means there is a lot of room for potential.
- Now, close your eyes and imagine what your life will be like when you only have positive thoughts about yourself. How will you feel about yourself? Take a few minutes to write this vision down in a journal or other place. Just make sure you will be able to refer back to it often.
- What are your 5 best attributes? It may take a few minutes to think of some. That’s totally fine. Take the time to make sure they are attributes you are truly grateful for.
- This is the long part. Throughout your day, pay attention to negative thoughts you have. When you have one, pause. Think of one or two things you love about yourself. This might be from the list above. As you continue, your list will expand.
- At the end of each day, record your thoughts. Be sure to look back at past entries each day to give yourself more motivation.
There is no need to continue beating yourself up. Notice your negative thoughts. Acknowledge them and face them head on. Squash them with two positive thoughts that you genuinely believe. Maybe you think you’re fat, but you actually really love your long hair. Tell yourself that. Maybe you have a killer sense of humor. Acknowledge that.
Remember, like everyone else on the earth, you are a work in progress. Take control of your thoughts and rewrite your thinking.