Lindsey Sharratt offers sound advice for overcoming negative beliefs.
Do you constantly feel bad about yourself? It’s more common than you might think.
People keep telling you to think more positively, but you can’t keep it up. Doubts creep in all the time. Whatever it is that others might see in you, you can’t see it yourself. Perhaps they’re just being kind, you think.
You wonder if everything that goes wrong is your own fault – maybe you somehow attracted the bad luck?
You feel like it’s not worth putting in the effort, because nothing is going to change.
Control over life is something that other people have. Happiness is that elusive state you’d really like to get to, if you only knew how.
Depression, loneliness and frustration are always looming, waiting to strike the next time something goes wrong. And you know that when it does, it will probably be your own fault.
Changing negative self-beliefs isn’t easy – if it was, you’d already have done it – but it’s doable. Honestly. You just need to understand how it works. And to realise that sometimes, the well-meaning advice you’re getting isn’t helping at all.
Why Memory is Flawed
When we’re looking for examples of our failings, we often reference memory. We can all think of many times that we messed up. The thing is, memory isn’t an accurate record, like a video recording. Memories are filtered by how we think about ourselves.
Psychology has proved we remember things that line up with our self-concept, and filter out those that don’t. So if you have a lot of negative self-beliefs, it’s like watching a movie with all the happy bits edited out.
Make a conscious effort to program in the good things you achieve, and to remember the positive moments from the past. The more you can code in there, the more you’ll overwrite your negative beliefs, and the slideshow of your life will become more balanced.
Why Does Failure Feel Bad?
No failure, only feedback, right? That’s what people keep saying when you relate all the times you failed.
You might be wondering, if that’s the case, why the “feedback” feels bad.
Well, because it does! However positive a slant you put on the learning experience, the actual emotion that you felt at the time was negative.
The truth is, we all mess up, and we’re all going to have events in our lives that we don’t feel great about. The trick is to separate the learning experience from the emotion. And to remind yourself that there is a big difference between failing at something, and being a “failure”.
Trying to switch a negative emotion directly into a positive emotion just doesn’t work.
Don’t Adults Always Do the Best They Can?
If you had bad experiences in childhood, with a parent, teacher, or other adult, you may be carrying around a load of self-blame. After all, adults always do the best they can, right?
Firstly, adults may do the best they can, but only with what they have. They can’t give you what isn’t in them, and some adults can act in ways that cause negative self-belief in children. Secondly, they may be doing the best they can, but not necessarily for you. All humans have their own goals and needs, and these may not always support your needs as a child.
The problem is, children are taught to learn from adults as authority figures, so negative self-beliefs you took in as a child can be ingrained. Now you’re grown up, you know that adults are not infallible. You get the choice to challenge the things people told you when you were young and impressionable – and reject the ones that are harming your self-belief.
They did it … why can’t I?
You may be advised to see the examples of other people’s successes as an inspiration for your own. If your self-esteem is low, you’re more likely to take it as evidence of your own inferiority.
The truth is, you’re not them. We’re all individuals. What worked for them may not work for you – and vice versa! And measuring your success against someone else’s – even with the positive aim of giving yourself hope – may not be helpful.
Focus on your own goals and abilities. There is a positive message in the other person’s success for you, but it’s not the one you’re looking for. What it proves is that people have the ability to keep going through challenges if they are determined to do it.
You Just Need to Think More Positively!
Right – as if you can just flip a switch and go into happy mode.
Thinking is a complex process, involving neurochemistry, biology, learned thought process and social environment. And the simple truth is that everyone thinks differently.
You need to understand how you think, and make that work for you.
Some people are capable of finding the positive in any situation, and if you’re not one of them, that’s ok. But that doesn’t mean that you automatically have to go for the doom and gloom scenario.
Adopting a more strategic way of thinking can be the first step to breaking the negativity habit. Try asking yourself, what could I do to change that? What choices do I have? Because if you’re not looking for your options, you’re not going to find them.
Overcoming negative self-beliefs is one of the biggest challenges that I see people facing. It may be the toughest barrier between you and achieving what you want from life.
The good news is that it’s not unbeatable.
Negative beliefs are just that – beliefs. They’re not facts. They’re not set in stone. And you have the ability to alter them.
Start questioning the beliefs that are holding you back. Look for the things you can challenge, and the things you can change. And start taking that wall down, one brick at a time.