The quality of our thoughts impacts not only how we behave and interact with the world, but how we see ourselves, and ultimately, what we believe we’re capable of. This is why it’s so important to identify, and work on, self-defeating thoughts, or deeply held beliefs and ideas that are inherently limiting.
It’s one thing to realize that you’re having a self-defeating thought. Most people are aware enough to recognize when they’re in a negative thought pattern. But what’s less easy is actually changing it. Here are a few ways to get started:
1. Imagine who you would be without your fear and doubt.
In Byron Katie’s The Work, she has a famous exercise in which she presents a series of questions for you to cross-check your emotions. The last of them is: Who would I be without this thought? Once you can imagine who and how you would be without it, you can start to act as if. Behave as if it weren’t an issue, as if you weren’t worried or insecure at all. Over time, you actually won’t be.
2. Stop confusing honesty for truth.
You can honestly feel something, but that doesn’t mean it is the truth. Honesty is transparency, it means expressing exactly what you are experiencing and perceiving. Truth is different, it’s objective. You can honestly feel like you’re failing in life, but in truth, you could be doing very well (save for your insecurities). Understanding the difference is crucial.
3. Do good even if you don’t feel great.
Most people want their feelings to be the catalyst of their actions. They believe that what they feel should determine what they do, instead of the other way around. The way to unwind an emotional spiral is to start doing what you need to do even if you don’t completely feel like it. Let your commitment to your long-term goals guide your daily actions, not impulse responses to your every whim and desire.
4. Replace “I can’t” with “I won’t.”
When you’re feeling particularly self-conscious, it’s easy to start thinking that you can’t do something, when in reality, it’s more the case that you probably just don’t want to, because it has the potential to make you super uncomfortable. Change your thinking, then. Replace “I can’t” thoughts with “I won’t.” Don’t let your fear eclipse your ability.
5. Replace “I have to” vs. “I get to.”
So often we take our lives for granted, failing to remember that what we have now is what we once only dreamed of. A great way to remind yourself of this is to replace the phrase “I have to” with “I get to.” Instead of: “I have to complete this project,” think: “I get to complete this project.” It will remind you that nothing in life is guaranteed, and will help stoke a feeling of gratitude, rather than overwhelm.
6. Remember that you are spotlighting yourself.
Nobody is thinking about you with as much frequency, scrutiny, and attention as you are. Nobody. How do we know that? Because they are all too busy spotlighting themselves. When you can humble yourself by reminding yourself of your insignificance, you can feel more at ease. Nobody is focusing on your life the way that you are, nor are they judging, nit-picking, or making assumptions about you the way you do in your head.
7. Work from the outside in.
Happiness is built from the inside out, but confidence is built from the outside in. It’s almost impossible to have true self-assurance without having gone out into the world and proved to yourself that you can, in fact, do what it is you want and need to do. Don’t just sit around trying to mantra and affirm your way into believing in yourself. Go out and get proof.