When was the last time you stopped and noticed your thoughts? What do you think about more often? What do you think about yourself when you make a small mistake? How do you treat yourself when you embarrass yourself in public? Do you let it go and realize that you’re just human and you’re bound to making silly mistakes and embarrassment at some point in your life or do you beat yourself up and think you’re just not good enough and an idiot to even have ended up in a situation like that?
Many of us, including myself, are victims of negative thinking. We often beat ourselves up for small errors and make it a big deal, we exaggerate our weaknesses so much that we actually end up believing that we’re not good enough, not strong enough and that we don’t deserve good things. And, why do we do this? You’d be surprised to know that we have no reason at all to do any of this. It’s just become a habit now, a bad, bad habit. A habit that is so addictive that once you become used to it, it doesn’t leave you alone. And it doesn’t make you feel good, does it? It makes you feel horrible and it makes you believe that good things aren’t meant for you. It makes you feel like someone else is always going to be better at something, so why should you even try? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there and I sometimes still go there. I’m not a self actualized human who is above all the negativity. I get trapped too. The last time I made myself feel bad for a tiny little mistake wasn’t that long ago.
A few months back, I was presenting a lesson on Stanford Binet Intelligence Tests in my class and I was covering the topic of Reliability and Validity. So, I said, “I hope we all know that the definition of Reliability is that the test measures what it is supposed to measure,” which was obviously incorrect and was the definition of Validity. At this point, everyone except for my friends and my teacher was laughing at me. I mean… how stupid was I? I did not even bother to check the definition before saying it out loud and I was so nervous that I ended up saying the opposite definition. After a few minutes, everyone calmed down and I finished explaining the entire standardization of the test quite well for someone who read it for the first time, the class came to an end. All my friends and other classmates told me that I was good and too cute, some told me I had a good sense of humor and they actually understood such a boring part of the chapter. But, me being me, I was upset about the goof up. I sulked for days and I thought I was so stupid and just the most embarrassing person to even be here. I thought I was no good and I shouldn’t have even taken the responsibility of teaching something in front the whole class. I completely ignored the fact that everyone else had forgotten about the incident and nobody ever brought it up again. I felt horrible and my confidence went down.
You see what I was doing? I was simply abusing myself for something so silly and small. I made myself feel so horrible and as if I’m worthless. I exaggerated a small event into a huge glorified mistake. This is abuse. Beating yourself up time and time again is abuse. I realized that. I realized that if someone else was doing this to me, if someone else treated me the way I treat myself and if they spoke to me the way I speak to myself, I’d have left them long back. You know you would have too. Or you would have wanted to leave them, at least. So why was I doing this to myself? What had I done to feel so negative about myself that I was out there to literally contradict any compliment anyone ever gave me? Why was I criticizing myself for no reason at all?
So I stopped. I stopped abusing myself, I stopped being ashamed of myself. I can’t say that I don’t give myself a hard time when I make mistakes, because I still do, but it is not as glorified as it used to be. I’m not as harsh as I used to be. The first thing I did was that I understood that thoughts are just thoughts and they have no power until you attach an emotion to it. So, whenever I used to get negative thoughts before, I’d attach a negative emotion of being helpless and feeling guilty. However, when I started treating my thoughts as just THOUGHTS, and nothing else, I let them go away easily. One way you can do this is by asking the thought its origin, its purpose, if the thought is really necessary, if the thought is 100% true… When you start doing this, you realize that the thought originated out of nowhere and it’s easy for it to just pass by. The thought, alone, has no power over you until you give it a meaning. When you start asking yourself these questions, you will realize that the original thought makes so sense and then you’re ready to let it go into space, forever. Another technique I used is by replacing a negative thought into a positive one. Or by re-framing the negative thought. For instance, if I have at thought about how I am so fat, I actively replace it by saying, “my body needs more exercise and I will get to my desired body soon,” and trust me, it works. It takes time but it is possible.
And, I am not stopping until I get there. I’m not stopping till I treat myself as I want others to treat me and I hope, I sincerely hope you get there as well.