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How to Stop Negative Thoughts About Yourself

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Chrysaora

If you’re like most people you engage in negative self-talk quite a bit. In fact, it probably happens a whole lot more than you realize and causes a lot more limitations on your life than you want. The good news is that there is a key that will unlock this door. On the other side of that self-negativity door is a brighter, happier reality for you.

I started thinking about this subject when I recently listened to Pema Chodron’s audio program “Bodhisattva Mind,” (which I highly recommend. She is an amazing buddhist teacher with a light and humorous style.) In her program a student had a question for her that went something like “How is it that I can meditate for so long and still always wake up as my same shitty self.” Pema’s answer was to build compassion for one’s self, which is definitely the way to go. At the same time I felt there was more to it than that. Namely, what is at the root of the problem and how can we solve it?

The Source of Self-Loathing

The term “shitty self” made me think about the source of negative self-talk. I think self-critiquing comes from being in perpetual judging mode. In our culture, we are critical of everything. We are critical of others, both those we know and  those we don’t know personally.

We observe and hold judgment over people like President Obama (has he got enough done so far? why hasn’t he accomplished more?), Tiger Woods (who did he sleep with?), Jessica Simpson (did she gain weight?). We judge the person in line next to us who has a scowl on their face (why can’t you be in a good mood -[ironic huh?]). And in between judging others, we relentlessly judge and criticize ourself.

We are harsh in our thoughts and judgments of others and even more so with ourself. We get really good at it by doing it all the time. It becomes an unconscious habit we don’t even think about or realize we are doing. Consuming the daily news certainly strengthens our judging mode.

The problem is that nothing good comes of holding judgment over others. Gossip wastes time, ruins relationships, and fosters unhappiness. Constant judging of ourselves holds us back from our happiness and our greatness. So how do we turn off our critical mind?

Compassion as Antidote for Judging

When we are judging we are being harsh with others and with ourselves. The opposite of a harsh approach is a soft,  compassionate approach. Where do we begin to cultivate this new mindset of compassion as opposed to the impatient, critical, harsh, judging mind?

The first step is to imagine a time when you were kind to someone or someone was kind to you. Connect with the feelings involved. Perhaps you gave the gift of forgiveness for mistakes made. Maybe someone gave you unconditional acceptance with no need to be more or less than you are. How did that feel? Can you feel your heart soften and open when you imagine those moments? (close your eyes for a moment to capture the feeling)

How do we encourage a small child who becomes frustrated while trying to learn something. Are we harsh and judging? No. We offer kind encouraging words. Maybe we give hugs. We give the highest praise for the smallest bits of progress and effort. We give unconditional kindness and love. We don’t judge them harshly. We give them a wide berth for landing their ship successfully.

When we do this, what do we see? Positive results. We must do the same for others and for ourselves.

The next step is to have the intention to be kind, patient, accepting, and compassionate toward everyone in your life that day. This includes people you know and strangers, (yes, even bad drivers, in fact, especially bad drivers.) And it means you. Have the intention of being kind to yourself.

Start each day with this intention and find ways to remind yourself throughout the day. Combine it with something that you do daily such as brushing your teeth, meditating, or at mealtime. Set physical reminders to help you stay on track. Some ideas are:

  • a note on your mirror
  • daily electronic reminders
  • something that you can wear such as a bracelet or a pin
  • new picture on your cell phone that reminds you of your new daily intention

As you build this new habit watch the wonderful changes that happen in your life. The less you judge others, the less you will judge yourself. The more patience and kindness you give to others, the more you will give to yourself. When you can do that you will be empowered to reach your goals and live with happiness!

Wishing you peace and contentment on your journey!

Please Share your thought in the comments below.

Have you ever tried this? How has self-judging held you back? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

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35 Responses to How to Stop Negative Thoughts About Yourself

  1. Stellamary December 5, 2009 at 3:52 am #

    Whole heartedly I agree with you.we should treat others’ fealings like ours.They are also human with same anticipation and ignorance and sin with same percentage of us.The mistakes are the chances to manage the problem and also the way to give forgiveness and the getting it.The human nature is mistake making but the giving forgiveness make us the God proposes.nice thought which must be shared with others and change others.

  2. counselling manchester December 7, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    It is amazing how being part of a society effects the individual right down to how he or she talks to themselves. It is also worthwhile mentioning that parenting in our opinion is the MOST crucial factor in a persons development. What a child hears within those first two years will be the building blocks of that individual. You are no good. You are always messing things up. I hate you. This is where the damage begins.

    • agentsully December 7, 2009 at 10:34 pm #

      @counselling – Children are so vulnerable. I think anything we can do to help parents be the best they can be for their kids, the better. This is tough. How do we reach the people who need this kind of guidance the most?

  3. Gourmet Living December 9, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    You raise an excellent point. When you insult a child you write on the slate of who they are. Show that you value them and yourself.

  4. Ugis December 12, 2009 at 6:48 am #

    Totally agree with you. Fault-finding is a disaster. We are what we think about not what we think we are. So, good news – we know the problem. The bad news are if we want to change that situation it requires a hard and persistent work. It will not be enough to read some book or article. My advice – read, get, implement.
    Best regards,

    • agentsully December 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm #

      @Ugis – Thanks for all your comments here on LLT! Your blog looks great!

  5. tommy December 13, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    self negative thoughts definitely a bad habit. the source is the past and the environment, meditation is a good way to relaxation but i wonder can cure self negative thoughts.
    for me the only fastest way is change our environment or friends.

  6. Joseph Condron December 17, 2009 at 6:41 pm #

    It is a question of balance. You can’t just dismiss negative thoughts and judging people. They are a necessary function.

    We need some kind of system of evaluation. We need a source of constant feedback about our own performance and the validity of the information we receive from other people.

    A little negativity can challenge us to be greater, to become better, to come closer to our own high standards.

    The question therefore becomes about striking the right balance and when we should stop being critical of ourselves and others. When to embrace what is good about us as human beings we excel.

    I liked your reading your post and a agree that too much analyses can become paralysis.

    • agentsully December 31, 2009 at 6:08 pm #

      @Joseph – what an incredibly insightful comment! I think you are so right! Judging is necessary in life, and I guess the real problem is striking a balance between judgment and compassion. I think as necessary as judgment is, by far, it gets more use versus compassion.

      I think that’s why I was so focused on the idea of developing compassion in my article. It’s not in our “go-to” bag of habits. It’s something we all need to learn, especially me!

      Thank you again for your wise contribution!

  7. Security Camera System January 1, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    I think having a strong support network really helps you cope with negative thoughts. It is so important to focus on the good in every person and overlook their not so positive traits. Easier said than done but definitely possible especially when you realize that nobody is perfect.

  8. carpet cleaner in Bakersfield January 4, 2010 at 11:24 am #

    negative thoughts is a slow, try to avoid this at any cost.

  9. Red Yeast Rice January 19, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    What an amazing article, I have been feeling a bit negative this month..just what I needed! If everyone followed this, world would be a very happy place….

  10. Harris February 9, 2010 at 2:14 am #

    You raised my confidence. I too always negative but this post is valuable for the negative thinker.

  11. Telecom Plus February 13, 2010 at 4:14 am #

    Good post…a great source of inspiration…overcomes negative feelings. Do good to others, so that you are remembered even when you are gone…that’s my policy

  12. Elke February 23, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading this. Recently I have been laid off. This is going to sound crazy but I couldnt be happier. When a door closes another one opens to a much better chapter in my life. Where I was working there was alot of negativity floating around although I tried my best to stay positive but at times it became difficult. There were times I really picked up on some of my coworkers energy and they didnt even have to say anything. Thankyou for this nice article

    • AgentSully December 19, 2010 at 11:38 pm #

      @Elke – sorry for the late reply! Thank you for commenting. I hope things are going well for you! I’m sure that you will land on your feet with your positive approach!!

  13. Jarrod@ Optimistic Journey March 18, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    I always say negative thoughts are like poison to our mind. You made a great point when you mentioned that we wouldn’t judge or criticize a kid when he is learning something new. If we do criticize children and make them feel like nobody’s we kill their hopes and dreams. Yet we are doing this to ourselves on a subconscious level everyday. This post is a great reminder of how important it is that we eliminate negative thoughts. Great post!!

    • agentsully March 22, 2010 at 11:32 am #

      Jarrod thanks for your kind support!

  14. TESOL Training April 29, 2010 at 4:48 am #

    Very good article about positive thinking. It will definitely overcome the negative feeling from one’s mind. It is a source of inspiration.

  15. Thorn May 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    I thin it also helps to almost ignore negative thoughts and portray a positive open character. When you act like someone positive and confident. You tend to quickly take on those characteristics for real.

  16. Used Vehicles September 9, 2010 at 4:54 am #

    I like your site. Yes! thought your post is a thought-provoker! Thanks.

  17. Structured Water September 16, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    Great source of motivation, negative thoughts is a slow cause of death, we all should try to avoid this problem at any cost.

  18. Get My Ex Back October 21, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

    It’s hard to stop negative thoughts. I have noticed that diet and sleep can have a huge effect on our thoughts. For example, when I eat a lot of alkaline type foods my thoughts seem to be much more positive.

  19. Greg October 27, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    Great article… I hope you write more!

  20. Astral Projection November 19, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    This was a good article. It is so hard to change negative thinking until you change your core beliefs. Think and Grow Rich was very helpful in this.

  21. Blender lover December 1, 2010 at 9:36 pm #

    I second the idea that diet and sleep can have a huge impact on ones life. I am going to also include excercise. Also, when you are talking about replacing negative thoughts or habit patterns it’s good to remember that you need to replace them with positive things. This always works for me. And you have to be diligent with fighting those thoughts.

  22. continuing education insurance credits December 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    Admiring the commitment you put into your blog and detailed information you present. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  23. FOO LAIHIN January 6, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    To attracts good in life always doubt the bad things
    how to doubt it example might or it might not

  24. counselling in south manchester July 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    I think negative self talk is one of the biggest factors that hold people back. If we can learn to appreciate that we are not our thoughts and separate ourselves then this is a fist step to moving away from negativity and achieving our dreams.

  25. Moira John August 5, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    it is very nice post.Great article… I hope you write more!

  26. Russ May 1, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    The topic title is “stopping hegative thoughts about yourself” but the article (and comments) seem to be centered on negative thoughts dealing with others. I divorced (not my choice) after 37 years of marriage.
    I have now been alone (really alone) for 6 years. The loneliness and guilt is eating away at me and there afre many days in which I just want to die. Therapy and meds don’t seem to be helping me much. Have kept 2 five year old messages from my wife on my answering machine just so I can play and hear her voice when I’m in the depths of despression. Have no friends, no job, no money. Feel like the world would be better off without me. HELP!

    • AgentSully May 1, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

      Russ – as I mentioned in reply to your comment on the “sleep” post, it is so important to reach out to others for help. Divorce causes a grieving process. Allow yourself to go through that and at the same time allow yourself to move forward with new things in life. Letting go is difficult. Instead try focusing on doing one thing each day to renew life. You can get to the other side of this. Seek out help from groups in your local area. Wishing you peace that will build each day.


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