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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