We get used to saying no. “No, I can’t have this.” “No that can’t be done.” “No that won’t happen.” Sometimes we get so used to saying it, that it starts to creep into our dreams, hopes, and opportunities to grow. Then suddenly you’re saying “No, I can’t be normal.” “No, I can’t do that.” “No, ’cause why bother?”
This is your inner monster. The beast inside of you that has nothing better to do than second-guess your every move. And this beast likes rewards, feed it money, food, alcohol, the end of the workday. It’s happy to eat that up, and be quiet for a while. Until you do something it doesn’t like, you do something that is new, unfamiliar, risky, personal, or important to you. And then it’s there, telling you how and why it cannot be done.
The simplest way to control these negative thoughts is to acknowledge them. Acknowledge and explore what anxiety they stem from. Then tell them off. It’s a bit goofy, but simply say to your beast: “That’s nice, we’ll see.” Then continue on doing whatever awesome thing you want to do.
What if that doesn’t work? Maybe these thoughts just keep intruding, here are some more tips for managing negative thoughts.
Self-doubt often stems from how we have learned to react to a given situation. The brain is a funny thing that way, it loves to copy. You look at someone doing something, think about something, remember something, feel something, it wants to fire the same neurons and “reinforce” those thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, what this means is that it takes time and willpower to override your natural programming.
Tip 1: Be an Active Thinker
Find a way to focus. Find a quiet place. Even though it’s hard (Trust me, I know!), face your thoughts and be alone with them. Think through them, understand their basis, and their logic. Get comfortable with them, try to focus on your breathing if they get too overwhelming.
Apply these techniques to challenges and struggles in your life. When you’re mad at someone or something, think it through. Be willing to accept that you might be in the wrong. It’s hard, but everyone is wrong sometimes. We’re all guilty of lashing out, being mean, giving in to our “dark side.” Talk to yourself, conversational open-ended questions like “What are they feeling about this problem? What is their perspective?” help to keep you from viewing problems in a confrontational light.
Tip 2: Self-Talk to Yourself
Don’t give in to negative thoughts. Counter irrational thoughts, with facts and encouragement. Change your inner dialogue. “I am good enough, I can accomplish things.” “All I have to do is keep at it, and I can solve this problem.” It’s corny, but it helps replace irrational thoughts. Worry and concern are normal. Hating everything you do isn’t.
Tip 3: Build your Self-Esteem
Think about what you’ve accomplished. Not just the big stuff! Little things, it’s easy to forget how much you do. Just getting yourself ready in the morning is an accomplishment! It doesn’t feel like it because you’re used to it, but it’d be easy to be lazy.
Separate what you do, from what you are. Don’t let your job, your hobbies, or anything external be a pillar of your self esteem. The only thing that justifies your worth and existence is how you think. Your job, your health, your looks, all temporary. Positive thoughts, kindness, and compassion can have effects that last a lifetime. Plus, it’s free and easy to get started!
Tip 4: Side-Step your Willpower
Sometimes the hardest part of changing yourself is actually taking the first step to do it. I find that I get bogged down in all the “whys” of a problem. My mind throws up reasons why I shouldn’t bother. What I’ve found helps is to make a checklist and set out to accomplish a few concrete things per day. Then let it go, don’t think about it, when you’re ready, get started, try to accomplish your goal and check it off on the list. For this to work, your checklist needs to be very specific, e.g. “Exercise for Five Minutes using Youtube Video.”
Now this is all good, but I’m sure if you’re like me, you have been through this before. “It’s easy to say just make a list.” Well, it isn’t, even I still procrastinate. I used to guilt myself over not sticking to my goals. However, that doesn’t work, guilt is a terrible motivator. This is just self-doubt telling you you’re not good enough again. Accept that everyone procrastinates and don’t be guilty about it. Trust me, beating yourself up is not nearly as good a motivator as feeling confident and energized.
Just do a few things per day, it quickly adds up. Before you know you’ll have done all sorts of great things!
Quick final tip: Get started when you’re most energized. Whatever time of day you feel the most motivated and energized, try to find some way to do something good for yourself at that time.
Ready to conquer that inner monster now? Think of what good thing you can do right now! Doesn’t have to be big, just something. Do it! Maybe share what you did in the comments below? The first step is the most important one!
Zachary Richey is a web development professional living in rural Virginia. His goal, with Help, Not Motivation is to share his perspectives & the struggles/stories of others. The idea is to show that there’s nothing easy or sometimes even fun about doing good and great things.