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Recent Letter to the ElderWisdomCircle™

SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Help Me Stop the Negative Thoughts
Letter #: 400833
Category: Self-Improvement

Original Letter

I really want to be more positive with myself daily but it never works. I don't have any confidence whatsoever, in school, my body image, my personality, my singing voice etc. I'm guessing I second guess myself all the time because I always try to give myself advice and so does my mother but I just don't listen because it's like I know it's not going to work and I won't improve.

I overthink absolutely everything and I just need help, I compare myself to others almost 24/7. I feel like a weight on my body as if it's like a positive barrier and I feel weak, I feel this sensation mostly on my arms and back, I lost my strength. Please, this has happened for too long and it has completely taken away my happiness and my will to live.

Elder Response

Your situation is not an unusual one, Kayleese. The bad news is, it's extremely uncomfortable. The good news: it's fix-able.

Before you go about taking more steps to help yourself, though, you should definitely check with your doctor. The thoughts and feelings you describe could be symptoms of a physically-based depression. If that's the case, you need medication to re-balance the chemistry of your nervous system. No big deal; just like taking any other sort of medicine to deal with something your body needs help with.

Once that's done, here's what I suggest:

First, sit down with a cup of tea or a coke, all by yourself, and ask yourself a serious question: do I FOR SURE want to change how I think and feel about myself? This isn't as silly as it sounds, so don't just dismiss it with an immediate "of course I do." Think about what would change if you no longer entertained those negative thoughts. How would your relationships change? Your attitude toward school or work? The way you spend your time? Whenever we make a profound change in ourselves, no matter how desirable, there is always a cost. What would be the cost to you of feeling and thinking differently about yourself? Are you sure it would be worth it?

If your answer is "yes, I definitely want to change, no matter what it costs or how difficult it is," then the next step is to put that in the form of a decision: "I am going to do whatever it takes to make myself think and feel better about me."

Then, make a list of what you would rather be thinking, instead of the negative things you tell yourself now. Why? Because it's almost impossible to "stop" doing something. What is possible is to replace the thing you don't want with something you do want. So, for instance, just trying to stop telling yourself "I can't sing worth a darn" is very, very hard. But you can, every time you catch yourself thinking that thought, switch to "My voice is good, and it's getting better." You may not believe the new self-talk, but you can still say it. Having a list of desirable thoughts, all ready to go, gives you ammunition for your battle against negativity.

So, every single time a negative thought pops up, stop, give yourself a mental compliment for recognizing it, and then tell yourself one of the things on the list. You almost for sure won't believe the new thing, and that's okay. There's a part of you, deep down in the unconscious part of your brain, that will hear and respond to what you're saying. Say it out loud if you're alone; focus your thoughts on the words and what they mean if you're around other people.

There will be several benefits from this practice, though you won't notice them for a few weeks or so. First, you will know that you are doing something to get better -- you're not just a helpless victim of your emotions. That alone will add to your sense of self-confidence. Second, the new thoughts will gradually become a part of your mental vocabulary. They'll become more familiar. And as that happens, you will actually begin to believe them. You'll find them more reasonable than the old lies you've been telling yourself. And your emotions will follow your thoughts: as you begin to be able to see yourself as you actually are, the sadness and pain will begin to fade.

Kayleese, this may sound so simple that it's actually silly. Let me warn you: sticking to this program is simple, but it's not easy. You'll probably find yourself thinking "this is so dumb, and it's never going to make any difference." (That's another bit of negative self-talk that needs to be recognized and replaced.) You'll get discouraged, you'll get tired of the whole thing. It will take determination, and stubbornly sticking with that decision, to break the negative thoughts habit. Probably, right at the top of your list of desirable thoughts/feelings, should be "I can do this."

And you can, my dear. It won't happen overnight, and you will have to make a conscious effort to keep up the replacement process even when you find yourself backsliding. But it is do-able, and hundreds of people have done it and have changed their lives. I hope you'll be one of them, because you certainly deserve to live a better life than the one you have described to me.

So good luck, and hang in there -- and I hope you'll write back and let me know how you're doing. I'll be thinking of you, and sending you all the good vibes I can --

Best Regards,

GranJan


    

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