Research indicates that we talk to ourselves roughly 50,000 times throughout the day….and it is estimated that 80% of what we say is negative!
And do you know what all those thoughts are doing to us – mentally, emotionally and physically?
Our thoughts have the ability to destroy our self-esteem, ruin our relationships, sabotage our careers, weaken our bodies and literally KILL us! Yes, you read that right – our thoughts can kill us!
Our thoughts can alter the chemistry in our bodies, speed our heart rate, raise our blood pressure, alter our breathing rate, create muscle tension and change our temperature. Our thoughts affect every cell in our bodies!
Dis-ease in our minds causes disease in our bodies.
There are many different ways we attack ourselves:
1. Generalized Thinking Traps
Whenever you use words like “always”, “never”, “everything”, “no one”, and “every time” you rob yourself of the possibility that things could turn out better than expected! In reality, black and white is extremely rare. In my old world as an IT manager, we had a saying – “there’s always an exception” and it’s so true! Even when there are “hard and fast” rules, someone comes along and has them overthrown! It’s important to allow yourself and others the opportunity to come through, to rise above, to overcome the challenge, to be available, to change attitudes. You may be surprised how often things start going your way!
2. Seeing Things Through a Negative Lens
I will often be talking to clients or friends who will be quick to point out all of the “terrible” things that have happened to them recently. However, after a little conversation, they had so many good things occur – usually they far outweigh the bad – but they aren’t in the habit of noticing them. When I point them out, I usually hear things like “I never thought about that” and “yeah, I guess you’re right!”
Now, when someone starts telling me about all of the things that are going wrong, I begin asking them about what went right. “What’s the best thing that happened today?” is one of my favorite questions! It doesn’t take long for them to notice how much good is around them! With a little time and commitment, it is possible to swap out that negative lens with one that makes the world a much more enjoyable place to be!
3. Worst Case Scenario Planning
Have you ever had to speak in front of an audience, present to the board of directors or get up on the roof of a tall building? What makes these things so hard? We’re imagining the absolute worst outcome! What if I trip and fall, forget what I want to say, or people ask questions I can’t answer? What if my laptop doesn’t work or they hate my presentation and fire me? Just one wrong step and I’ll fall to my death! These are all fears grounded in the fantasies playing out in our minds! Many times there is no basis for these fears and if there is, it was most likely one particular circumstance years in the past! Don’t be a character in your own drama or horror flick!
4. Psychic Assumptions
Unless you truly are psychic, we have no idea what is going through the mind of another at any given moment…..and yet, most of us make assumptions based on our fears, their facial expressions, their body language, some rumor that’s going around or some other unfounded method of interpretation. We have no idea what they’re dealing with at home, what has happened thus far today or what they were thinking about when we interrupted their concentration. Do you really know he’s mad at you? Was that attitude you sensed really irritation with you or could she have been upset about something completely unrelated to your question? It takes only a moment to verify what they’re really thinking and if done in a thoughtful and considerate way rather than being accusatory, you may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome!
5. Using Yourself as a Punching Bag
It’s easy to get into the habit of thinking we “should” or “shouldn’t” do certain things…and when we don’t do what we think we should or shouldn’t do, we beat ourselves up with guilt. How many things do you really “have” to do? When someone else tells you that you “have” to do something, what is your gut reaction? The feeling that you “have” to do something immediately creates an internal resistance to getting it done.
So, we tell ourselves we “have to” spend more time working on our home improvement project, which creates the resistance preventing us from doing it. Then, we think we “should have” worked on it and then beat ourselves up over not doing it! It’s a never-ending cycle!
We can make a conscious effort to replace “have to” and “should” with “want to” because that’s really what it is, isn’t it? And if we “want to” we can either decide to do it or decide it’s no longer important to us…..no guilt necessary.
6. Judgement Labels
At some point in our lives, it’s very possible that someone told us something about ourselves that we took to heart….and now, we carry that judgement around with us….and it becomes our judgement. Another possibility is that we were programmed about the “shoulds” in life and when we don’t adhere to the rules others have laid down before us, we judge ourselves. We tell ourselves things like “I’m stupid”, “I’m irresponsible”, “I’m a jerk”, and “I’m worthless.” It’s so tragic! The next time you say something like this to yourself, take a moment to consider where this judgement of yourself originated.
7. Personal Presumptions
This is a classic relationship killer! When he doesn’t call you within the first day of your first date, what do you start thinking? “He had a terrible time. He doesn’t like me. He’ll never ask me out again.” Have you ever heard people whispering behind you and you immediately assume they’re talking about you?
I used to do this ALL the time….until I realized something: I’m just not that important! (And in this case, that’s a GOOD thing!) What made me think I was so important that other people had nothing better to talk about than me? Most people are so worried about what you are thinking of them they don’t have time to talk about you!
When you catch yourself taking a deep dive in the personal pit of despair because of a little silence, take some time to consider what else could be going on than the story you’re writing in your head.
Stay tuned for my next post when I’ll talk about how to begin to release the negative programming that causes this “stinkin’ thinkin'” to perpetuate.