We are all guilty of being overly critical, demeaning, and simply unkind to ourselves. Whether we’re shaming ourselves for gaining a couple pounds, pouting in the mirror for having messy hair, or literally telling ourselves that we’re not good enough. The time is now to crush that superego, stop those harmful thoughts, and ultimately be kinder to ourselves—and Dr. Fran Walfish, leading couples relationship and family psychologist, is here to help.
Say “I Object!” to Your Self-Judge
“It is important to note that most signs that you are uncomfortable in your own skin are felt within and not necessarily observable signs on the outside,” Dr. Fran explains. “For instance, a young girl might discount, diminish, or even feel contempt and self-hatred toward her body. Additionally, some signs you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin may include resistance to socializing, isolation, obsessive negative thoughts about your appearance, likeability, and fear of rejection.
The best personal (and professional) mantra I use to combat negative thinking is the reminder that the trigger issue is temporary. Dealing with anxiety provoking daily issues can be challenging. Life always throws us a curveball with relationship and work-letdowns and disappointments. Another crucial tool and life skill is developing thinking neutrality, which is much easier said than done. What is required is reestablishing a more benign self-observing conscience, or self-judge. The psychology clinical term is superego. Some people are raised by a harshly critical mother, father, or both. When this occurs, the individual may take in, or introject, a harsh superego. This means the person may be extremely hard on themselves, self-judging, and self-critical. It may be in the area of body image, intelligence, competence, attractiveness, or any area of self-functioning.
Either way, it’s nearly impossible to go from harshly self-critical to super positive. The first goal is to become a benign self-observer. This is achieved by becoming more self-aware and noticing each time you think or feel a self-putdown. You should simply think a gentle shrug-of-the-shoulders comment such as a tender, ‘There I go again… thinking critical thoughts!’ Observe without judgment. This is the first giant step toward changing and adopting positive thinking.”
Challenge Negative Thinking: 10 Simple Actions
Here are the next 10 steps Dr. Fran says you should take to challenge your negative thinking patterns and adopt more positive thinking:
- “Acknowledge that you are unsure.” Instead of ignoring your anxiety or negative thinking, accept and try to understand it! Oftentimes, we try to avoid these negative feelings, but the key to overcoming them is truly feeling and accepting them.
- “Partner by talking with a non-judgmental, supportive, understanding person.” We underestimate the power of talking to a trusted friend or family member. Simply getting your feelings out into the open helps immensely! Plus, they can offer insight and help you to identify reality.
- “Know that you will have successes and failures.” You have to accept that failure is a part of life. Sure, it isn’t fun, but the downs help us appreciate the good!
- “Expect your anxiety to temporarily rise as you take risks in decision making and moving forward.” It’s important you engage in constant forward motion, in that you’re constantly working towards goals and moving forward with your life. However, you must know that this won’t be an easy process; it may come with some anxiety.
- “Become informed before you make a decision.” Don’t stand idly by—do some research and understand the costs, benefits, and risks before making a big decision.
- “Start small.” Once you’ve mastered these smaller steps, you can grow from there! And later, you’ll be able to look back and see how far you have come.
- “Once committed to a decision, stick to it.” Don’t let your anxiety or negative thoughts change your mind or stop you from doing what you want! You are strong.
- “Praise yourself for your courage.” This isn’t easy, and you are brave for taking it on! Acknowledge and reward your strength and bravery.
- “Determine if there is a legitimate reason to panic or worry, or if you are reacting before anything has gone wrong.” It’s important to take a step back and put your feelings into perspective. Are they warranted?
- “Expect to have success in slow increments.” Again, know that you may have a few failures mixed in with your successes. That’s how it goes. Accept it and accept yourself in the process.