Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy, and we’re far too quick to criticize ourselves. We are harsh and demanding, and we put ourselves down, instead of being caring and compassionate.
So perhaps it is time to challenge this self-talk, and to treat ourselves fairly, and to build ourselves up.
Things to stop saying to yourself include:
- “I’m no good at …”
Say instead “It’s just a skill, and something I can learn.”
- “I’m such a failure …”
Say instead “I got it wrong, and everybody makes mistakes.”
- “There’s no point in trying …”
Say instead “It may be hard, but step by step will get me there.”
- “Everybody hates me; I’ve got no friends …”
Say instead “It doesn’t really matter what these people think of me. There are others who will recognize my value and worth.”
- “I hate myself. I deserve to be rejected …”
Say instead “I am beautiful inside, and have value and worth. I deserve to be cherished and be treated well.”
It can be hard to say ‘no’ and to do your own thing. We expect disapproval or rejection by our friends. So how do you say ‘no’ in a respectful way when you can’t, or you don’t want to, say ‘yes’ to them?
- Listen with respect to what the person has to say. Don’t interrupt; it’s just a question at this stage.
- Simply say ‘no’ in a calm and an even voice. Don’t sound like you’re upset, or start to whine or raise your voice. Just simply say ‘no’ in a calm, confident way.
- Transfer the reason and the blame to something else. For example, say something like, ‘I’m really sorry but my calendar is full’. This focuses annoyance on your calendar – not you.
- Don’t react or be confrontational. They can ask what they want, and have the right to make requests – and you have the right to accept or decline. Say: I’d love to say yes, but … (and then turn them down)’. This will help to build a bridge, and conveys empathy.
- Don’t feel you have to give an explanation when you answer. You don’t have to give a reason or explain yourself to others. You can simply decline, and then politely change the subject.
- If you want to give a reason then keep it short and simple. Don’t justify yourself or start to argue your case. True friends accept your answer and respect your boundaries.
- Stand firm in your decision. If the person starts to pressure you, just tell them you’ve decided, and nothing they can say is going to make you change your mind.
There are habits we can form that make us mentally strong, and set us on a course to success in life. They are simple to apply – but require discipline – until they’re automatic, and a part of who we are. In summary:
- Don’t look to the world to give you an identity. You need to find yourself, and to be true to yourself.
- Don’t look to your family and friends for approval. It will be a moving target that you’re missing constantly – and will change with the person whose approval you are seeking.
- Set your own goals in life and believe in yourself. Decide on what success means for you personally – and know that if you work hard you will reach the goals you’ve set.
- Expect things to take time. Life is not a race – so take whatever time you need to learn whatever’s needed.
- Expect to meet with setbacks for you’re always going to meet them. And the obstacles we face will help us stretch and grow.
- Expect other people to put you down, and for some to walk away, or to walk out of your life. People have their own agendas, their own insecurities, and some might have a need to control you in some way. But be true to yourself. Don’t let others’ judgments sway you.
- Don’t resent others’ gifts, or promotions, or successes. You’re not competing against them. You are on a different pathway.
- Accept that there are some things which cannot be controlled. This is just a fact of life – so choose to be adaptable. Perhaps there’s something you can learn that will grow you as a person.
Many of us wish that we could master being assertive. We want to state our case – but are afraid of making waves. There are ways that we can do this that command proper respect, allow us to be heard, and be taken seriously – whilst also maintaining the relationship. They include the following:
- Use the word “I” instead of “You” as it demonstrates the speaker has self respect, and believes that their feelings and opinions should be heard.
- Don’t stare the person out – but maintain steady eye contact. If you look to the side, look down or look away, it indicates discomfort or timidity.
- At the same time, pay attention to your body language. Make sure that you seem open, and not hostile and aggressive. For example, your hands and palms should be open and relaxed, don’t point your finger, or wrinkle your face, don’t cross your arms, or look angry and tense.
- Also, pay attention to the way you speak. Try and moderate your tone of voice, and don’t call them names, swear, or use obscenities. However, don’t start to mumble or speak in a low voice as that can indicate a lack of confidence, and signal to the person not to take you seriously.
- If you start to notice you’re becoming upset, then work on your breathing – breathe deeply from your stomach – and visualise yourself as someone strong, who’s being heard.
- Remember that no-one else is going to stand up for you. You deserve to have respected and treated well by others. And you have the power to establish boundaries, and to set appropriate limits on the treatment you’ll accept.
When you’re trying to make a difficult decision, bear the following points in mind:
- Ask yourself if you will look back and feel proud of yourself in a month, a year, or 10 years from now. That should influence the choice you make.
- Think about the strategies you used when making decisions in the past. What worked and what didn’t? Apply that information to your current decision.
- Try and quieten the voices around you and listen to your heart.
- Take your time. Rushed decisions are rarely good decisions. Don’t act in haste.
- Think about the impact it will have on others, especially those who are closest to you.
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Few decisions are irrevocable – and living without risk is a life half lived. If nothing else, we can always learn from our mistakes.
- Talk it over with people who know you well – and are willing to be honest and speak the truth (and who won’t only say what you want to hear.)
- Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen? What are the chances it will happen? And can I survive if it all falls apart?
- Get as much information as possible. Try to see the problem from every angle, and think about every possible outcome and effect.
- Take time out and walk away from the decision. Opting for some space usually brings a new, and more objective, perspective.
- Be brutally honest with yourself. Don’t sugar coat the truth, or try to kid yourself.
- If you have to talk yourself into making a decision, then the chances are that it’s not a good decision.
Anxiety can hit us unawares. It can be debilitating, and interfere with life. However, it is possible to manage and control anxiety by actively replacing irrational painful thoughts with more balanced, rational and reasonable thoughts.
Some adaptive thoughts you could use to replace the automatic ones which create such distress include:
- I’m going to be OK. Sometimes my feelings are irrational and false. I’m just going to relax and take things easy. Everything is going to be fine.
- Anxiety may feel bad but it isn’t dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with me. Everything is going to be OK.
- Feelings come and feelings go. Right now I feel bad but I know this is only temporary. I’ve done it before so I can do it again.
- This image in my head isn’t reasonable or rational. I need to change my thinking and focus my attention on something that’s healthier, and generally helps me to feel good about myself. For example _____________.
- I’ve managed to interrupt and change these thoughts before – so I know I can do it again. The more I practise this, the easier it will become. Anxiety is a habit – and it’s a habit that I can break!
- So what if I am anxious. It’s not the end of the world. It’s not going to kill me. I just need to take a few deep breaths and keep going.
- Just take the next step. Just do the next thing.
- Even if I have to put up with a period of anxiety, I’ll be glad that I did, and persevered, and succeeded.
- I can feel anxious and still do a good job. The more I focus on the task at hand, the more my anxiety will ease, then disappear.
- Anxiety doesn’t have a hold on me. It’s something I’m working on, and changing over time.