You are here: Home » Blog » Inner Happiness

You Are Not Your Thoughts: 5 Ways to Not Identify With Them

by Ali

Reviewed and fact-checked

We are committed to the highest standards of accuracy and reliability in our content. Every statement made on our website is meticulously fact-checked and supported by authoritative studies.

Read more about our processes here.

Updated on

women thinking in front of mirror

We can’t control our thoughts, but we can control how we respond to them. Perhaps the most important thing to understand at this stage is that you are not your thoughts. We all have thoughts that we may feel ashamed of and even wonder where they came from, but this doesn’t make us bad people! 

When we identify with our thoughts, our well-being can spiral down. Unfortunately, this can create a vicious cycle. When we observe our thoughts without claiming them as part of our identity, we allow them to flow out as quickly as they flow in. 

This article will outline what it means to identify with our thoughts and why this can be detrimental. We will also discuss 5 ways to stop you from identifying with your thoughts. 

What does identifying with your thoughts mean? 

It is a natural human condition to search for and understand our identity. “Who am I?” is a question many of us ask from a young age. 

We may tell ourselves we are too ugly, fat, stupid, or boring. If we look for love, our thoughts may tell us we are unlovable, and no one will find us attractive. These are only thoughts, but if we hold on to these thoughts and start to believe them very quickly, we are identifying with our thoughts. 

Alternatively, we may have negative thoughts with undertones of jealousy, schadenfreude, or hostility. These types of thoughts can cause us to feel ashamed of ourselves and label ourselves as “bad.” 

What are the negative consequences of identifying with your thoughts?  

Problems arise when we take our thoughts as gospel and believe what they tell us. So if we decide we are a “bad” person based on our thoughts, we may accept this for who we are and play to this label.

When we identify with our negative thoughts, we allow them to pull us under. We hear all the negative things we may tell ourselves about our looks, skills, and personality, and we believe it. This results in a dip in our confidence and mood. 

Interestingly, this article outlines how all thoughts are neutral, meaning they are neither good nor bad. We place emotion onto our thoughts, turning them into our reality. 

We allow our perceptions and biases to fill our heads with thoughts; without questioning them, we allow them to become our reality. 

An exciting test in 2001 by Frederic Brochet illustrates this beautifully. Brochet decanted a bottle of red wine into two other bottles. One label purported to be a high-quality wine, while the other was a known cheap wine. Wine experts were then asked to rate the two wines (which were the same). The wine from the expensive bottle garnered comments such as “agreeable, complex, rounded,” while the wine from the cheaper bottle attracted comments of “weak, short, light, flat.”

Our thoughts build our perception, which in turn affects our reality. 

It is good to have positive thoughts about ourselves, our skills, and our personality. We want to be able to identify with these sorts of thoughts to believe in ourselves and back ourselves. 

💡 By the way: Do you find it hard to be happy and in control of your life? It may not be your fault. To help you feel better, we’ve condensed the information of 100’s of articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet to help you be more in control. 👇

Cheat Sheet Download Thumbnail

Don’t Miss Out On Happiness

Find happiness with this 10-step mental health cheat sheet.

5 ways to stop identifying with your thoughts 

You are not your thoughts. And while we want to adopt our positive and healthy thoughts as integral to ourselves, we need to be able to distance ourselves from our negative thoughts. 

Here are 5 ways to help you stop identifying with your detrimental thoughts. 

1. Use meditation and mindfulness to clear your thoughts   

If we want to disassociate from our thoughts, we need to be able to control them. An effective way of doing this is through meditation and mindfulness. 

Meditation and mindfulness are proven to help calm our thoughts. Scientists have found changes in brain activity through meditation, which may account for the success of meditation in helping treat depression! 

When it feels like our thoughts are on a runaway train, and we can’t seem to slow them down, meditation and mindfulness techniques are effective ways to quell the overwhelm and quieten the noise going on in our heads. 

2. Don’t hold on to any thoughts 

As I can’t say it enough times, I’ll reiterate that you are not your thoughts. This means any thoughts arising may not be consistent with who you are. Please don’t hold on to your thoughts; when you hold on to them, you internalize them and start to believe that you are what they say you are. 

A helpful trick here is to be the observer of your thoughts. So instead of accepting all the thoughts that flicker through your brain (of which there are over 6,000 per day!) when we are the observer, we watch them without automatically adopting them. Being the observer allows us to question our thoughts, laugh at them or even reject them and send them on their way. 

3. Practice positive affirmations and mantras

I’m a fan of positive affirmations and mantras. When we say positive affirmations and mantras regularly enough, we learn to claim them and believe in them. Perhaps they serve to counter the effects of negative thoughts. 

This study suggests that positive affirmations can help reduce negative thoughts and stimulate the reward pathways in our brains. So if we have fewer negative thoughts, there is less temptation to identify with such thoughts. 

You can incorporate positive affirmations and mantras into your mindfulness routine or add them to your day as you see fit. Some people benefit from writing Post-it notes and sticking them in conspicuous places around their houses. 

4. Discern between helpful and harmful  

This article aims to help you stop identifying with your thoughts. But I want to caveat this because I want you to identify with your positive thoughts about yourself.

It’s the harmful and destructive thoughts I want you to stop identifying with, as these are not you! 

We need to be skilled enough to discern between harmful thoughts and those that are helpful to us. 

Before you adopt or discard any thought circulating in your head, put it through the helpful/harmful filter. 

  • If claiming the thought will only lead to unhappiness and poor well-being, discard it.
  • If the thought helps you feel good, believe in yourself, and boost your well-being, feel free to identify with it. 

5. Write it down to eject it

Sometimes the harmful thoughts around our heads will keep spinning until we release them. Writing our thoughts down is an effective way of releasing them. 

There are many options for writing our thoughts down.

  • Keep a daily thought journal. 
  • Start a blog. 
  • Write letters to others; you don’t need to send them! 
  • Write short stories and incorporate your thoughts as the story arc. 

When we write our thoughts down, it allows us to consider them logically and objectively. We often see these thoughts for what they are, which helps us put things in perspective. 

Some journals come prepopulated with insightful questions to help prompt you into outpouring your thoughts. This journal style may be a good place to start if you are new to this.

💡 By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. 👇

Cheat Sheet Download Thumbnail Clean

This Cheat Sheet Will Help You Be Happier and More Productive

Thrive under stress and crush your goals with these 10 unique tips for your mental health.

Wrapping up 

Let me say it one last time; you are not your thoughts! The trick is learning to discern between our helpful and harmful thoughts. We want to internalize our positive thoughts about ourselves while rejecting the negative ones. 

Our five tips to stop you from identifying with your thoughts is an excellent place to start: 

  • Use meditation and mindfulness to clear your thoughts. 
  • Don’t hold on to any thoughts. 
  • Practice positive affirmations and mantras. 
  • Discern between helpful and harmful. 
  • Write it down to eject it. 

Is there anything you do to stop yourself from identifying with your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Ali Hall AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Kindness is my superpower. Dogs and nature are my oxygen. Psychology with Sports science graduate. Scottish born and bred. I’ve worked and traveled all over the world. Find me running long distances on the hills and trails.

Leave a Comment