It’s amazingly easy to be negative about yourself. So easy, in fact, that a lot of the time you might not even notice when you are being negative about yourself. Sometimes self-doubt and lack of self-esteem are so ingrained and readily defaulted to, that it feels like it’s just a part of you.
You might simply, wordlessly deny yourself opportunities, assuming you won’t or can’t achieve them. You might actively tell yourself you’re not good enough for certain things. The result? You are running your self-esteem down and denying yourself happiness.
To achieve greater wellbeing and a better lease of life, it is important to challenge and change this self-inflicted negativity. Doing so can help boost relationships, careers, mental health, and even physical health. Presumably, that notion appeals to most of us. So how do we stop being negative about ourselves and become more positive? This article will show you 6 actionable tips.
- In what ways are you negative about yourself?
- The power of the subconscious mind
- Being more positive about yourself
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
In what ways are you negative about yourself?
Before challenging or changing negative perceptions of yourself, you have to be able to identify them clearly.
What are they about specifically, when do they crop up? Identifying them is the first and most important step. Indeed, being more aware of your negativity trappings is sometimes all that’s required to stop them from self-feeding unchecked. What otherwise may have become a usual, uninterrupted flow of background thoughts and feelings bringing us down can be quelled by simple acknowledgment.
Some examples of negative self-perceptions to watch out for include:
- I’m not capable of…
- I’m undesirable because…
- I wish I was…
- Why am I like…
- I hate…
Some of these may resonate with you. Think about your specific grievances about yourself under each one that resonates, and when you think about them or they bother you. Use those moments in the future as a reminder to be aware of them.
You might just find that awareness alone stops the negativity spiraling unchecked.
Be aware that sometimes it may just be a feeling, rather than a conscious stream of thoughts. A feeling that you can’t do something about. Wordless feelings are naturally harder to pinpoint, but it is still very possible to do so. Meditation and mindfulness practices are great ways to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings. They have also proved to be effective ways of maintaining a more balanced and optimistic view.
The power of the subconscious mind
Part of you will believe what you tell yourself. Your subconscious mind, for better or for worse, will drink in all information like a sponge.
It also does not differentiate well between reality and the imaginary. This is why you can wake up sweating from a nightmare or feel your nerves prickle and heart rate increase during a tense moment in a film. It’s also why you can feel anxious about something that has not happened yet or happened in the past. You react emotionally in real life to things that are only being conveyed to you, even if by you.
This is also why telling yourself you’re bad at something will make you feel bad, make you worse at it than you actually could be, or avoid it altogether. Part of you believes what you are told instinctively.
Fortunately, this works both ways and is the reason things like positive self-talk, hypnotherapy and mantras can have a positive effect even if you don’t believe they will.
A study from Kings College in London found that positive self-talk and visualization resulted in its participants experiencing significantly fewer intrusive negative thoughts. This in turn lessens anxiety and lengthens periods of joy.
With that in mind, following are some ways you can actively practice positive self-talk, whether you believe it or not, and reap the benefits.
1. Talk to yourself as though you were your own child
One way to inspire better self-talk is to talk to yourself as though you were your own child, or a loved one. Sometimes I think of someone I am deeply fond of, a cherished friend or beloved family member for example, and think about what I’d say to them if they made the complaint I’m making about myself to their self.
If they told me they thought they were hideous I’d tell them how much of a drop-dead gorgeous mega babe they were, and to never ever think differently. If they told me they were untalented or unworthy of something, I’d tell them that they were very talented and clever and that they deserved the world.
This is the sort of support, encouragement, and love that you should show yourself. Especially seeing as you are with yourself all the time. It’s no wonder that the opposite will stifle you and bring you down.
When you’re not used to championing yourself, it might not be natural or easy to conjure such sentiment. Thinking about how you would talk to someone you cherish enables you to immediately find the type of words and compassion to transfer to your own self.
2. Praise the little things that you do
To inspire this positive self-talk regularly and as a daily practice, it’s good to do so even with the little things.
In fact, the bigger things can be harder to tackle right away. This is again easier if you talk to yourself as you would to a small child, who deserves all the encouragement and support you can give.
It helps massively to build self-esteem because the praise is so constant. For example: ‘well done for remembering to brush your teeth!’ or ‘good job making yourself dinner, I’m so proud of you!’.
It may seem ridiculous at first or maybe even for a long time after, but if the result is improved mood and self-esteem, I think it’s worth feeling a bit silly. Besides, no one else has to hear you praising yourself for doing your laundry, it’s just a little booster from you to you.
3. List and remind yourself of your positive attributes
Another way to let your subconscious drink in more positivity and lighten its load, is with this simple exercise. Practice often and your disposition will change to a more resilient and proactive one. It lessens any natural tendency to doubt yourself as the negativity holding you back is balanced or diminished by shedding more light on your positives.
There are two ways you can do this:
One is to write out a list yourself of all the things you like about yourself. This can be anything you can think of and be different from time to time. In fact, the more variety of things you can say the better. But reminding yourself of the same ones is no less important.
Another great way to focus and believe in the positive aspects of you, is to have a friend or loved one write out a list of things they like about you. They might surprise you with a genuine appreciation for things you hadn’t considered or take for granted, that they themselves cherish and love you for. In fact, even having a friend write out a few words that each describe you might yield surprising, positive and heart-warming results.
For some of us, hearing these words from another can give them more power and validity than when we hear them from ourselves.
4. Challenge negativity
Practicing positive self-talk could do wonders to improve your general mood, and lessen negative perceptions of yourself automatically. Becoming aware of negative self-talk can help in itself. However, it can be likely to crop up regardless. When it does you can use it not only as a reminder to be aware of it, but to challenge it too.
If I think ‘I’m not good enough for this job’, for example, it could naturally flow into telling myself that I am unskilled or unintelligent somehow.
I try to use such moments as a beacon to remind myself to A) be aware of what I’m thinking before allowing thoughts to continue and B) make a case against such thoughts.
I like to play devil’s advocate in many conversations to try and see things from both sides. Why not do at least this in an otherwise very one-sided narrative in my head?
Well, perhaps I am skilled enough, I know a thing or two and am not unintelligent.
Perhaps it’s actually highly likely the role does not expect the world of me, perfection, that they are used to real people who have real limitations and needs – people who can also learn and improve and need support. Perhaps in many ways, I can even exceed their expectations.
The more you practice challenging negativity, the more naturally it will come to you. And if you were to balance each moment of doubt and negativity with a well-reasoned opposition, you could enjoy your life much more. You would more naturally throw yourself into positive circumstances with vigor and success, and rebuff negative ones without as much damage to your wellbeing.
5. Let go of ideas of perfection
Awareness of negative thoughts, challenging them and balancing them with positive ones might almost seem like the whole cake. In essence, though, these approaches can be like putting out fires without locating and removing the source.
Often, thoughts like ‘I’m not [insert adjective] enough’, are borne out of superlative ideas of what we should be. It’s impossible to be the best because the best is ultimately subjective anyway, so there’s always more room for improvement. This is a good thing. If you really were the best, where would you go from there, what would you do? Striving for perfection doggedly leaves us exhausted and never feeling good enough, which constantly hamstrings our self-esteem.
Ironically, when self-esteem suffers it allows less chance to succeed. If we already believe we will fail how can we put our best energy into something, our positive energy! Letting go of perfection and being happy with our realistic – yet still extraordinary and wonderful – selves, is actually the way to unlock our true, unhampered potential.
6. Don’t compare yourself to others
Similarly to not holding yourself up to impossible ideals of perfection, is not holding yourself up in comparison to others. Everyone has different good and bad attributes. It’s easy to look at someone else and only see the good, with envy.
If you practice appreciating your own attributes more often you might not feel the need to do so as much. You can more easily see that everyone is simply different, and that there are two sides to each coin. The things you feel are your negative traits will have the counterpoint of something positive – which are merely the side of the coin you focus upon when looking at others.
Being more positive about yourself
So there we have it, six ways to be less negative about yourself. It may not be easy beginning and maintaining a practice you’re not used to, but is well worth the effort. Even if you don’t feel positive enough to believe the positive self-talk or believe in their value, faking it until you make it is a valid approach.
If you have issues being negative about yourself, try some of the steps outlined, put your spin on them and see if it doesn’t make a difference. To recap:
- Practice catching your negative thoughts and your awareness of negative background perceptions – meditation, mindfulness and therapy can help you do this.
- Talk to yourself as though to your own child or as though to a loved one – you might not believe the praise and positivity at first but your subconscious and emotional self will still thank you for it.
- Praise the little things that you do – this is an easy way to keep a very regular (and important) dialogue of positivity about yourself.
- Write a list or have a friend write a list of all the things you like about yourself. Do this often and allow yourself to drink in the more balanced and positive image of you.
- Challenge negativity. Play devil’s advocate to an otherwise unbridled train of negativity.
- Let go the ideas of perfection – you are good enough as you are, and the best version of yourself when not deflated by the prospect of needing to be better.
- Don’t compare yourself to others – everyone has different traits, and no one is better than someone else. People might equally be looking to you and coveting your positive traits.
If you manage to adopt and practice some of these ideas, you can become less negative about yourself and absorb more of the joy life has to offer.