As mere mortals, we all have faults. In fact, none of us are perfect. No, this isn’t a conversation about theology. I am speaking about the words we use to describe ourselves. All people use words to convey to others how they feel.
What about thoughts?
Our thoughts tell us about our life and how to live. They tell us how we are and how we should be. And they tell us what to do and what to avoid. However, most of our thoughts are neither true nor false. Instead, our thoughts become: opinions, judgments, beliefs, theories, attitudes, and ideals – to name a few.
But sometimes our thoughts become extremely self-defeating.
This is commonly referred to as negative self-talk, or negative thinking. Despite our best efforts, we often react to our thoughts as if they are the absolute truth. It’s like reading a story from Facebook or the National Enquirer and believing that the thoughts we’re reading are always true. Ha! I think we all know we can’t assume that everything we see or read is 100% factual. Well, it’s the same situation with our thoughts.
Is negative thinking helpful?
When you tell yourself that you’re worthless, does that boost your self-esteem? Of course not. When you approach a task or an event thinking about failing, does that help? Of course not. When you think you’re worthless and a failure, does that encourage you to get out and try new things? Of course not.
What happens when you are thinking this way?
When you start combining your thoughts into your reality, then what you’ve been thinking suddenly becomes who you are right now. When you regard your thoughts as factual, then you begin to believe them. When you begin thinking all of those negative thoughts are important, then you start dedicating all of your time to them. Very quickly, your thoughts begin to take the driver’s seat and run your life. You become a passenger on a ride that is not helping you at all.
It’s important to ask whether your thoughts are helpful.
You have to ask yourself some specific and necessary questions. Does this thought help me make the most of my life? Does this thought make me feel good about myself? Does this thought help me achieve the things I want in my life? If your answer is “no” to any or all of these questions, then it’s time to reconsider the thought you are harboring. Yes, you are in control of your thoughts.
It is important to spend time “freeing yourself from the oppression of your thoughts; freeing up your time, energy, and attention so you can invest them in meaningful activities rather than dwelling uselessly on your thoughts.” –The Happiness Trap, p. 53.
You need to stop believing your thoughts.
It is important to remember that your thoughts are only words, stories or bits of language. You don’t have to obey them. You don’t have to pay attention to them. And you most definitely don’t need to follow the direction or path of your thoughts.
The most critical part is when you start attaching your negative thinking to a specific story or memory in your head and then reacting as if the whole thing is true. The event is negative and your thoughts are negative. Suddenly, there is no separation between the two. In fact, you end up becoming the event. Remember your thoughts are merely words.
Do you remember the childhood song, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” (How many of you sang it while you read it?) It is so true. For every thought, or word you are consuming, you can find an antonym. Remember, an antonym is a word that is the direct opposite. I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, that sounds nice, but it’s not that easy.” I know, believe me, been there done that! Still working at it!
In part 2 you’ll learn why and how to change your negative thoughts! Stay tuned!