Hey Gemmers, it is another Monday so it’s time for your weekly dose of #MondaySelfcare vitamins with your friendly Dr O; sorry for not posting last week I was still recovering from my sickness and health is wealth. This is a request from my guy, Panapee you can follow him on Instagram here. Please don’t forget to Like, Share, Subscribe and Comment your topic suggestions. Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and Follow me on Pinterest and make sure you read my book recommendation post on this topic (5 Good Book Recommendations for Handling Negative Thoughts and Your Inner Critic) to further your self-care journey. Let’s goo!
What are Negative Thoughts and Your Inner Critic?
As a man thinketh so is he [Proverbs 23:7]. In my opinion, negative thoughts are simply thoughts that are non-beneficial to you and have no real value; they are parasitic, sucking the life out of you. They are thoughts that actively or passively take away from you but never give or give you only rotten apples. Your inner critic in my opinion is a voice inside you designed to test you, to bring you down and most of all designed to be conquered, it’s the worst part of you. There is no greater enemy than yourself, this is the enemy you face.
You can never really kill off inner critic completely, it’s a natural part of you but you can reduce its influence. Think of your inner critic with a volume meter. When you increase it, it becomes louder and when you decrease it, it becomes quieter. Some people have very louder inner critics and it can be a result of their environment, experience and beliefs. In the book, The Secret by Rhonda Bryne (click the title to check it out) the phrase ‘thoughts become things’ appears repeatedly, I might as well call it a mantra. Your thoughts are like a 3D printer and they will produce results based on the content in them. What separates a successful person and an unsuccessful one can just be their thought process. You can’t dip a white shirt in mud and expect it to come out as white as before (unless you use magic lol).
Some Manifestations of Negative Thoughts
Any negative behaviour is inspired by negative thoughts and beliefs. I believe that thoughts to beliefs are like weather to climate; one is the culmination of the other after a long period of time. The only difference is that you don’t need 10+ years to adopt negative beliefs they can start within a couple weeks or months. I believe negative thoughts are not always black and white they can manifest themselves in different ways such as:
i. Indecision: Shivering a little violently due to a fever but trying to hide it because I’m a badman the thought of seeing indecision as a fever came to me as I was talking to my colleague, T. Indecision is like a mental fever, you’re hot and cold at the same time and that’s dangerous, you add some layers, you remove some layers and it continues. Jason Capital (dating expert and coach) said indecision is one of the biggest killers of men (not literally but it can kill part of what makes you a man if it becomes habitual). John Mason in his book, Know Your Limits Then Ignore Them said that the most dangerous place to be is in the middle of the road you can get hit on both sides by incoming traffic. If you want me to do a full topic on indecision comment below.
ii. Criticism and Self-Bashing: Mrs Mindfulness said constant self-criticism is another pattern of negative thoughts. You may be too hard on yourself, zooming in on all of your weaknesses and perceived flaws. This stronger form of insecurity can extend to others in your life. This will cause some serious strain on your relationships (it just ain’t cute), this means the volume meter on your inner critic is pretty high. Negative self-talk and self-criticism often results in low self-esteem and self-confidence (see my post 12 Tips to Boost Self-confidence and Self-esteem if you’re having such issues). One way some people handle low self-esteem is to compensate for these feelings by attaining status, achievements and recognition. These things sadly don’t get rid of your low esteem it just masks it, it’s like using perfume to mask a bad smell. Others may feel completely drained and unworthy, separating themselves from others or never attempting to strive for higher goals or may tend to overcompensate especially when they’re rich; they will use money to cover for everything. When your mind continuously zooms in on what is wrong with you and others and dismisses the good and positive things, you can become stuck in negativity (see 10 Ways to Get Unstuck in Life for some useful tips). This negativity can feel like some abyss you can’t escape from but that’s a lie but first you have to recognise these negative thoughts and behaviours.
Some other ones would be insecurity, violence, laziness, procrastination, being a doormat etc. People that are too negative don’t really have good friends or lead a good life, I mean look at Stinkmeaner from The Boonducks who was proud of being the #1 hater. #IfYouKnowYouKnow.
My Recent Experience with a Barrage of Negative Thoughts
In my list of bad weeks in recent memory, two weeks ago tops it. I had come down with malaria for the whole week though my health status kept fluctuating due to the paracetamol I was taking. Thursday was definitely the worst day. It started out with me being reluctant to go for my weekly Thursday meeting but I pulled myself together and went and I made it back successfully, walking under the hot sun was definitely a bad idea. I’m home now feeling dizzy but the sleep wasn’t coming after several trials I was just listening to music then went on to look at old pics and vids on my phone. I was broke couldn’t buy food, data or credit to contact anyone so I was also alone with no prospects of anyone coming to see me. 24 hours passed without food entering my mouth just water lots of it, my sickness made me lose appetite but I knew I had to eat to take my meds. Subsequently I feel something wanting to come out of my belly so I rush to toilet to deliver it out of my mouth and into the toilet before rinsing my mouth and going back to bed. After tossing and turning for ages I say let me just go get some bread I’ll pay her later because I was expecting salary that day only to be disappointed. A short walk from my house I proceed to go get the food but halfway there I had to pause to vomit and sit and to feel frustrated, asking all sorts of why mes? I come back with the bread and now the real struggle begins; I take a sizeable pinch and chew it, I try to swallow to no avail after several tries it was like knocking on the door and the person refusing to open the door so by using water I had to forcefully open the door to my oesophagus. It was horrible, I do it a 2nd time and had to take a long break, it was an extreme sport. After forcing myself I eat a little bit more and take the meds and I feel better later on, Thank God. When I was sick I was thinking stuff like millions of people die from malaria in Africa, will I become a statistic too? Why me? So, no one will call me? Am I gonna die alone? I was also blaming myself repeatedly.
Dr Russ Harris in his book Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living states that human thoughts are 80% negative and that is due to evolution. We’re always scanning our environment all the while generating negative thoughts looking for problems to fix. For example, when we see a huge black man in a hoodie walking near us we’re likely to get scared and generate some ‘stranger danger’ thoughts even though the person may not harm us. It’s natural to have negative thoughts but the problem is when we start to believe them as true. Dr Harris gives an example of celebrity scandals broadcasted on media forms such as tabloid magazines, blogs etc. When we read the article we know it’s biased, bloated, out of context etc. so we don’t believe the whole thing or think we need to do anything about it. So, whilst I did think all those outlandish things while I was sick I definitely didn’t believe them.
5 Ways to Combat Your Negative Thoughts and Quieten Your Inner Critic
Negative thoughts can spring up at any time and can be a real pain in the butt so here are some ways to be combat ready when they raise their ugly heads:
i. Recognising Negative Thoughts & Replacing Them with Positive Affirmations:
Negative thought patterns are repetitive, non-beneficial thoughts that are directly linked to negative emotions and emotions are like a mirror of our thoughts which we feel in our body. We can react better when we learn to recognise and identify these thought patterns. Some more of these negative patterns would be the classic FWD, anxiety, stress, self-blaming or bashing, etc. After identifying these negative thoughts, it’s time to replace them with positive affirmations or it might be all for nothing. You can use these affirmations to suppress negative thoughts as soon as they pop up like a whack-a-mole game. For example, when you’re feeling anxious about a task and you feel like procrastinating because you think you can’t do it, you can quickly quieten your inner critic by saying things like I can and will do it or I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me [Phillippians 4:13]. Positive affirmations can also be turned into daily mantras you repeat to yourself in front of the mirror as part of your morning routine or ritual.
ii. Write Them Down and Make Them Go Poof!
Writing down things has always been one tip people give for a lot of things in self-help such as goals, self-confidence and self-esteem, etc. I personally think it’s a good delivery method or a way to bring things to life. Many performers use writing as a form of expression, I mean some of them write their lyrics and let everything flow and have created platinum selling albums. Katherine Hurst suggests that if you’re not ‘…keen on using words to express [yourself], artistic endeavours can have a similar impact… you could sculpt a representation of your negativity, or paint it…’ This is really no different for you when you’re trying to declutter your mind or get rid of a ‘nagging thought’ Amanda MacMillan says that “according to a 2012 Ohio State University study. People who wrote down negative things about their bodies and then threw them away had a more positive self-image a few minutes later, compared to those who kept the papers with them”. If you don’t wanna squeeze up a piece of paper and pull a Michael Jordan into the trash can you can always just tear up the paper or burn it but what’s important is that you destroy it yourself. They’re your thoughts so someone else shouldn’t do it for you.
iii. Separate Yourself from Your Thoughts:
Barbara Markway suggested that you can label your thoughts and separate yourself from them. This is gonna take some work and this is where your observing mind comes in; so don’t say ‘“I'm a loser,” instead say, “I'm having the thought that I'm a loser.” Don’t say, “I'm going to blow this test,” instead say “I'm having the thought that I'm going to blow this test.” The difference may seem subtle, but it can help you gain the perspective that you are not your thoughts’.
The first time I came across this kinda concept was in Mark Manson’s e-book, The Guide to Self-knowledge. He said we have two minds, the thinking mind (the one responsible for your thoughts and you can’t exactly control it) and the observing mind (which in simple terms watches and notifies you of your thoughts). He said how he overcomes negative thoughts and urges such as procrastination is to separate himself from his thoughts just as was suggested above. This way he can do what he’s meant to do despite the urges; I’ve tried it and it surely works because you can see yourself differently from your thoughts and urges.
iv. Stop blaming yourself and personalising:
Do you have the tendency to think everything is your fault? For example, do you blame yourself when someone you’re close to leaves a group you’re affiliated with? Perhaps it was something you did or didn’t do? Well, news flash! You’re not responsible for how people feel, you’re not ‘mood police’ but you can always check on them if you’re worried. There’s taking responsibility and then there’s blaming yourself based on self-deceiving stories you’ve concocted in your head; while either of them might be seen as cute to some degree, the latter is a cancer that should be taken care of early and quickly unless it will pose a bigger problem later on. Feeling responsible and blaming yourself is just misinformed thinking Kate Rockwood says that “the next time it occurs to you to personalize someone else's behaviour, have a counter statement ready, like This is just negative thinking. I am not responsible for everything. A weirder fix: Walk through a doorway. "Doing that gives you a new context," Fredrickson says. According to scientists at the University of Notre Dame, the act of passing over a threshold cues the brain that you're finished with the situation at hand and ready to move on to something new”.
v. Stop Thinking in Extremes:
Most of life isn't black or white, after all, it’s a colourful world! Negative thinkers are likely to see bad things in extremes, it’s like their minds are screaming at them! For example, someone stands you up for a date and you start thinking ‘I’M NEVER GOING TO GET A PARTNER’ or ‘NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE ME’ chill! It’s one date, the disappointments I’ve had from girls can earn me a couple best-sellers but I’m still out here. This type of black and white thinking blatantly misses the shades of grey in life, that’s just disrespectful to grey colour lol. Your head shouldn’t be some horror movie with no good plot just a free-falling, bland film filled with mania. We need a good plot, some action, some white people making crazy decisions etc haha. Mark Tyrell advises that “the first step to overcoming negative thinking isn't to 'just be positive' all of a sudden, but to look for shades of grey. Say you've been worrying about a relationship. Rather than thinking: "It's going to be a disaster, I just know it is" or even "It's going to be perfect!", how about: "I expect there will be great bits, good bits, and not so good bits, like any relationship." Write down what you have been thinking negatively about. Write the extreme negative statement that comes to mind. Now write three 'middle of the road' possibilities - not so exciting (or terrifying), but a more realistic take on what is actually more likely to happen. Giving your brain more options will reduce emotionality and allow you to think more clearly”.
QOTD: Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results – Willie Nelson.
Please Like, Share, Comment, Subscribe and watch out for the book recommendation post on Wednesday to help you with further resources on this topic. Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter and Instagram and Follow me on Pinterest. See ya next Monday.
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My name is Ofai and I'm passionate about blogging and it gives me fulfillment that I can help you out so sit back, relax and enjoy your weekly carats of #SelfImprovementGems with me!