Most of us may identify more with Lindsay Lohan’s character in Mean Girls, rather than the Queen B Regina George. But if we’re honest-we all have a bit of an inner mean girl. And I’m not talking about how we treat other women, but rather how we treat ourselves.
I’ll never get the promotion. I’m not good enough.
I hate my body.
I wish I had her life.
He would never want to date me.
And the list of self sabotage goes on and on. These thoughts flood our minds telling us that we’re not successful enough, skinny enough, smart enough…just not enough. And we may falsely believe that once we achieve these things, then we can finally be happy. But in reality, if we subscribe to this way of thinking, we’ll always be grasping for something just out of reach. So, when do we get to be happy?! Now.
These sabotaging thoughts start a negative loop we play in our heads that we begin to internalize. We accept these thoughts as truths. I mean, if we believe we’re doing a terrible job, everyone else must, too, right? That’s where we get ourselves caught in a trap. We give SO much power to our thoughts, when in reality they are merely perceptions. Two people can look at the same situation and have completely different perspectives. Here’s an example.
Life Situation >> Thought >> Feeling
Waiting for job interview >> “I have not clue what to say, they will think I’m an idiot.” >> Tense, anxious, butterflies in stomach
Waiting for job interview >> ” I’m well prepared for this interview, I should be able to make a good impression.” >> Feel calm, confident
The negative thoughts we have internalized become part of our belief systems, deeply ingrained in us. They impact our self esteem, which in turn impacts everything in our lives from our relationships, to our job, to our friendships and even daily interactions. We teach others how to treat us. If we don’t think too highly of ourselves, we will be much more likely to allow a significant other, a boss or a family member to treat us accordingly.
So, how do we stop this negative loop?
The first step is being self aware and to “catch” yourself. Acknowledge the negative thought and feeling, but then challenge it. Take the power away by asking yourself these questions…
- If you’re helping a friend to evaluate this thought, what might you say for and against it?
- How might someone else think about this?
- If you rated your belief in this thought as less than 100%, what is responsible for the part of you which doesn’t believe it completely?
- If you weren’t feeling depressed or anxious would you believe this thought? Why (or why not)?
- Is there another way of looking at this situation?
- What other explanations could there be?
- How realistic are your expectations and beliefs?
Thoughts are automatic, so don’t get discouraged if you have difficulties identifying and challenging them at first. It’s taken you a lifetime to get to this point, so it will take some time to unravel them and “retrain” your brain. You have to be committed and honestly, you’re probably going to have to fake it ’til you make it. But one day it will seem so natural to see yourself in a positive light that you’ll never look back.