How to deal with negative thoughts about yourself
When we have negative thoughts about ourselves, what do we do?
Sadly many of us struggle with this daily. The stream of judgement and meanness can be nonstop. Hard place to be. I know. I have been there. Today the inner critic is quieter, but still there. Here is how I manage it.
Tremendous help came for me years ago when I discovered Byron Katie. She presents a way to approach upsetting thoughts called “The Work”. As she says, “It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem. ” So true.
These days my negative thoughts tend to be about my body and weight. So let’s apply The Work to some of these.
Let’s see. Let me pull some recent ones. “I am too big. I weigh too much. Being heavier is bad, wrong, unhealthy. ”
Her first question is “is it true?”
So, I am too big. Is it true? Well, who says I am too big? There are many opinions of size out there. So can I know this is true? No, not really. The “I weigh too much” also falls under this question of says who?
Now if one wants to say YES it IS true…..then her second question is “can you ABSOLUTELY know it is true?” As I sit with this question, the eventual gut answer is no. (Because frankly there is no absolute anything!” )
Question 3 is “who am I, how am I, when I believe this thought?” When I believe I weigh too much, I feel embarrassed and ashamed. I feel like a failure, that I have failed to keep myself thin, as society says that is proper and healthy. I worry people are judging me, thinking me less than because my body is not perfect (whatever that is!)
Question 4 – Who would I be without this stressful thought? I could be more mentally free. I would not worry about my appearance so much. I could be more present in all my interactions. I could enjoy my life more.
Then she asks you to take your original statement and “turn them around ” and see if they are as true or more true.
So, one turn around is “I am not too big”. Yeah, that feels as true. “I do not weigh too much.” Well, Byron Katie often says she is a lover of what IS. And that is the truth in front of her. Reality is I weigh right now exactly what I weigh! To deny that is to deny reality. To fight that is to fight reality. And that is painful.
So, let me move to my last statement and likely the more charged one. “Being heavier is bad, wrong, unhealthy. ”
Is that true? Maybe…
Can I absolutely prove/know it is true? No. As far as the “unhealthy ” thing, there is NO evidence of problems with my body. My vitals are good. I have no conditions that have anything to do with my size. (And point of fact, most if not all medical conditions are NOT weight related although some medical people try to say that. ) Is it bad or wrong to be bigger than I used to be? Again, who says this? How can someone’s size have anything to do with their character? It does not. That makes no sense.
How do I react when I think this thought? I feel bad about myself. I get stuck on my physical appearance instead of the person I am and the real good I can and do make in the world. I begin to wish I were different. I may get depressed. I may then eat out of my sad feelings. I am rejecting myself in this moment. That is painful.
Who would I be if I did not have this thought? I would be much happier. I would have peace. I would not be judging myself for things not completely in my control. (Many factors create weight gain…medication, metabolism, genetics, ect.) I would be able to live my life more fully. I could focus on the wonderful things my body CAN do. I could better enjoy the physical body I have.
So, let me turn it around. Being heavier is good. Being heavier is healthy for me. Being heavier is not bad. These are all as true or more than my first judgement. And they are reality. And reality can be kind.
Inquiry has such self compassion, truly. As I read Byron Katie leading people through inquiry, there is so much love and kindness. She wants freedom for you. So do I. And I want it for myself. So I will keep questioning my thoughts and judgments.