The Lies We Tell Ourselves
For most of my life I hated myself a lot. I didn’t realize it, but I did. Every time something went wrong in my life, I thought, “What a stupid idiot. You screwed it up again. You’re a loser!” And when I was dumped, which happened in most of my intimate relationships, I told myself, “You’re such a piece of shit. You can’t make anyone happy. Now look at you.you are alone again. No one is ever going to love you.” I didn’t feel good about myself and my confidence was MIA.
Unfortunately, many of us think the same way. We hear it all around us, too, as friends, family members and co-workers follow the same destructive thought patterns of self- criticism. Growing up, we watched, learned and then mimicked how those around us treated themselves, just as your children are doing with you now. We pass the crap on as it was passed to us. Add to that the consistent cues and clues that we fall short, picked up somewhere during our formative years, and you can see how we struggle with confidence, among so many other things.
Acting on auto-pilot, we make constant judgments about us that undermine our self-love, self-esteem and self-confidence. It’s time to put an end to these kinds of thoughts for one simple reason .¨ they are all lies. There is not a single derogatory thought that you have in your head about you that’s true. Like me, you are just acting out destructive thought patterns that you have been taught, believing them to be real and true. It’s time for a change.
Patterns of Fictional Thinking
I used to make up stuff about myself and others that didn’t match what was really happening in the moment.
I made up what other people were thinking, why they did what they did and even how they felt. My world was, in effect, fictional. Living like that is confusing, chaotic and difficult. Why am I telling you this? Because this pattern of making up thoughts that don’t match reality is the same mechanism we use when we think negative, demeaning things about ourselves.
Those thoughts are as made up as the others.
In my life, these damaging thought patterns weren’t supportive of me and they didn’t make me feel self-assured, happy or loved. Although I worked hard to be accepted, to be good at something, to make my mother proud and to be loved, I fell short in every category- at least according to my thoughts. I felt like a victim which means I also felt powerless much of the time. I often suffered a sense of defeat, though I had no idea with whom I was fighting. It was not an easy life.
If we are going to wake up and get our confidence back, we have to realize that we think what we have been taught to think – and not all of that was nice. Next, we have to be willing to believe there is something different to think about us even if we can’t find the evidence for it right now- the evidence will come. I promise. Finally, we have to be willing to stop believing in every thought we have about ourselves that is derogatory, critical and unfavorable towards us. We have to let go of old patterns of fictional thinking that steal our life from us. We can regain our confidence.
I Know Who I Was Fighting
I had been dating someone for 6 years when it ended abruptly one Christmas Eve. I got a phone call that I thought was going to be romantic and jolly. Instead I got dumped. Of course, told myself I wasn’t valuable as a person, no one was ever going to love me and that I didn’t measure up. I was so distraught over this breakup that I could barely work, I thought about moving from my home (an attempt to run away from it all) and I barely ate. I wore black most days and I rarely went out to do anything with anyone. The depressing, unconstructive behavior went on for weeks.
One afternoon, I was feeling really sorry for myself. I recounted all of the things in my life that didn’t work out for me and all of the ways I was a total loser. I felt hopeless and helpless. Then, something miraculous happened. I stopped crying .¨ cold turkey. I sat straight up from my slouched, weak and powerless position. A voice inside me said, “Wait a minute. This isn’t right. You’re not special because someone else loves you. You’re already special. And you don’t need someone else to love you .¨ you need to learn to love yourself.”
That was an incredible moment. I felt alive for the first time in a long time. It felt real. But, who was talking? This was coming from somewhere deep inside. This was coming from my heart .¨ from my soul. Instantly, it became obvious to me that the negative thoughts I had most of my life were coming from my head. But, now a new source for thoughts had awakened in me. New ideas about how to live were streaming from my heart and they were nicer, more positive and empowering. I actually felt okay- something I don’t remember feeling before.
The thoughts in my heart finally matched what I truly wanted in my life in contrast to the thoughts my head used to churn out.
Suddenly, I realized who I was fighting. It was me- I was fighting my own thoughts. But, those days were about to end- thanks to a friend, a book and a little practice on my part.
Here’s to Life Changing Books & New Habits
After the abrupt Christmas Eve breakup, a dear friend invited me over for a drink and some good ol’ fashioned girl chat. As I walked up the steps to her front door, it swung open. She handed me a glass of chilled wine as I entered her warm 19th century home. We talked, laughed and cried. Then she said, “Hang on. I have something for you.” She went to the wall of books in her study and chose two. She turned to me and said, “You have to take one of these with you and read it from cover to cover.” The two books offered were Soul Mates by Thomas Moore and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I chose The Four Agreements because it had fewer pages.
Don Miguel’s first agreement was “Be Impeccable with Your Word”. I took this on whole-heartedly. I began listening to the way I spoke to myself and to others. Before this, I would have sworn I was an open-minded, accepting person. But, after reading The Four Agreements I realized I made a lot of judgments about me and others. I realized the pattern of self-destructive talk that popped in my head automatically. So, from then on, when words like “loser” and “jerk” came up, I took them back and I replaced them with nicer words.
I noticed loads of benefits of this new found love that was shooting from my heart into the world. I felt less stressed, I slept better, I enjoyed everything I did a lot more and I gained my self-confidence. I now understand that self-confidence is another word for self-love.
We need to make a pact to stop the self-deprecating trash-talk, the negative self-talk or whatever you want to call it. Let’s face it, using words against you, or anyone else for that matter, is just a habit.and not a helpful one. Books like The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and another one of his books, The Voice of Knowledge, helped me become aware of the negative thought patterns we are taught to repeat. I also became aware that we don’t have to repeat those patterns- that there are other ways to think about us- ways that are in alignment with our hearts.
I challenge you this year to break the habit of talking trashy to yourself so you can be free to feel good about yourself again. When you use any words against you, stop in that moment, take it back and replace it with a word that empowers you. Don’t wait to see the evidence for your self-supporting words. That will come. Just make the change. Get your confidence back for your life by getting in the habit of practicing self-love. You deserve nothing less.
Bo L. Arnold