Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You’re embarking on a new path that will make you a happier, healthier, more energetic person. You’re excited, positive and you can’t wait to start seeing the changes from all your hard work.
All of a sudden, you hear that voice in the back of your head nagging, That looks like a lot of work. What’s the point? You’re never going to get to that point anyway. You’re stupid for even thinking about it in the first place!
Ouch, little voice. Ouch.
Has this ever happened to you? Does this happen to you a lot?
You’re not alone.
A lot of us have inherited this “what’s the point?” mentality, and it’s not our fault. Growing up in negative situations, trying and trying to succeed without gaining ground, or having predisposed conditions such as depression or anxiety are just some of the many examples that can fuel this powerful mindset that I like to call “The Defeatist.”
It can grow stronger than we ever thought, and inform every action we take… or don’t take for that matter.
Every goal you go after is sabotaged by this unrelenting defeatist inside. The repetitive thought process drags you down and tries to convince you that nothing is worth the effort. It can even keep you from trying to change in the first place, making you afraid that putting in effort will all be for naught and you’ll end up feeling stupid or wasting your time.
I’ll never change.
Will it always come back to this?
And I have something to say to that:
It doesn’t have to stop here, and so many people serve as examples for proof:
Look at all those stories of people losing weight and keeping it off!
Overcoming depression is not a fantasy: I’ve done it, and so can you.
People have risen above the situations they were born into, making more money, getting more education, and being the supportive parents that theirs never were.
So many people have done it, so why are you any different? Why don’t you deserve happiness?
You do. Everyone does. There is no question that you are worthy of happiness.
So tell your inner defeatist to shut up, and get on with the good stuff!
Ok, Amy, you make it sound so easy, but how do I even start to tackle this demon?
Good question, blog post. I’ll go over the process I used to conquer my own defeatist (yes, I have one, too) in just a sec. First, some things to remember that could save you from reading the rest of this post (Yay, more time to check facebook!)…
-It takes practice and persistence to change deeply ingrained thought patterns. Knowing this, ask yourself: How hard am I willing to work for happiness?
-Living an unhappy life is far more difficult than putting in the work that will lead you to happiness.
-You are not a martyr because you are unhappy and not doing anything about it. Your suffering will not cure diseases, make the world a better place, or make your loved ones’ lives any easier, and it will just get worse if you don’t stop it now.
-Change is hard, and there are so many ways of going about it. If you’ve tried to change before and failed or relapsed, now you know one method that doesn’t work. Check that one off the list, and move on to another one.
Still with me? Good! Let’s move on to re-framing your brain so that you can kill your inner defeatist, shall we?
First Step- Awareness of Thoughts and Triggers
What are the negative thoughts that come up when you try to take action to change your life?
Do you feel silly? Do you feel unworthy? Do you feel scared that people won’t treat you the same?
Start becoming aware of those recurring negative thoughts that pop up when things get tough.
Write them down- just looking at them on paper is sometimes enough to realize how silly the thought is, and can take power away from it. I find that, in my experience, refusing to face the thoughts just made them stronger.
Now take note of what specific actions or other thoughts triggered those negative thoughts.
What specifically awakens your defeatist? Is it one area of your life that you want to change that makes that voice stronger? Note when the voice is loudest, and in what situations your mind becomes overrun by these thoughts.
Fear is a common sign that your defeatist is well at work. What scares you the most about this area of your life that you want to change? Why does it scare you? Listening to your defeatist in these moments can point out exactly what you need to focus on for the next step.
Second Step- Positive Thoughts/Affirmations
If the word, affirmation, makes you want to run for the hills (or for something less esoteric at least), just humor me and try it. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re doing it, and I won’t make you meditate, I promise. ;)
Take those negative thoughts you wrote down in the first step, and come up with some new thoughts to counter them.
These must be reasonable, positive thoughts or affirmations.
For instance, if my defeatist is yelling, “You’re never going to change,” I’ll try to replace that with, “I am as capable of change as anyone else,” or “I deserve happiness just as much as anyone else does.”
This might take some trial and error finding a thought that sounds right to you.
This thought/affirmation should empower you- you should feel stronger saying it to yourself.
If an affirmation such as “I am a shining beacon of light” is too fluffy-kittens for you, don’t choose that one (and hey, more power to you if that affirmation DOES work for you). Go with a more straight-forward approach such as “I’m worth it,” or “My happiness isn’t stupid.”
Third Step- Replace The Negative With The Positive
Now you combine all of the steps above.
The next time you encounter that trigger, become aware of the negative thought, catch it, and replace it with the positive one.
This takes some forcing in the beginning, and may feel silly, but after a month or so of diligence (depending on how deeply ingrained your defeatist is in you), it will become second nature.
This process is extremely effective for preventing dwelling- which leads to spiraling further downward into negativity- and for encouraging mindfulness.
“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that created them.”
In the present context, this translates to the fact that our mindless or unaware brain created these thoughts while we weren’t looking (sneaky brain!). It takes another level of thinking- mindfulness- to re-frame them.
You must rise above and make your mind think the way you want it to; teach it how to process information.
Your mind is going to fight you hard on these changes. Remember, the brain is only comfortable with what it knows, and so far, it only knows what you have achieved and maintained thus far.
Get your consciousness familiar with the way you want to think.
Keep in mind that you may need to revisit these steps every so often, as that defeatist can crop up when you least expect it. I still collide with the little nuisance in different areas of my life, but after using these steps, I now know how to shut that defeatist up when it starts jabbering.
Are you going to defeat your defeatist this week? Don’t let that negative voice get in the way of the life you’ve always wanted. START NOW.
Do you have questions, comments, or concerns for me? Write them in the comments below, or email me! I’d be happy to help however I can.
photo 1 by ‘GHAZALEH GHAZANFARI’, photo 2 by stev.ie
Until next time, folks!