By now, you know my journey pretty well. I’ve had quite a few setbacks, just like I’m sure you have, too. And like you, I’ve overcome many things.
The process that changed my life is called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a straight-forward series of steps that shifts negative thoughts into ones that serve me to stop negative self-talk. After practicing them for years with therapists, they’re now so ingrained in me that I do them automatically whenever I feel fear taking over.
Recently, I discovered a change to my mindset reframing techniques that expedites and adds ease to the process. It’s simple. It’s quick. And it’s very effective.
CBT has worked wonders for me, but I find that my automatic negative thoughts often come back even after reframing them over and over again. While I can continue to reframe every time they come back, healing the source of them can start making them less frequent, while also calling on more grace than willpower. That’s where forgiveness comes in.
Recently, I went through Gabrielle Bernstein’s book, May Cause Miracles*, which is a 42-day mindset reframing journey that helped me reveal many underlying issues I hadn’t yet addressed. Broken down into weeks that are dedicated to specific issues like body image or financial worries, every day within the week is devoted to a step of the reframe process. While most of the steps looked familiar (awareness, realize that it’s not you, acknowledgment, reframe), I had never even considered one of them: forgiveness.
When I started to add the element of forgiveness to my process to stop negative self-talk, I felt a noticeable shift in the way I perceived my role in the ANT. The heaviness at the source of that negative energy seemed to lighten just a little bit every time I actively forgave myself for the thought.
Today, I want to teach you how to use forgiveness in your own practice. I’ll go through my new mindset reframing process with you, step-by-step, so that you can try it for yourself.
We’ll use one of my underlying distortions as an example (this one might sound familiar): I am not enough. This thought can sabotage any form of growth if you let it carry you away into fear. Instead, take this journey with me and learn how I re-focus my mind on love and strength.
Become aware of the thought as it happens. Acknowledge it, and maybe even write it down. I find that that always helps me to see it on paper. If I don’t write it down, sometimes I’m not completely clear about what is actually bothering me.
What evidence do you have for and against this thought? I recommend journaling out evidence for and against your ANT’s. The “Squashing Your ANT’s” Worksheet in my free Strongie Startup Guide takes you through this step. Click here to get it.
If you determine that this thought is based in fact, move on to the next step.
If you recognize that this thought is not fact, separate it from your core being by seeing it for what it is: a thought projected by fear to protect you from risk. This is where self-sabotage starts. Don’t stop here! Keep going to the next step.
I call the voice that attacks me with negative thoughts my “fear voice.” Going further than that, I actually give my fear voice a name: “Larry.”
Larry manifests in all kinds of ways for me: anxiety, depression, inadequacy and all those other yucky feelings that hold us back from living in love and light. It’s important to recognize that your fear voice is not you; it is a projection of your past pain trying to keep you in that place of hurt so that you don’t risk getting hurt further… the only problem is that living in that space keeps you from healing, too.
Externalizing the voice helps to create that separation and remove self-blame so that you can move forward with the next step.
In order to fully release the power that Larry has over me, I have to forgive him for attacking me. It’s not easy because I don’t like it when anyone talks to me like my fear voice does.
It’s important to know that forgiving your fear voice will not weaken you against it. To the contrary, it’s going to release the attachment you have to it by refusing to give fear any more of your focus or energy.
Talk to your fear like you would to a tantrumming child (that’s basically what your fear voice is). Here’s what I say:
“Larry, I hear that you’re feeling really inadequate right now, and I’m so sorry that someone made you feel that way in the past. I forgive you for attacking me like this because I know it’s not your fault. It’s just all you know how to do to protect me.”
After you’ve spent some time forgiving, move on to the next crucial step that begins the strengthening part of this exercise.
Bring in the love to take back the power from your fear. I’ll continue my conversation with Larry like this:
“Attacking me is all you know how to do to protect me, and I thank you, but I’ve got this. I choose to love myself through healing this.”
As you take this step, breathe into that place of love inside you. It’s there, I promise. Find a tiny spark of light and breathe into it to help it expand.
When you get into this heart-centered place (your truth), move on to the next step.
Speak from that place of love to declare how you choose to move forward from now on. Choose a short mantra (or affirmation) to support your healing. Here’s mine: “I am worthy just because I’m here, breathing.”
That mantra works well for me because I believe it’s true. Make sure that your mantra is based in what you believe to be true. Any mantra that doesn’t ring true to you will have the opposite effect to the one we’re going for, fueling your fear instead of extinguishing it.
If your thoughts center around issues like being overweight or perhaps an eating disorder that drives you to under-eat, addressing it with an opposite statement like, “I am the perfect weight,” might be such a stretch that your mind won’t accept the shift, which could throw you right back into self-attack. Instead, choose something that nudges you in the right direction like, “I’m doing the best I can with what I have,” or “I choose love over fear.”
Your mantra will change over time. You might find that, like me, you use multiple ones throughout the day!
Root yourself in love and strength by letting this love-based declaration inspire action. Choose an action that will support this new way of thinking.
For instance, using my example of self-worth, I’ll do something for myself like taking a risk that I wouldn’t have if I chose to believe that I wasn’t enough. I’ll go out and talk to someone I don’t know, pitch a guest post for a site I’ve never written for, or maybe I’ll wear something that I’d been waiting to wear until I looked a certain way.
Whatever I do, I act from this loving place. Even if I take a risk and it doesn’t pan out as I hoped, I still feel like I stuck it to Larry because I tried. Every time you talk ego down, it loses a little bit of power over you.
That, above all, is my dream for you. If this process proves to talk you out of the darkness, keep going.
The key to ingraining this process in you is to do it consistently.
Just like working out or eating healthy, you must do it enough to make it habit.
If it sounds overwhelming, focus on one repetitive ANT at a time until you feel like you’ve got a grasp on using the process when that ANT pipes up. Then, try it on another one.
I invite you to start talking to yourself as you do to someone you love: with gentleness and grace. You are the most important person in your life. You deserve to be loved by you.
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