My mother always says, “Don’t put yourself down. The world will do a very good job of this without your help.” Unfortunately, she is right. The voices and images we encounter each day can make us feel inadequate.
Frequently I hear clients say things like, “I’m never going to get this place in order!” or, “I’m so scattered, I can’t remember anything.” The truth is, if you tell yourself that you are incompetent or unable, you are sabotaging your success.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about accurately assessing our limitations. I could tell myself that I’m going to be a star in the WNBA, but at 5’3”, this is highly unlikely. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and understanding these actually facilitates good decision-making. In contrast, sometimes we have the tendency to automatically shift into unwarranted self-criticism. Perhaps we believe that because we struggled with something in the past, we will be unable to succeed in the future. Or, we compare our current circumstances to someone else’s and decide that we simply don’t – and won’t ever – measure up.
The good news is, the one voice we listen to more than any other is our own, and this one we can actually work on. The messages we allow to repeat in our minds are largely habitual, and habits can be changed. If you believe you may have fallen into a pattern of putting yourself down, consider making a concerted effort to change the way you talk to and about yourself.
Here are some phrases to write down, post in a visible place, and internalize:
✓ I am capable
Think you can’t get through the day? I bet you’ve had that feeling before, and yet, here you are! When you are tempted to quit, remind yourself that you have made it through rough patches before, and you will again.
✓ I can achieve my goals
Many tasks look impossible from a distance, but once you start, it gets easier and easier. Identify a bite-sized step, and celebrate having taken it. If you encounter a hurdle, set a new, more realistic goal. There are multiple paths to a final destination.
✓ I will begin right now
Waiting to “feel” ready is often a procrastination technique. Don’t let this be an excuse.
✓ I make good decisions
Most people make hundreds of decisions every day. Don’t allow the fact that you wrestle with a few tough ones, or have made a few bad ones, to cause you to doubt your abilities. Learn from any mistakes, apply this new wisdom, and move on.
✓ I don’t have to do everything myself
Asking for help (or hiring it, when necessary) is not a weakness. Successful people know how to employ external resources in a way that allows them to be their best.
✓ I can start fresh
We all have lousy days. Sometimes we make mistakes. But we shouldn’t waste time bemoaning the past, and we certainly shouldn’t project a previous experience onto the rest of our lives. Learn what you can, make reparations if necessary, and move on.
* * * * *
Life is too precious to spend it under a cloud of self-denigrating thoughts. What positive affirmations do you replay to yourself?