We're all guilty of obsessing over those thoughts that tell us we're not good enough, but how do we learn to counteract the self-critical mind-chatter?
1. Become aware that they are only thoughts
The first step to overcoming negative self-thinking is to recognise the thoughts as only thoughts. They can only do you harm if you let them. They are created by your ego. If a part of you created them, another part of you can learn to control them. Try not to attach an emotion to them. Let them remain as a separate thing to how you feel, releasing that sense of significance. We react more strongly to emotions than thoughts. Observe the thoughts, don’t react to the thoughts. Actions come from thoughts – it is only if we act on a thought that it becomes ‘real’.
Observe the thoughts, don’t react to the thoughts. It is only if we act on a thought that it becomes ‘real’.
Eckhart Tolle in his book ‘Stillness Speaks’ says, '"No self. No problem,’ said the Buddhist Master when asked to explain the deeper meaning of Buddhism”'. And it’s true. Your ego is not the real you but it’s a part of the physical manifestation of you. If you ignore the ego’s selfish thinking (and negative self-thinking is unfortunately all about us!), there isn’t a problem.
2. Combat negative thoughts with positive affirmations
This takes time and lots of practise to accomplish but once you can recognise a thought for only being a fleeting thought, you are able to combat it with the opposite, positive thought. For example, if I think ‘I feel useless. I can’t do anything right’, I would catch myself and recognise that I’ve had that negative thought. I can then sit back and think instead, ‘I always try my best and that’s the most I can give’. Repetition and consistency are the keys to breaking old, bad habits. We tend to get the same negative thoughts crop up in a cycle so the more we can combat them and repeat those positive affirmations, the less negative thoughts we’ll experience.
3. Take an outsider’s view
If the first two tips prove difficult (and they will until you’ve practised them hundreds of times), try taking an outsider’s point of view. If your friend came up to you and repeated some of the negative things you've told yourself and applied it to themselves, what would you do? You would most likely tell them they’re being silly and it’s not true. You’d probably say that they are wonderful and there's no need to worry. If you can comfort your friend, why not extend the same kindness to yourself?
4. Treat yourself like you would a friend
If we are able to be nice to others, why do we find it so hard to be the same towards ourselves? I believe it’s because it’s two parts of us fighting against each other. When a friend is in need of comfort, our ego takes a back seat and our compassionate side is dominant. When it is us in need, our ego and compassion are fighting each other with equal strength. Try to make your compassionate side dominant in your times of self-doubt. You are only human. The thoughts you are experiencing are common. Give yourself a break.
Try to make your compassionate side dominant in your times of self-doubt. You are only human. The thoughts you are experiencing are common. Give yourself a break.
I find it helpful to remember the idea of ‘No self. No problem’ whenever I have a negative self-thought. It’s a simple message that reminds us to be selfless. It wouldn’t be such an enjoyable life if we were self-involved all the time, in fact it would be lonely. The next time you worry you aren’t good enough, say to yourself "No self. No problem" and watch how your mind shifts into the wider perspective, to the community of humanity.
A self-love meditation
This meditation uses Buddhist principles to help you understand your suffering and put it in perspective. It teaches you to practise self-love and self-compassion whilst experiencing something difficult, rather than needing something from others or ourselves.
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