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Archive for the ‘Self Image’ Category

How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts

SOURCE:  Renee Jain, Contributor/The Huffington Post

All kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous.

“I didn’t get invited to Julie’s party… I’m such a loser.”

“I missed the bus… nothing ever goes my way.”

“My science teacher wants to see me… I must be in trouble.”

These are the thoughts of a high school student named James. You wouldn’t know it from his thoughts, but James is actually pretty popular and gets decent grades.

Unfortunately, in the face of adversity, James makes a common error; he falls into what I like to call “thought holes.” Thought holes, or cognitive distortions, are skewed perceptions of reality. They are negative interpretations of a situation based on poor assumptions. For James, thought holes cause intense emotional distress.

Here’s the thing, all kids blow things out of proportion or jump to conclusions at times, but consistently distorting reality is not innocuous. Studies show self-defeating thoughts (i.e., “I’m a loser”) can trigger self-defeating emotions (i.e., pain, anxiety, malaise) that, in turn, cause self-defeating actions (i.e., acting out, skipping school). Left unchecked, this tendency can also lead to more severe conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Fortunately, in a few steps, we can teach teens how to fill in their thought holes. It’s time to ditch the idea of positive thinking and introduce the tool of accurate thinking. The lesson begins with an understanding of what causes inaccurate thinking in the first place.

We Create Our Own (Often Distorted) Reality

One person walks down a busy street and notices graffiti on the wall, dirt on the pavement and a couple fighting. Another person walks down the same street and notices a refreshing breeze, an ice cream cart and a smile from a stranger. We each absorb select scenes in our environment through which we interpret a situation. In essence, we create our own reality by that to which we give attention.

Why don’t we just interpret situations based on all of the information? It’s not possible; there are simply too many stimuli to process. In fact, the subconscious mind can absorb 20 million bits of information through the five senses in a mere second. Data is then filtered down so that the conscious mind focuses on only 7 to 40 bits. This is a mental shortcut.

Shortcuts keep us sane by preventing sensory overload. Shortcuts help us judge situations quickly. Shortcuts also, however, leave us vulnerable to errors in perception. Because we perceive reality based on a tiny sliver of information, if that information is unbalanced (e.g., ignores the positive and focuses on the negative), we are left with a skewed perception of reality, or a thought hole.

Eight Common Thought Holes

Not only are we susceptible to errors in thinking, but we also tend to make the same errors over and over again. Seminal work by psychologist Aaron Beck, often referred to as the father of cognitive therapy, and his former student, David Burns, uncovered several common thought holes as seen below.

  • Jumping to conclusions: judging a situation based on assumptions as opposed to definitive facts
  • Mental filtering: paying attention to the negative details in a situation while ignoring the positive
  • Magnifying: magnifying negative aspects in a situation
  • Minimizing: minimizing positive aspects in a situation
  • Personalizing: assuming the blame for problems even when you are not primarily responsible
  • Externalizing: pushing the blame for problems onto others even when you are primarily responsible
  • Overgeneralizing: concluding that one bad incident will lead to a repeated pattern of defeat
  • Emotional reasoning: assuming your negative emotions translate into reality, or confusing feelings with facts

Going from Distorted Thinking to Accurate Thinking

Once teens understand why they fall into thought holes and that several common ones exist, they are ready to start filling them in by trying a method developed by GoZen! called the 3Cs:

  • Check for common thought holes
  • Collect evidence to paint an accurate picture
  • Challenge the original thoughts

Let’s run through the 3Cs using James as an example. James was recently asked by his science teacher to chat after class. He immediately thought, “I must be in trouble,” and began to feel distressed. Using the 3Cs, James should first check to see if he had fallen into one of the common thought holes. Based on the list above, it seems he jumped to a conclusion.

James’s next step is to collect as much data or evidence as possible to create a more accurate picture of the situation. His evidence may look something like the following statements:

“I usually get good grades in science class.”

“Teachers sometimes ask you to chat after class when something is wrong.”

“I’ve never been in trouble before.”

“The science teacher didn’t seem upset when he asked me to chat.”

With all the evidence at hand, James can now challenge his original thought. The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is for James to have a debate with himself.

On one side is the James who believes he is in big trouble with his science teacher; on the other side is the James who believes that nothing is really wrong. James could use the evidence he collected to duke it out with himself! In the end, this type of self-disputation increases accurate thinking and improves emotional well-being.

Let’s teach our teens that thoughts, even distorted ones, affect their emotional well-being. Let’s teach them to forget positive thinking and try accurate thinking instead. Above all, let’s teach our teens that they have the power to choose their thoughts.

As the pioneering psychologist and philosopher, William James, once said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”

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5 Beliefs People with Adverse Upbringing Have about Themselves

SOUCE:    /PsychCentral

One of the negative effects of being raised in a difficult environment is a warped self-perception that manifests itself in various false beliefs. In this article, we will explore a few of the more popular ones.

1. I’m worthless

Believing that you are worthless is extremely common. Many children grow up into adults with a diminished sense of self-worth. That is the reality: if you treat someone whose mind is still developing as if they are worthless, they will believe that they are worthless.

This is understandable because if you are repeatedly told that you are stupid, incompetent, and useless, or even subtly or explicitly treated as though you are worthless, you receive the same message.

This is especially the case when those treating you this way are the very people that you are dependent on. You will, then, internalize this feeling and it will become your self-perception. Children pick up on these signals from their caregivers and adapt to their reality.

This belief is often accompanied by similar toxic beliefs:

  • I am unlovable.
  • I don’t matter.
  • I can’t do anything right.
  • There’s no point of even trying.
  • I don’t deserve anything.

2. Everything is my fault

Excessive, unjust guilt is another common problem people suffer from. This belief develops if a child is punished for making mistakes, if they are micromanaged, if they are expected to meet unrealistic or unfair standards, and if they are blamed for things that they are not responsible for.

As a response to such treatment, the person learns to believe that whatever “bad” happens it’s their fault—because that’s how they were treated and led to believe. It often leads to feeling severe social anxiety and being in a constant state of alertness. It makes a person’s personal life quite challenging since they constantly concentrate on others and think that everything is somehow related to them.

Similar beliefs:

  • I deserve to be treated this way.
  • It wasn’t that bad.
  • I was a bad child.
  • I am inherently bad or defective.
  • Someone’s always watching me.
  • Everyone hates me.

3. I have to take care of everyone

This is an extension of the previous belief. Here, the person believes that they are responsible for things that they are actually not responsible for. It is very common for such individuals to try to take care of other people’s needs, preferences, and emotions at the expense of their own.

If a child is not allowed to be a child and is forced to take up on a role of a parent—to their own parents, their siblings, or others—then they grow up feeling responsible for others. Such role reversal in a person’s early life predisposes them to neglect their own well-being, dreams, aspirations, and life for other people. The easiest form to recognize is people-pleasing, but it takes other shapes as well.

Similar beliefs:

  • I am responsible for other people’s emotions.
  • If others are suffering it’s my fault.
  • It’s my responsibility to save others.
  • I have to make sure that everyone’s happy.
  • My needs and wants are unimportant.

4. I can’t do anything myself

Many people who grow up in a controlling environment become overly dependent. This is because they were treated as if they are incompetent and weren’t given freedom to pursue their own goals, to make mistakes, and to overcome obstacles. Instead, they developed codependent tendencies and a sense of incompetency.

Here, instead of being an individual, facing life’s challenges and developing competency, the person stays stuck in the role of a helpless, dependent child, where they need someone else to take care of their financial, emotional, and even physical needs. A common, more extreme example would be a battered spouse who is afraid to leave because they think they can’t survive the separation.

Similar beliefs:

  • I’m not good at anything.
  • Everything’s so complicated.
  • I don’t understand anything.
  • I am waiting for my savior.
  • I just want for someone to take care of me.
  • I just want someone who will make me feel safe.

5. I have to do everything myself

This is, in many ways, the opposite of the previous belief. Instead of being passive, the person feels that they have to do everything on their own. As a child, they had to take care of themselves because their caregivers were not very caring or reliable. They were forced to grow up quickly and deal with their struggles alone.

For people like this it is difficult to trust others, ask for help, or be vulnerable. They were routinely hurt by other people’s insensitivity, betrayed by those who were supposed to love them, and let down by people’s incompetency and unreliability. So they learned that you have to do everything yourself.

Similar beliefs:

  • Showing emotion is “unmanly” or weak (i.e., dangerous).
  • I can’t trust anyone.
  • I don’t need anyone.
  • Everyone is just selfish and doesn’t care about anybody else.
  • Asking for help is a sign of weakness.
  • You have to carry everything inside.
  • Nobody can understand me.

 

Codependency and Parenting: Break the Cycle in Your Family

SOURCE:   Kathy Hardie-Williams, MEd, MS, NCC, LPC, LMFT/GoodTherapy.org

There are some common misunderstandings about what codependency is. It used to be that when one heard the term codependency, it was associated with being in a relationship with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. The term codependency is now more commonly associated with being emotionally dependent on others in relationships. While we are all emotionally dependent on others to some degree, when we make decisions that go against our value system in order to avoid rejection and anger, we are creating a codependent dynamic within the family system.

As parents, we want to avoid family dynamics that perpetuate codependency. Research (1999) indicates that patterns within the family system can be passed down through generations. Parents need to be aware of codependent patterns within the family system so that they can recognize when it’s necessary to break the cycle. If the cycle continues and is passed down as codependency patterns within the family system, the children may be likely to enter into codependent relationships and pass codependency patterns down to their children as well.

Some behaviors for parents to be aware of in order to recognize and avoid perpetuating codependency patterns include:

Being too rigid: When parents are so controlling of their children’s behavior that children don’t have the opportunity to explore their own choices, parents send a message to their children that they aren’t responsible for their choices and that someone else has all the power. Their children may then be more likely to choose relationships where they feel powerless.

Using your child to get your needs met: Parents need to ensure that they get their own needs met in other areas of their life such as hobbies, work, and relationships so that they don’t live vicariously through their children. Parents who live vicariously through their children risk sending their children the message that they must have their parents’ approval. While it is normal for children to go through a phase where they seek their parent’s approval, the need for parental approval could carry on into adulthood.

Acting on the desire to solve their problems: When children talk about their problems, parents need to listen more without offering advice as opposed to becoming reactive and/or trying to rescue children from their problems. If given the opportunity through a safe place to explore their feelings and options, children may be more successful at learning how to solve their own problems. Parents can provide support to encourage their children to be creative in finding ways to solve their problems.

When parents come up with a plan of action instead of allowing their children to develop a plan of action, they are interfering with the opportunity to develop problem solving skills. Children then receive the message that they are not capable of solving their own problems and that someone else needs to solve their problems for them. As adults, they could potentially be more likely to enter into relationships where they are told what to do.

How Can Parents Avoid Perpetuating Codependency Patterns Within the Family System?

In order to avoid passing down codependency patterns within the family system, parents need to facilitate children in developing a strong sense of self. By implementing some of these practices, parents can be proactive in helping their children develop a solid and healthy sense of self-esteem:

  • Be mindful of their safety, but give children the freedom and opportunity to solve their own problems.
  • Don’t emotionally neglect children.
  • Don’t be overly controlling or overly pampering. Doing so may result in some children creating a dependency on others and an inability to make independent decisions, while other children take on too much responsibility and are forced to give up their childhood.
  • Be mindful of your own patterns of behaviors such as passive-aggressive comments, giving children the silent treatment, disrespecting children’s boundaries, or being dependent on children for emotional support.
  • Encourage positive self-talk.
  • Teach children that value doesn’t come from pleasing a parent.
  • Parents need to practice self-care and ensure they are taking care of their own needs. This will help a parent avoid building resentment that often gets turned inward.

Reference:

Burris, C. T. (1999). Stand by your (exploitive) man: Codependency and responses to performance feedback. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 18(3), 277-298. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/224867940?accountid=1229

Your Attachment Style Influences the Success of Your Relationship

SOURCE:  Marni Feuerman, LCSW, LMFT/Gottman Institute

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone who was emotionally unavailable? What about someone who was emotionally exhausting?

People give up on finding “the one” after experiencing a relationship or two with someone who has either style. Self-doubt sets in and you think, “something must be wrong with me.”

To understand this phenomenon you must first understand attachment theory, one of the most well researched theories in the field of relational psychology. Attachment theory describes how our early relationships with a primary caregiver, most commonly a parent, creates our expectation for how love should be.

Our view of ourself and others is molded by how well these caregivers were available and responsive to met our physical and emotional needs. In our adult relationships, our attachment system is triggered by our romantic partners.

The attachment alarm

How are we triggered? Think about the availability of your primary caregiver.

  • Were they neglectful, always there for you, or inconsistent?
  • Who did you go to when you had a problem?
  • Was there someone there you could really count on?

You can start to identify your own attachment style by getting to know the four patterns of attachment in adults and learning how they commonly affect couples in their relating.

According to attachment theory, you have a secure attachment style if a caregiver was responsive and available to you as a child, making you feel safe and secure. Creating a secure attachment is important for dating to create a healthy relationship. In a secure relationship your partner is there for you and has your back. If you are an insecure style (and you choose someone with an insecure style), you will continually be triggered and never feel safe or secure in your relationship.

If your caregiver was unresponsive, you form an insecure attachment pattern. An insecure attachment style manifests in three main ways.

Anxious Attachment – develops when a caregiver has been inconsistent in their responsiveness and availability, confusing the child about what to expect. As an adult, this person acts clingy at times and finds it difficult to trust their partner.

Avoidant Attachment – develops when a caregiver is neglectful. These are the children that play by themselves and develop the belief that no one is there to meet their needs. As adults, they typically label themselves as very independent.

Disorganized Attachment
– develops from abuse, trauma, or chaos in the home. A child learns to fear the caregiver and has no real “secure base.”

All of these styles influence the way you behave in your romantic relationships and how you find a romantic partner.

So, this begs the question, can one change their attachment style to a more secure way of relating?

Changing your attachment style

The answer is yes, but it takes hard work. Often therapy can be incredibly helpful. Being aware of your attachment style and the choices you are making in a partner are crucial. A quality therapist will guide your development of the awareness necessary to discern whether you are reacting to past wounds.

We tend to recreate unhealthy relationship patterns from our childhood in our adulthood. As much as people may dislike it, the familiarity is comforting. You may even confuse the feelings of relationship chemistry with what is the familiarity of your early life experience.

You can challenge your insecurities by choosing a partner with a secure attachment style, and work on developing yourself in that relationship. By facing your fears about love, you can build new styles of attachment for sustaining a satisfying, loving relationship.

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Recommended resources

The following books will help you to understand attachment theory and how it impacts your relationship.

Levine explains how the three attachment styles create the types of relationships we end up in as adults and how to break those patterns to have healthier relationships.

What Makes Love Last: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal by Dr. John Gottman

Trust and attunement are the foundation of a secure and healthy relationship.

Learn how to recognize and avoid “blind spots” in dating so you can find lasting love.

Your Brain on Love: The Neurobiology of Healthy Relationships by Stan Tatkin, PsyD

Tatkin shares the complexity of attachment styles and how to love an emotionally unavailable partner so they can be more available, and how to love an insecure partner so they feel safe.

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson

Johnson offers seven vital conversations that help partners work with their unique insecure attachment styles to create a more secure and meaningful relationship.

Is Self-Care Selfish?

SOURCE:  Taken from the Prepare-Enrich Newsletter

Spoiler Alert:  It’s Not!

Self-care is taking time to care for yourself in whatever what makes sense for you. We often overlook self-care by thinking that it’s something only selfish people do and isn’t that important. However, the more I intentionally practice self-care, the more I see the positive impact on my relationship and I know it’s not a selfish act. Most importantly, I’ve found it allows me to be more present in my relationships because I took the time to make myself feel whole.

The problem with the idea of your partner being your “other half” is that you are unable to invest any part of yourself into your relationship if you aren’t whole. By reframing my thoughts around self-care, how loving and appreciating myself can create a stronger connection in my relationship, I have been able to overcome the negative stigma of “selfish self-care.” It’s important for me to take care for myself for mine and my partner’s sake.

Why Does Self-Care Matter

  • Increases your emotional/mental well-being
  • Allots time for you to take care of your physical self
  • Gives you the energy to care for others
  • Feeling positive about yourself gives you a better outlook on your relationship and life in general

How to Practice Self-Care

Simply take time to do something you enjoy, something that feeds your soul and inspires you. Here are some ideas:

  • Journal – write down your daily thoughts in the morning or at night
  • Volunteer – give back to others using your talents
  • Cook – develop a new recipe, make your favorite dinner
  • Be creative – draw, write, rearrange your living room
  • Pamper yourself – get your hair cut, take a long shower, get a massage
  • Spend time with family – look at old family photos, play a game
  • Go outside – take a walk, jog, or go for a run
  • Be active – go to the gym, practice yoga
  • Eat what you want – drink water, eat your veggies, and eat your cake too (in moderation)
  • Sleep – go to bed early, allow yourself to sleep in, take a nap

Self-Image: Three Questions

SOURCE:  Taken from the book by Ed Welch

So much of life comes down to the following three questions:

  • Who is God?
  • Who am I?
  • Who are these other people?

You might not wake up in the morning with these questions on your mind. In fact, you might never have asked these questions. But, as a human being, those questions are part of your DNA. You will find them sneaking around in your anger, happiness, contentment, jealousy, sadness, fear, guilt, cutting, sense of purpose, life meaning, decision making, moral choices about sex, friendships, school, work, and so on.

Notice, for example, how jealousy answers these questions.

Who is God?

“He is someone who should give me what I want.”

Who am I?

“I deserve better—better looks, better athletic ability, a better boyfriend or girlfriend.”

“I am a judge who is authorized to stand over others.”

Who are these other people?

“They are below me. They have things that I deserve more than them.”

 

Sadness or depression? Listen and you will hear their answers too.

Who is God?

  • “He is far away and doesn’t care.”
  • “He is someone who didn’t give me what I wanted.”
  • “He could never forgive me for what I have done.”

Who am I?

  • “I am nothing, literally nothing. It isn’t that I am trash; I am just nothing.”
  • “I am needy, and I haven’t gotten what I need.”
  • “I am alone.”
  • “I am God. I deserved something and I didn’t get it.”

Who are these other people?

  • “They are my life. I put my hope in them, and they let me down.”
  • “They don’t care, so I am trying not to care about them, but it isn’t working.”
  • “They can’t be trusted.”

You can see what’s happening. You already have answers to these questions. You just have to uncover them. You might know some right answers, such as “I am a child of God.” But our hearts are complicated. The right answer is rarely your only answer. Instead, you usually have at least two sets of answers: those that are “right,” and those that actually guide the way you live. To discover your real answers to these questions, watch how you live. In particular, track your emotions. Look for what makes you upset, depressed, angry, and anxious, or what makes you happy, calm, excited, and peaceful.

Once you settle into one of your less comfortable moods, who do you say God really is?

  • Angry
  • Far away and not aware of what you are doing in secret
  • Far away and uncaring about what is bothering you
  • Picky
  • Unfair

What about other people? Who are they?

  • Objects you manipulate so that they serve you
  • Protectors
  • Threats
  • Jerks
  • Things that can make you feel really good or really bad
  • Idols that you worship

And you? Who are you? Try to capture your view of yourself with a picture. If the picture is “child of God” don’t stop there. Find some others.

  • I am alone, living behind thick walls. I can see out, and everyone else looks normal, but I am isolated.
  • I am a leper who has to live with other lepers far away from everyone else.
  • I am the black sheep—unwanted, standing out in a bad way and not fitting in.
  • I feel like a baby bird, vulnerable, needy, waiting to be pushed out of the nest.
  • I am a piece of a puzzle, happy to fit in but not stand out.

Any you would add?

When it comes to being controlled by the opinions of others—the fear of man—there is one image that fits most of us: a vessel, cup, bowl, or some kind of container. Listen for words such as need, want, and empty. They hint that we want to be filled with something that only other people can give us. Ever feel empty?

Any thoughts on what you think would fill you?

Picture a cup, something like the animated walking teacups of Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. There is already something in it; call it self-esteem for now. Some people have more, some less, but no one feels like they have much. You waddle around, hoping that no one bumps you so hard that everything spills out. You also hope that someone close by is in the shape of a pitcher so you can be filled.

What would cause a spill?

  • “Loser!”
  • “We decided not to hire you.”
  • “We regret to inform you that you weren’t accepted to . . .”
  • “Can’t you do anything right?!”

What would fill you up?

  • “Nice outfit.”
  • “Awesome game!”
  • “Good job.”
  • “I love you.”

“I love you” fills you up best. Sometimes it is enough to hear it from a parent. More often, parents can’t fill you with their words of affection, though they certainly can cause you to spill all over the place with words of rejection. The job of filling you is usually reserved for your peers. Get an “I love you,” or even an “I really like you,” from the right person, and life is wonderful. You feel great. Full. Who cares if someone bumps into you? “I love you” is high-octane fuel for your self-esteem.

If you don’t get filled, bad things happen. You wander around with a case of the blues, though you might not even realize it. Some people try to fill themselves with other things: achievements, sex, drugs, music, video games, Internet porn, and fantasy. But none of it really works. Even if you receive love it doesn’t work for too long. It is like a drug that fills you for awhile—about an hour or so—and then you need more. And there will be days when you feel so bad that even “I love you” won’t make any difference. Either your cup has a leak in it, or you weren’t intended to live like a cup. Which one do you think it is? (Both answers are correct, so you don’t have to worry about getting the wrong answer.)

Do you have any ideas why life as a love cup doesn’t work?

There is nothing wrong with wanting love. It would be positively inhuman not to want it. The problem comes when we desire it too much—when our desire for love becomes the center of life—which, when you think about it, makes us the center of our own lives. The problem is when we want to be loved more than we want to love. If only life could be a little bit less about us.

Then it gets worse. When we live as love cups, we will get hurt. There is no doubt about that. We can never get filled enough. When the hurts pile up, we feel ashamed and protect ourselves. We hide behind masks. You can’t let others see you or really know you. You try to spruce up your facade with grades, thinness, or some other accomplishment, but you never feel covered up enough. When other people are staring, it’s as if they can see through the mask. So you move on to something less revealing—if masks won’t work maybe walls will. But walls have problems of their own. Have you ever experienced the transition from love cup (or approval cup or success cup or . . .) to mask to walls? We all have, so what was it like for you?

What masks do you wear the most?

  • Intelligence
  • Athletics
  • Popularity
  • Creativity, being different

One problem with masks and walls is that, though their purpose is to protect you from hurt, they hurt you even more because they don’t allow relationships. You can’t have a deeper relationship if you won’t allow yourself to be known. All this leads to a dead end: if you allow people to know you, you get hurt; if you protect yourself from people, you get hurt. It ends in misery. But there is another way. This better way allows us to be open and honest and part of a community where we don’t have to put up self-defensive walls. Ever been there? Have you ever had the pleasure of being open with another person?

Think about it. What’s better than having relationships that let you be yourself? If you have ever experienced that, be sure to thank those people.[1]

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[1] Welch, E. T. (2011). What do you think of me? why do i care? answers to the big questions of life. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press.

9 Ways to Stop the Incredible Damage of Negative Self Talk

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Marissa Laliberte/Readers Digest

You’ve heard it before—you’re your own worst critic. Here’s how to silence that nagging voice in your head.

See yourself more accurately

Parts of your brain are hardwired to scan for problems, meaning they’ll latch onto your weaknesses and magnify them, says Amy Johnson, PhD, psychologist, life coach, and author of The Little Book of Big Change. “The thing that your mind is fixating on and seeing as this imperfection and horrible flaw, that’s pretty biased,” she says. Once you recognize that your mind isn’t telling the truth, you can let criticisms become background noise instead of a disruptive roar.

Focus on your good traits

“It’s hard to forget pain, but it’s easy to forget what makes us happy,” says Irina Popa-Erwin, founder of The NYC Life Coach. To remind yourself of your best qualities, she recommends looking in the mirror and finding three things you like about yourself every day for three months. “At the beginning you might not believe it—you’re just saying it because you gave yourself that assignment,” she says. “At the end of three months, you’ll actually embrace them because of the repetition that you keep telling yourself.”

Know what to blame on your mood

Just as you should give yourself time to cool off before sending an angry email, learn to ignore self-loathing when you’re feeling generally down. “Imperfections and flaws tend to change day to day and by our mood,” Johnson says. “When we’re in a bad mood, we think we have all kinds of problems. When we’re in a good mood, all of a sudden those problems don’t seem so big.” Once you’ve had a chance to cheer up, you’ll probably find that the failings you saw before aren’t worth dwelling on.

 

Ask yourself why you care

Do you want toned arms for your own benefit or because you’re worried about what other people think about your appearance? Popa-Erwin says understanding your real values and dreams will help you be more content when your shortcomings don’t stack up to others’ expectations (or what you think they expect). “I tell people to find what they want. Not based on what society says, not based on what their circle of friends has,” she says. “That will be different standards.” If your priority is spending time with family, don’t sweat the fact that you can’t spend hours at the gym.

Understand your inner critic has good intentions

“Never criticize the voices inside you that criticize you,” says Melissa Sandfort, IFSCP, founder of A Thousand Paths life coaching. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Instead of resenting your negative thoughts, appreciate their helpful purposes, she says. After all, beating yourself up over eating too many cookies is your mind’s way of trying to get your body healthier. Understand why you’re having those thoughts, but don’t believe them when they say you’re inadequate.

Learn to accept—not love—your flaws

If you try persuading yourself you love your imperfections, your inner lie detector will go crazy. “To convince yourself it’s a good thing can be sort of annoying,” Johnson says. “You know your giving yourself a pep talk, and it falls short.” Instead of forcing a positive spin on your weaknesses, give yourself perspective and remind yourself they seem worse to you than they really are.

 

Recognize what you’re beating yourself up over

Then decide what steps you’ll make to better yourself, Popa-Erwin says. The key is to pick steps you’re willing to take, not ones you feel obligated to take. “If you say what you’re willing to do, then you’re already a step forward and will feel much better because you see progress,” she says. Then build a long-term plan to work at it, checking your progress every few months to remind yourself how far you’ve come.

Recognize your accomplishments

Maybe your presentation at work didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, but that single shortcoming doesn’t define you. Remind yourself of everything else you’ve accomplished and that disappointment won’t seem like such a big deal anymore. “There is not one person on this earth who didn’t accomplish something,” Popa-Erwin says. “It could be saying ‘hi’ to someone, smiling at someone, helping a friend in need, or listening.” Reminding yourself often of these little wins can change your mindset and help you embrace the bright side of your failures, she says.

Address your vulnerabilities

Criticizing your flaws is usually self-defense. Painful past experiences leave you vulnerable, with your mind trying to prevent that shame, anger, or lack of control again by criticizing you when you make those same mistakes again. But often, the flaw really isn’t as big of a deal as your mind makes it out to be, Sandfort says. Figuring out why you started to hate that weaknesses can put it back in perspective. “Go to your vulnerable parts and witness the pain they’ve been carrying, and then they can let go of it and not be as vulnerable as in the past,” Sandfort says. Once you’ve accepted your past, your mind won’t have to work so hard to protect you from letting it happen again and you’ll react less strongly.

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