Friday, April 5, 2013

Common Thinking Errors Leading to Negative Self-Talk


And now we shall discuss some things that most of us should be pretty familiar with by now:


There are some common thinking errors that most of us make from time to time when we’re feeling anxious, angry or depressed. Thinking errors are irrational patterns of thinking that can cause you to feel bad and sometimes act in self-defeating ways. Whenever you find yourself feeling upset, look for any thinking errors that might be contributing to the way you feel.

Challenging your thinking errors

Here are 10 common thinking errors and ways to challenge them.

1. Black-and-white thinking




When you’re thinking in black-and-white, you see everything in terms of being either good or bad with nothing in between. For example: either you’re great, or you’re a loser; If you don’t look like a model, you must be ugly; if you do something wrong, then you are completely bad.

The challenge: Look for shades of gray

It’s important to avoid thinking about things in terms of extremes. Most things aren’t black-and-white, but somewhere in-between. Just because something isn’t completely perfect doesn’t mean that it’s a total disaster.

Ask yourself:
  • Is it really so bad, or am I seeing things in black-and-white?
  • How else can I think about the situation?
  • Am I taking an extreme view?


2. Unreal ideal

Another common thinking error is to make unfair comparisons between certain individuals and yourself. When you do this, you compare yourself with people who have a specific advantage in some area. Making unfair comparisons can leave you feeling inadequate.

The challenge: Stop making unfair comparisons

Ask yourself:

  • Am I comparing myself with people who have a particular advantage?
  • Am I making fair comparisons?


3. Filtering

When you filter, first you hone in on the negative aspects of your situation. Then you ignore or dismiss all the positive aspects.

The challenge: Consider the whole picture
Ask yourself:

  • Am I looking at the negatives, while ignoring the positives?
  • Is there a more balanced way to look at this situation?


4. Personalizing: The self-blame game

When you personalize, you blame yourself for anything that goes wrong, even when it’s not your fault or responsibility.

The challenge: Find all the causes
Ask yourself:

  • Am I really to blame? Is this all about me?
  • What other explanations might there be for this situation?


5. Mind-reading

We often think we know what other people are thinking. We assume that others are focused on our faults and weaknesses—but this is often wrong! Remember: your worst critic is probably you.

The challenge: Don’t assume you know what others are thinking
Ask yourself:

  • What is the evidence? How do I know what other people are thinking?
  • Just because I assume something, does that mean I’m right?


6. Exaggerating

When things go wrong, you might have a tendency to exaggerate the consequences and imagine that the results will be disastrous.

The challenge: Put it in perspective
Ask yourself:

  • What’s the worst that can happen?
  • What’s the best that can happen?
  • What’s most likely to happen?
  • Will this matter in five years?
  • Is there anything good about the situation?
  • Is there any way to fix the situation?


7. Over-generalizing
Over-generalizing is a lot like exaggeration. When you over-generalize, you exaggerate the frequency of negative things in your life, like mistakes, disapproval and failures. Typically you might think to yourself: I always make mistakes, or everyone thinks I’m stupid.

The challenge: Be specific
Ask yourself:

  • Am I over-generalizing?
  • What are the facts? What are my interpretations?


8. Fact versus feeling
Sometimes you might confuse your thoughts or feelings with reality. You might assume that your perceptions are correct.

The challenge: Stick to the facts
Ask yourself:

  • Am I confusing my feelings with the facts? Just because I’m feeling this way, does that mean my perceptions are correct?
  • Am I thinking this way just because I’m feeling bad right now?


9. Labeling

When you use label, you might call yourself or other people names. Instead of being specific—for example, saying “That was a silly thing to do” —you make negative generalizations about yourself or other people by saying things like “I’m ugly,” or “she’s an idiot.”

The challenge: Judge the situation, not the person
Ask yourself:

  • What are the facts and what are my interpretations?
  • Just because there is something that I’m not happy with, does that mean that it’s totally no good?


10. ‘Can’t Stand-itis’
Some people get intolerant when they have to do things they don’t enjoy. They tell themselves that they “can’t stand” certain things instead of acknowledging that they don’t enjoy them. As a result, they easily become frustrated and angry.

The challenge: Accept that frustration is a normal part of life
Ask yourself:

  • I don’t enjoy it, but I can stand it.
  • This is a hassle, and that’s O.K.! Life is full of hassles.


The effect of challenging thinking errors

What is the effect of challenging your thinking errors? It can make you feel better and encourage you to change some of your behavior.

Remember: When you’re feeling down, try to examine your thoughts. If they’re negative or critical, try challenging them. Once you get into the habit of disputing your negative self-talk, you’ll find it easier to handle difficult situations, and as a result, you’ll feel less stressed and more confident and in control.

Write it down

It can be useful to write down the changes that occur after you’ve challenged your thinking, as this helps you see the advantages of working on your thoughts, and motivates you to keep at it. While you’re learning to identify and challenge your thinking patterns, it’s a good idea to write it all down in a diary or notebook to help you to develop your skills. Initially it might feel like work, but the more often you do it, the easier it will become, and the better you will feel.

Try it out

Now that you know a few common thinking errors and how to challenge them, why don’t you try it out? It might not be easy at first, and it can take some time. But the rewards can be huge! People who choose the way they think about things, are at peace with the past, live in the present, and are optimistic about the future are generally happier.



Acknowledgements:
This fact sheet comes from Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions by Dr. Sarah Edelman and Louise RémondFoundation for Life Sciences (2005)

The “Ten common thinking errors” are derived from the work of David Burns, MD, author of Feeling Good.


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These are all things that we really need to learn to focus on in the moment of our distress. Which is much harder to do than it sounds. So don’t be discouraged if you can’t do it right away, or every time. If all you can do is tell yourself to ‘breath and slow down’, than you’re doing something very right. Don’t be discouraged! And don’t let anyone else tell you that you’re not healing fast enough. Hell, don’t let yourself tell you that you’re not making progress fast enough! That you’re trying, means you’re making progress! 



For Parts 1 and 2 of this Self-Talk series go here:

What is Self-Talk and Negative Self-Talk?
Challenging Negative Self-Talk

Challenging Negative Self-Talk


So now that we’ve been talking about what negative self-talk is, we need to figure out how to challenge it and ultimately how to stop it, and change it into a more empowering self-statement.


Even though you can’t always control the situation you’re in or change other people, you can change the way you think about the situation or person. Self-talk refers to those thoughts or things you say to yourself.

The problem with self-talk is that what you think or say to yourself might seem true. You might assume that your thoughts are facts, when in actuality they are your perceptions. Sometimes these perceptions might be biased or incorrect.

Self-talk can be skewed towards the negative, and sometimes it’s just plain wrong. Especially if you’re depressed, it’s likely that you could be interpreting things negatively. When you feel anxious, depressed or stressed out, your self-talk is likely to become extreme—you’ll be liable to expect the worst and focus on the most negative aspects of your situation. So it’s helpful to try and put things in perspective.

That’s why it’s useful to keep an eye on the things you tell yourself, and challenge some of the negative aspects of your thinking. You can test, challenge and change your self-talk by identifying the irrational parts and replacing them with more reasonable, truthful thoughts.


Changing the way you think about things might not be easy at first, but with time and practice, you’ll get better at it. Give it a try—it’s worth the effort! With practice, you can learn to notice your own negative self-talk as it happens, and consciously choose to think about the situation in a more realistic and helpful way.


Dispute the self-talk


Disputing your self-talk means challenging the negative or unhelpful aspects of your thinking. Doing this enables you to feel better and to respond to situations in a more helpful way.

Once you start examining your thoughts, you’ll probably be surprised by how much of your thinking is inaccurate, exaggerated or focused on the negatives of the situation.

Whenever you find yourself feeling depressed, angry, anxious or upset, use this as a signal to reflect on your thinking. A good way to test the accuracy of your perceptions might be to ask yourself some challenging questions. These questions will help you check out your self-talk and see whether your current interpretation is reasonable. It can also help you discover other ways of thinking about your situation. Recognizing that your current way of thinking might be self-defeating—and prevent you from getting what you want out of life—can sometimes motivate you to look at things from a different perspective.


Challenging questions

Ask yourself these four main types of questions:


1. Reality testing

What evidence supports my thinking? What proof is there that my thinking is false?

Are my thoughts factual, or are they just my interpretations?

Am I jumping to negative conclusions?

How can I find out if my thoughts are actually true?


2. Alternative explanations

Are there any other ways that I could look at this situation?

What else could the situation mean?

If I were being positive, how would I perceive this situation?


3. Perspective

Is this situation as bad as I’m making out to be?

What’s the worst thing that could happen? How likely is that?

What’s the best thing that could happen?

What’s most likely to happen?

Is there anything good about this situation?

Will this matter in five years?


4. Goal-directed thinking

Is thinking this way helping me feel good or achieve my goals?

What can I do that will help me solve the problem?

Is there something I can learn from this situation to help me in the future?


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Personally I think these are some really great questions to ask ourselves. Especially when we’re lost in the heat of our own emotional moment we forget that there is more going on in the world beyond our own perspective. As Borderlines we need to learn to say Stop, to ourselves. We need to learn to say, Breath. We need to learn to Respond, instead of React…. And this includes that internal monologue going on inside of ourselves, not just with those people around us.

You, are the most important person in your life. Has anyone ever told you that before? Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of people in your life that probably rank extremely high, maybe just as important as yourself… but you should be #1. And you should treat yourself with the kindness and caring that you would want others to show you. Or that you would want to show someone else for whom you care. So don’t let yourself fall into the trap of treating yourself negatively, even if it’s just inside the confines of your own mind.

Even if the situation is small, stop yourself, think about the situation with perspective, and talk to yourself with an appropriate voice. 



For the First and Third part of this series go to:

What is Self-Talk and Negative Self-Talk


Sorry I’ve been a little absent this week. So much going on to tell you about! Excellent things!

I’m going to post quite a lot of excellent resources to help us Challenge our negative self-talk; recognize common errors in our negative thinking patterns; understanding the link between thinking and feeling. All courtesy of REACHOUT.COM (Get Through Tough Times). I’ll do this in 3 different posts but I’ll post them all today and link them all together so they’re easy to read through. 






The link between thinking and feeling

Have you ever worried about something that upset you for a few days, only to realize that if you change how you think about the problem, you can start to feel better?

Changing the way you think will change the way you feel

Things go wrong at times. People let us down. We make mistakes and can become disappointed. Whether we get upset about it and how upset we become depends largely on the way we think about those situations. Sometimes we can make ourselves feel pretty miserable even when our situation is not that bad, simply by thinking in a negative, self-defeating way.

What is self-talk?

As we go about our daily lives, we constantly think about and interpret the situations we find ourselves in. It is like we have an internal voice that determines how we perceive every situation. We call this inner voice our “self-talk,” and it includes our conscious thoughts as well as our unconscious assumptions and beliefs.

Much of our self-talk is reasonable, for example: “I’d prepare for that exam,” or ”I’m really looking forward to that game.” But sometimes our self-talk is negative, unrealistic or self-defeating, for example: ”I’m going to fail for sure,” or ”I didn’t play well. I’m hopeless.”

Negative self-talk

Negative self-talk often causes us to feel bad, and can make us feel hurt, angry, frustrated, depressed or anxious. It can also make us behave in a self-defeating way. For instance, thoughts like ”I’m going to fail for sure” might discourage you from working hard when you are preparing for your exams, and you might actually fail as a result.

Remember: The way you interpret events has a huge impact on the way you feel and behave.

The ABCs of self-talk

The relationship between your thoughts, feelings and behavior can best be explained by looking at the ABCs of your self-talk.

A is for activating situation

The activating situation is a situation that causes you to feel bad. An activating situation could be a party where you don’t know a lot of people, a stressful time in school when you’re overloaded with essays and assignments, or a time when you made a silly comment that you might later regret.

When you identify the activating situation, it’s important to stick to the facts. For example: ”I tried on my jeans and they were too small,” rather than ”I tried on my jeans and I looked so disgusting and ugly and fat;” or ”Sally said ’hi’ to me and I blushed and looked away,” instead of ”Sally said ’hi’ to me and I made a total idiot of myself.”

B is for beliefs

Beliefs make up self-talk, thoughts and assumptions that we make about a situation. Identifying self-talk can sometimes be tricky. This is because it is so automatic that you might not even be aware of what’s going on in your own mind.

When something happens and we feel upset, we assume that situation has made us feel this way. But it’s our beliefs about the activating situation, and not the situation itself that makes us feel the way we do.


Our thoughts largely determine the way we feel, for example:


Your thoughts might be: “I’ll never figure out what I want to do after I finish school.”

Your feelings resulting from these thoughts might be anxiety, depression, worry, and stuck.


C is for consequences

The consequences of our beliefs are how we react to them, including feelings and behaviors.

Feelings are emotions like sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, embarrassment, joy, excitement or stress.

Behaviors are the actions that stem from those feelings, like communication, withdrawal, asking for help, going for a run, staying in bed or raiding the fridge.

We often blame ourselves when things go wrong, compare ourselves to other people in a way that makes us feel inferior, exaggerate our weaknesses, focus on failures and predict that the worst will happen. Thinking negatively about situations makes you feel bad, and it can also cause you to behave in an unhelpful way.

Negative self-talk can also affect your self-esteem. When you feel down, it is likely that you’re hard on yourself, and you might criticize and judge yourself unfairly. The worse you feel, the more negative your self-talk is likely to become.

Take this scenario:

Here’s an example to illustrate the ABCs of self-talk.

Activating situation:


You get your exam schedule.


Beliefs:

“I’m not going to be able to do this.”

“I’ll fail and the whole thing will be a disaster. My parents will be so disappointed in me.”

“I won’t be able to pass the class, and then I won’t be able to get a good job. I’ll end up a loser.”

Consequences (feelings and behaviors):

You feel stressed, panicky, and have butterflies in your stomach.

You can’t bring yourself to sit down and study. You lose focus.

You sit down in front of the TV and eat a box of cookies.


What you can do to prevent the cycle of negative self-talk


The best way to understand the connection between A, B and C is to see how it applies to your own situations. Why not give it a try?

Think of a situation in the last two weeks when you have found yourself feeling bad. You might have been feeling upset, stressed, angry, sad, depressed, embarrassed or guilty. Describe the situation in a ”stress-log,” and make sure you cover the ABCs.

One of the most important skills you can develop to deal with stressful situations is to identify your self-talk. A ”stress-log” covering the A, B and C of the situation is a useful tool to help you challenge the negative or unhelpful aspects of your thinking, and replace them with more reasonable and helpful thoughts.

Check out the fact sheets on Challenging negative self-talk and Common thinking errors for more info on how to challenge the negative or unhelpful aspects of your thinking.



Acknowledgment:
Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions. By: Dr Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond Foundation for Life Sciences (2005)

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And those Fact Sheets are exactly what we will be talking about next.  My self-talk is terrible. I’m my worst critic and my own worst enemy. There’s no question about it. If we can’t learn to love ourselves, how can we possibly learn to believe that anyone else could love us? It’s time to change that inner monologue.

As Promised... Here are the links to my posts with those Fact Sheets and articles:


Challenging Negative Self-Talk

Common Thinking Errors Leading to Negative Self-Talk



Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Self-Talk and Borderline Personality Disorder


We talk a lot about how the things other people say can influence our feelings and emotions.  But the things we say to ourselves are just as important. Scratch that. The things we say to ourselves our more important. Because unlike with other people, we talk to ourselves constantly. We talk to ourselves much more than we probably even realize. And unfortunately a good majority of that self-talk is incredibly negative, degrading, self-loathing, and filled with self-hatred. We hear things from other people that trigger us into bad places often enough, the last thing we need to do is push ourselves into deeper, darker places by constantly telling ourselves negative things about our own selves. Hell we’ve probably heard negative talk (abuse) from others, and simply picked it up naturally. 

Breaking the cycle of negative self-talk is crucial to healing!

Self-Talk

 by Patty Fleener M.S.W.


One of the most important things besides looking into medications is your self-talk. I know you have probably heard this discussion before but perhaps you don't fully realize just how important your self-talk is to changing your life, to defining who you are, to who you life, etc. What you tell yourself is who you are.

We talk to ourselves all the time, without really realizing it. Many of us are in the habit of negative self- talk. For example we say things like "Stupid! Only you could be so stupid! You are unlovable! You are rotten! You are horrible, ugly, undeserving, guilty, etc. etc." And let's not forget "It's all my fault!" We get into a habit of this negative self-talk. 

Here is the problem. Our subconscious mind does not know the difference between self-talk and reality. If we say something to ourselves enough times, we believe it. When we believe it what happens? It becomes reality.

If I kept saying to myself that I was fat and I will always be fat that I eat too much, etc. Guess what? I will be fat. If I am thin during the time I am convincing myself that I am fat, my subconscious mind will believe it. Once it is believed to be so, you will be out of your comfort zone. Your view of reality doesn't match reality does it? You believe that you are fat, yet reality shows you that you are thin. What happens? You must get within your comfort zone so you get fat in reality.

This is how powerful our self-talk is. Another name for self-talk is affirmations. Positive self-talk is affirmations. You can literally change your life by repeating positive affirmations over and over again. Don't worry if you don't believe them. You will in time.

The affirmation I had the most trouble with years ago was "I deserve love." In my head I knew I deserved love but my gut told me the opposite. I kept saying it in spite of the fact that I did not believe it. After a period of time I did begin to believe it.

Can you imagine how just believing that one sentence could change my life and change my decisions in life? If I deserve love, I am going to pick different partners, I am going to live in such a way that I know that I deserve love.

I don't know if any of you are familiar with Zig Ziglar but he is a well-known motivational speaker. In fact, Dr. Leland Heller was kind enough to give me a wonderful tape series of Zig's, which is priceless. If you listen to these tapes just 15 minutes every day, it can't not change your life.  

Another name for this kind of self-talk work is known as cognitive therapy. It is highly recommended for people who have the borderline personality disorder and I am sure for people with the bipolar disorder as well.

One of the first things you will need to do is to spot yourself in the midst of negative self-talk. Our style of self-talk is normally automatic. We do it without thinking, like driving a car. Realizing when we do this negative thinking will be the beginning of the end of that automatic process. 

Once that negative process starts, we need to immediately turn it around into the positive. For example, I used to be in the habit of arriving home, checking my answering machine and if the light wasn't blinking (indicating no calls) immediately I had a physical reaction in the pit of my stomach and I said to myself "See, you are a reject. No one likes you because you are worthless. You are nothing." 

Each and every time I said that to myself, I reinforced that belief. Actually what would have been more of an accurate statement as I look back was "Thank the good Lord that no one called because the only people you are involved with are addicts and alcoholics who don't care about you and have nothing to offer you."

If you are writing out your own affirmations, I caution you to read some material before you do that. The way you write affirmations are very important. You must write them in the present tense as if they are already true. Also, you don't say, "I am no longer fat." You say "I am thin and I feel wonderful." Always include feelings too.


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In fact, I shall help you out with writing affirmations. There are a lot of different types of affirmations for different types of scenarios. Many of which are pretty specific to those of us that deal with BPD. Don’t worry, I would never leave you to try and figure it out on your own! But I won’t do all the work for you! I can show you where to start, but you’ll have to decide for yourself which things work for you. 



Tuesday, April 2, 2013

5 Ways To Switch From Sabotaging Thoughts To Empowering Ones


I want to take a break from the Bipolar comparison for a bit. It’s a lot of information and I’d like to lighten it up a bit with something else that I find very helpful. I’ve talked about Self-Sabotaging before but I haven’t talked enough about how to stop those Sabotaging Thoughts and turn those into productive Empowering ones. Learning positive self-talk is extremely important for those of us that are so often mired in negativity and allow those malicious negative ruminations to run away with us. In fact, this is a skill that I struggle with a lot. Learning to see ourselves in a better light takes daily, hourly, constant, retraining. So much of our fears come from our fears of abandonment and shame. We reach for love in others because we never learned to love ourselves. Learning to love ourselves, allows us to feel a greater security from inside though. It allows us to release the fear because we know from within (a source that won’t leave) that we are worth it, without having to be told from a source that could leave. Turning off negative, sabotaging thoughts, positive self-talk and self-empowerment is an important topic. Here’s an article I found from one of my favorite websites that I think applies very well to us here.


5 Ways To Switch From Sabotaging Thoughts To Empowering Ones

February 1, 2013 | by Cynthia Kane

It’s easy for me to let negative thoughts creep into my mind and follow them down dark pathways, into large Grimm brother-like forests, where I not only feel misguided but also frightened.

It’s easy for me to believe my stories of not being good enough, thin enough, smart enough, successful enough, because these were the stories I grew up telling myself.

But when I realized that the magical element of a story is that it can change and be anything, well, that’s when I knew I wanted to edit mine.

I wanted to shed false or limiting beliefs. I wanted to stop talking down to myself and comparing myself to others.

I wanted to stop following the path that lead me into the black forest and find one that lead me into a space of joy, creativity, inspiration, motivation, and adventure.

Sure, sounds great, right? I simply retell my story in the way I want and ABRACADABRA my fear-based mind magically disappears.

Well, not exactly, but close.

Although groundbreaking results didn’t come overnight, what did start to happen were small shifts.

When I started telling a new story, I began to clearly see the old one. Little-by-little I learned to replace the old thoughts with the new, becoming more mindful.

The journey wasn’t easy. I had to get really honest about what I wanted for my life.

To own up to the fact that a lot of what I wanted was a lot of what I had openly rejected.

After years of saying things like it was okay if I never fall in love, get married, and have kids, I was saying I wanted love and a family.

For so long I had been disconnected from my wants and needs, I had been following the script I had learned from others.

The most difficult part was admitting to myself that there was nothing wrong with wanting to be seen, heard, and loved.

But once I did, the walls I had put up slowly came down.

What kept me going was knowing I wanted to feel differently about my life. This could be small changes like reacting differently to someone bumping into me on the street, or smiling at myself once a day.

It was still enough of a shift to cause an emotional reward for all the hard work I was doing.
So here are the techniques I use to delete my mocking, critical, mafia mind to make room for the good stuff.


1. Notice What Story You’re Telling Yourself

To start telling a different story, it’s important to identify the old story. Often these stories live semi-hidden, semi-conscious in the back of our minds. They are often the context through which we see the world and our role in it.

But you can’t change what you can’t see. So until we can identify these stories, we can’t change them.

Sometimes it’s helpful for me to write down all the old stories I’ve been telling myself over the years like:

  • No one will love me because…
  • I’m not going to get the job I want because…
  • I can’t fit into that because…
  • I’ll never have enough money because…


Once they are on the page, it’s easier for me to spot them when they pop up in my day-to-day.

And it’s at this point, when I take note of my thoughts and see them, when I can either choose to believe or flip the switch.

I have a lot of these nasty, negative self-stabby thoughts. These kinds of thoughts only exacerbate those fears of abandonment and keep them at the forefront of your mind. We need to make a mental note of them in order to stop them in their tracks.


2. Flip the Switch

When I notice I’m telling myself an old story, when I feel anxious or rushed, or have self-doubt or fear, I stop whatever it is that I’m doing and I do two things:

1) I close my eyes and breathe into wherever the anxiety is in my body. I breathe into it and then exhale the feeling.
2) Once the stress is out of my body, I change the thought into an affirmation.

So if my story was “I’m always late. I’m never going to get there on time.” I change that to “I’m always on time.”

By supporting instead of attacking, I can calm my fear.

Mmmm… Okay, I get this, but I think it's important to be realistic. I think you should take an accurate look at the situation, own the situation, but then change it to how you can make it positive next time… “I was late this time, but I can prepare in advance next time, leave early, and be on time from now on.” ... or at least... "I was late this time, but I will always be on time from now on."


3. Identify Where These Stories Come From

When we’re younger, our guides in life are our parents, family, teachers, media, and society at large (phew that’s a lot of messages hitting us!).

We learn from a young age what is appropriate, acceptable, and expected. We take on the positive and negative traits of our parents, because that is all we know.

So by the time we fly the coup, a lot of who we are is actually underneath who we feel we are supposed to be.

And then, well, it gets worse. We don’t only have our parents’ expectations to juggle, but we also have societal pressures that dictate what gender, sexual orientation, race, class, well, you name it is.

At this point, your inner child, the one that loved painting, twirling in the living room, and wearing non-matching socks is so far under that she’s suffocating.

What’s important about figuring out where your story comes from is in learning that the story you’ve been telling yourself might not actually be yours.

When I hear myself says things like, “crap” when I accidentally drop my cell phone or when I comment on people’s outfits, I stop and ask, “do I actually think that or is that someone else’s story?”

Being able to distinguish your voice from that of others makes it easier to hear what’s really going on inside.

This is especially difficult when I find myself instinctively trying to please people I don’t want to let down and see my identity slipping fluidly to fill in the cracks that allow me to morph with my situations. I catch myself all the time doing things or saying things that I recognize are for someone else and not necessarily solely because I want to. Often. Often. Often. I find myself stopping and asking myself if what I’m doing is for me or for some other reason. You’d be surprised to find just how often it’s the latter.


4. Ground Yourself In an Internal Positive, Safe Space

When I was young, bedtime stories were my favorite, but as I’ve gotten older it’s around this time that all I want to do is close my never-ending mental tale.

To quiet my mind before bed, I lay on my back with my palms open, and I focus on my breathing.

As I begin to quiet down, I start to visualize what I want to feel like. What I want my day to look like. What I want my life to look like.

But most importantly what I focus on is how I want to feel. By doing this, I replace my fear with a real positive emotion.

This works because I can’t worry about anything when I’m in love with everything.

I love the ocean. So at night, I close my eyes and I watch and listen to the waves, I notice the sun casting sparkles onto the water.

This image, even as I’m typing it here, makes me smile. What it does is take me out of a fearful thought and into one of comfort and safety.

When I visualize, sometimes I fall asleep in the middle of it. And if I wake up during the night, I repeat the process until my nervous system calms and I’m relaxed.

So whenever you feel stressed or scared, remember that you have the ability to focus on something positive and move into a safe space inside.

Once there, you will feel more ready to take on whatever situation you’re facing.

            This is actually an exercise Therapist wanted me to do. It’s something I’ve done since I was little though because I’ve had a special, safe place of meditation in my mind that only I can go for as long as I can remember.


5. Express Gratitude

So often the stories I tell myself boil down to feeling like I’m not good enough – for one reason or another.

They are filled with a sense of longing for what I don’t have, focusing on what’s lacking in my life.

The more I keep track of what’s not happening the more I get stuck in the same old fear narrative.

So every morning, before I start my day, I lay in bed and rattle off in my mind what it is that I’m grateful for.

It’s difficult to feel anything but energized after this exercise.

The most important piece to living without anxiety and fear is to be conscious of the old stories.

Once I realized that all my stories were tales, that they weren’t real, I knew that anytime I identified them during my day, I could choose to believe them or rewrite them.

So I rewrite my story every day. It’s an ongoing process, something I’ve had to train my brain to do.

It takes regular intentional practice before it becomes a habit. So try it for fifteen days.
I’d love to know how it goes.


Cynthia Kane is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. Over the last year and a half, she’s relearned the following: how to jump up and down when she’s happy, cry when she’s sad, laugh when something’s funny, take a compliment, smile at strangers, and be open to the fact that everyone is going through it all the time. For more, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @cynkane.
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