Dear Prisoner of Self-Doubt: It’s Time to Break Free.
You're so lazy. You're so ugly. You're the worst. If someone said those things to you, you would get them out of your life immediately, right? But flip those phrases to, I'm so lazy, I'm so ugly, I'm the worst, and you have the constant loop many of us subconsciously play in our brain.
So many of us go through our days a prisoner of our inner critic (e.g., I hate my body. My thighs are so big. I'm not smart enough). And the constant barrage of negative thoughts aren't only annoying and distracting, they have tangible effects on our mental and physical health. After all, if I say I'm lazy and worthless, then I certainly don't feel motivated to get to the gym. If I say I feel ugly, then I'm not inspired to dress up and go out.
I know this all too well. I spent more than three decades at war with myself—my body in particular. I hated my body and felt like it was to blame for everything. When I didn’t make the dance team in high school, my body was to blame. When I was in my twenties and a string of men didn’t call me back, I assumed it was my body's fault. I never felt good enough. I assumed people were judging me and didn’t accept me.
The truth is that others were just reflecting my own internal angst. My problem wasn’t others' perception of me, but my perception of myself. And during all the hours I was spending obsessing over and punishing myself for my flaws, my life was happening without me. I was missing it, lost in a web of drug addiction, eating disorders, and depression.
We all have flaws and insecurities. We have things we’d like to change about ourselves. And we believe that when we do change ourselves, then we will be happier. But it's not our flaws that matter, it's how we talk to ourselves about them that matters. Eventually, I woke up to this truth and set out on an experiment to answer the question: What could we do with all our time and energy if we weren’t spending it focusing on negativity? The answers I found became my forthcoming book, The Self-Love Experiment, Fifteen Principles for Becoming More Kind, Compassionate, and Accepting of Yourself. Through implementing these principles into my life, I have finally silenced the negative inner voice that once plagued me and become my own best friend. And guess what? I feel amazing. Are you ready to begin a new relationship with yourself? If so, read on….
3 Easy Steps for Transforming Your Self-Doubt into Power:
1. Recognize that Everything You Experience Reflects Your Inner State
The next time you find yourself in front of the mirror, fixing flaws; or in a social situation, feeling like everyone in the room is better looking or funnier or smarter than you: It's time for a gut check. Pause and tune into what doesn't feel right inside. Here's the secret: That inner nagging feeling—not your hair or weight or skin or sense of humor or vocabulary—is your real problem.
2. Name Your Feelings
Now, really shine a light on that nagging feeling. Name it. You may feel nervous or scared or anxious or excited, or a combination of all of them. The minute you name the feeling, and allow yourself to be okay feeling that feeling, your self-criticism and self-doubt will start to fade away. Also? Figure out how to make yourself feel awesome in the moment. Whether it's by giving yourself an affirmation, taking a drink of water, texting a friend, or just reminding yourself of all the good stuff already going on in your life, you have the power to shift your inner narrative, and your outer experience, in any given moment.
3. List the Things You're Doing Right
A lot of us have a should list playing on repeat in our heads at the end of the day. We should have talked to x, we should have done y. Instead of focusing on what you didn't say or do, think of three things—big or small—you did accomplish today. By the time you've listed off the third thing, you will find the negative self-talk has quieted. And keep trying. Self-care isn't a destination, it's a way of life. And when you show up for yourself as a friend, life becomes so much easier and sweeter. The cage of your self-doubt falls away. — by Shannon Kaiser
Feature illustration by Naranjalidad.
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