Negative thinking, especially self-doubt consumes the very best of us. Some of the most successful people still consider themselves to be frauds, regardless of how well they are doing and how many awards they win. This type of negative thinking stems from deep insecurity and unless fixed can haunt people for life, stopping them from enjoying their own success. There’s no shortage of self-help guru’s who swear that repeating positive phrases to yourself can change your life, encouraging that if you recite to yourself “I am successful", your self-doubt will wash away. Unsurprisingly, positive affirmations won’t remedy all our deep seeded insecurity.
The problem with positive affirmations, explains Melody Wilding expert in Human Behaviour, is that they operate at surface level of conscious thinking and do nothing to contend with the subconscious mind where limiting belief really lives. So whilst it’s important to recognise your tendency to engage in self-doubt thoughts, whitewashing your insecurities with positive thinking is not the remedy you need. In fact, new research has found that while repeating positive self statements may benefit people with a high self-regard, it can be detrimental to those lacking confidence. Ironically those with a high self-regard would not be engaging in the type of self-doubt that plague so many of us, so positive affirmations seem to serve a very limited purpose all together.
How to tackle the problem and mentally empower ourselves away form self-doubt?
Here are some very useful tips provided by Wilding to tackle your negative thoughts at their root instead of using a surface cleanser.
1.Dig yourself out from the “Negative Nancy” or “Negative Nigel” thoughts.
If you’re reading this article the content is resonating with you and perhaps you realise your tendency to beat yourself up. Start with articulating the negative thoughts weighing you down. Instead of beating yourself up for procrastinating, forgive yourself for it. You will be surprised to learn how relieving it is to stop feeling angry at yourself. Wilding advises that if you spend less time beating yourself up for procrastination you can re-direct this energy into focusing on how to action a task to avoid your previous mistake.
Research shows that asking ourselves questions rather than issuing commands is a much more effective way to create long lasting change. Wilding explains that it’s as simple as tweaking the way you speak to yourself. When you catch your inner self shouting commands, undeniably making yourself more stressed than necessary think: how can I turn this statement into a question? Some examples are:
- When have I done this before?
- What if (insert worst case scenario) happens?
- How can I?
This type of self-questioning charges up the problem-solving areas of the brain. You start to meet negative self-doubt thoughts with curiosity instead of fear.
3. Focus on progress not perfection
Wilding advises that to effectively re-frame your thinking, consider who you are becoming and focus on your progress. Play the long game. You might want to re-word your self talk to sound more like “I am a work in progress”, “look how far I come each day and that’s ok”. This points you in the direction of positive growth and is both realistic and achievable. It helps to negate the negative can’t do/ self-doubt attitude that can overcome many of us.
If you’re prone to negative talk, its extremely important to stop this kind of “self-harm”. If you don’t treat yourself kindly with the respect you deserve what can you expect from others? We all deserve to enjoy the success we have worked so hard for without any thoughts taking that away from us.
This blog was written with the help of Melody Wilding’s story for Forbes; Forget Positive Thinking: This is How to Actually Change Negative Thoughts For Success.
If you are interested in reading more about this type of content, I would highly recommend following Melody Wilding’s stories here.