Six Thoughts to Keep You Sane
If you feel defeated by diets, doomed to be miserable or look round your offi ce and wonder whether you deserve to be there, fear not! It’s not that you’ve got some undiscovered internal fl aw – you just need to think positively. And we’ve found just the person to help. Dubai based cognitive behavioural therapist, Dr Annie Crookes, explains how you can change your life by changing the way you think.
1. I don’t deserve to be in such a good job
Why do we think this? This is a common feeling, particularly among high achievers – it is colloquially referred to as ‘imposter syndrome’. It tends to happen when you find it difficult to internalise your positive strengths and achievements.
What should our new thought be? Instead of saying others are more deserving of the job, tell yourself that others may be good, but you have strengths and are doing a good job too.
Why does this help? Once you have identified the default (negative) thoughts, you can begin to work on stopping or changing them. Catch yourself in these thought patterns and actively swap them around.
2. What’s the point in trying new things?
Why do we think this? We can be quite anxious about the unfamiliar – it is comfortable and takes less effort to stick with our familiar routines. Particularly where we may have found achievement in known areas, taking a risk at trying something new could lead to failure at the beginning which could damage our self-esteem. We are naturally risk averse and our minds generally prefer the familiar because it is predictable and safe.
What should our new thought be? Think of the opportunity in different ways – for example, trying a new sport isn’t just about the possibility of being bad at it, and even if you are it can bring new friends or fitness. Don’t categorise opportunities as a single thing.
Why does this help? By taking the extra time to force yourself to look at the potential of new things, you can make a more measured decision (even if this is still no). By doing so you’ll get into the habit of becoming more open to new experiences.
3. I’m doomed to be single
Why do we think this? Romantic relationships bring a whole new set of anxieties and fears tied not only to our level of overall self-esteem and confidence (as in other areas), but also past experiences.
What should our new thought be? Focus on your positives. Think of things about yourself inside and out that you quite like. Also make a note of compliments you get, even if they are from a female friend or your dad – while we tend to dwell on negative feedback, we can overlook compliments out of embarrassment, and by doing this we don’t allow them to get into our long term memory.
Why does this help? With all these little lists of positives building either on paper or in your mind, you increase the concrete, undeniable evidence that you are attractive and worthy. Then consider this evidence rationally – if these lists were handed to you as a ‘CV’ without a person attached, you would think they sounded likeable.
4. I worry that people don’t really like me
Why do we think this? We may feel undeserving of the friends we have. We question why they would hang out with us and assume it is all just an act. This comes from self doubt and not internalising the positive aspects of our personality. It may also be because we unfairly compare ourselves to other more outgoing or attractive friends.
What should our new thought be? Look for the evidence, like the times when you have made them laugh or helped them when they need support. Give yourself credit for these things. You could also look at the probabilities – what is the actual likelihood that a sane, rational adult would continue to be friends with someone they didn’t like?
Why does this help? Putting things into perspective and valuing yourself will encourage you to see that your worries are unfounded.
5. I can’t say no, I’m too scared of offending people
Why do we think this? Being nice to people and giving help to others is ingrained in us as part of our gender role, within religious doctrines and cultural norms. It is therefore very difficult to know how to turn someone down.
What should our new thought be? Take note of others who say no to requests. Notice that small requests can be deflected by others without it causing any upset at all. At work, watch for the ways in which others are able to assert themselves successfully.
Why does this help? Over time you will practice how to turn people down without causing offense, but also gain evidence that this can be done without losing friends and alienating people.
6. I never stick to diets, I’m such a failure
Why do we think this? This is a global and grandiose judgment based on an individual scenario. We may have these negative thought patterns as part of general negative self-esteem or low self-efficacy (the confidence that you can handle new challenges).
What should our new thought be? Look at the things that may have been unsuccessful as single incidents. Realise that everyone has these occasional incidents (like having that extra helping of cake) and acknowledge that at other times you have been equally successful.
Why does this help? In reality you are in control of these things – so maybe you put some weight on this week; don’t give up, go and change it. Discover that with practice you can overcome failures.