Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Negative thinking is a hard habit to break. But that’s all it is… a bad habit. If you want to live a life of prosperity, success and happiness, you must conquer the demons that plague your thoughts. First you have a thought, then the feeling follows. So in order to feel better, you need to think better!
The most damaging negative thoughts are the ones you use against yourself. When you criticize, condemn and devalue yourself, you are setting yourself up for a life of misery. The sad part is that we tend to believe every negative thought that pops into our head. We believe what others have told us about who we are. After years of conditioning, we forget the truth — that we are lovable, talented and worthy of a great life!
When it comes to changing the negative thought patterns which you have been conditioned to believe, you must replace a negative thought with a positive one. Even if you don’t quite believe the new thought, you must keep saying it until it becomes true. In other words, fake it ’til you make it! Act as if it’s true until you believe it’s true, and eventually it will become true. You’ll see it when you believe it. You are already acting as if all your negative thoughts are true. You can see how repetition works in a negative way. It also works in a positive way.
One of my clients recently reflected on the changes she has made in the past year. She recalled how angry she was when I encouraged her to work on changing her negative thoughts. She was miserable, but also invested in continuing to have a pity party. Even if we are unhappy where we are, we do what is comfortable and familiar because it is easier. It takes no effort to remain where we are. Change takes hard work and commitment. Unless we take action and do something differently, we remain stuck. Although she had great resistance, this client started saying and writing positive affirmations. She was often angry saying the words through gritted teeth, not really believing what she was saying. But she stuck with it. Eventually she started to believe what she was telling herself… the truth about who she is. She started to feel better. This was the beginning of taking charge of her life and changing the things that weren’t working for her.
Needing approval from others and trying to change their opinion of you is a sign of codependency. If your self-worth is determined by what others think of you, you will live your life on a roller coaster. You are up when others think highly of you and down when they don’t. You will never get everyone to approve of you, and trying to do so is a waste of time and energy. Rather than trying to get love from others, use your energy to create a loving relationship with yourself. The truth is God loves and approves of you exactly as you are. You need to start seeing yourself through His eyes.
If we internalized negative messages while growing up, we now need to internalize positive ones. We need to surround ourselves with people who lift us up, not put us down. Sadly, it is often our family members who are the hardest on us. It is sometimes necessary to temporarily distance yourself from family and friends who say hurtful things, at least until you are strong enough to let their harsh remarks roll off your back. You need to change the pattern of turning against yourself to join those who want to keep you down.
You can’t wait until something is said that upsets you to start working on this. Once you take in the negative comment and start reacting, it is much harder to ward off the effects of the harsh words. Just like you exercise to work on building muscles, you have to work on building emotional muscles, such as self love and acceptance. Once you have the inner strength to love and accept yourself, you will not be as triggered by old messages. Even if you initially have a reaction, you will quickly recognize it for what it is and have the tools to replace the negative thought with a positive one.
Start with affirmations about what you want to be true. It really does help to act as if it’s true before you fully believe it. Just like you learned the negative things by repetition, you will learn to see yourself in a positive light through repetition. I have heard that it takes twenty one days to create a new habit. So if you do something every day for at least three weeks, you will be on your way to breaking the old habit of criticizing yourself and creating the new habit of loving and approving of yourself. Of course you must keep this up beyond three weeks! You have been in the negative habit for many years. Without daily practice, it’s easy to slip back into the familiar pattern.
This exercise will get you started. Take a sheet of paper and make two columns. Start with one affirmation that reflects something positive about yourself. For example, “I am worthy of being loved.” Write this affirmation in the left column. Now listen for the negative thought that comes up. It might be something like, “No, you’re not!” Write this in the right column next to the positive affirmation. Now go back and write the same positive affirmation in the left column. Next to it write whatever negative thought comes up this time. Keep going back and forth, writing the same affirmation and the thought that follows, until you clear out the negative thoughts. Even if you are not completely ready to accept this new affirmation as true, you should be able to get to the point where you are “willing” to accept it as true.
Real love is kind and generous. When you are in a state of loving yourself, you are filled with love and you naturally want to give it to others. When you are trying to get love, you are empty and looking to be filled up. This is a sign of codependency. In this state you don’t have anything to give. We all want to be loved, but you will never find it by searching for it. Love comes to us when we are giving love. As you work on self love, you will be less needy and less likely to look for love from others. Eventually you will be able to be loving, even when others aren’t acting in a loving way. You won’t need to change anyone into who you want them to be, and you will no longer need to change yourself into who others want you to be. You will be free to be your authentic self and ready to receive love. Then and only then, will be you be able to attract someone who truly sees you and loves you for who you are.