“I can’t believe I didn’t get that done today. I should have done it.”
“Why the heck did I say that to her? I’m so stupid.”
“I must do better!”
If you are wondering where all that anxiety comes from, please take a moment to examine how your own words might be allowing it to grow. Listen to all that the above statements bring with them. When I hear the words “must” or “should,” I hear pressure. And statements such as “I’m so stupid”—are they supposed to help me feel better? How is that encouraging? Remember, it all starts with us.
It is sadly amazing to me what people will say to themselves. We do not need enemies when we can be our own worst one. Think about the language you use when reflecting about yourself. Do you criticize yourself? Actually, I fear the more appropriate question might be how you criticize yourself, as I see how so many of us do. Please think about this, and let’s look at more of the ways we may do it. When you reflect on a past action and think something like, “Man, was that dumb,” this is problematic. Or how about a situation where you are in a conversation with others, hear something you have an opinion on, but choose not to share because of internal messages like, “What’s the point in saying something? People don’t listen to me,” or, “They’ll probably disagree with me because I don’t know it all or enough about the subject.” It’s like we are judging ourselves here and expecting a negative outcome.
Now, what about the scenario of a friend sharing something with us or another person in the interaction and we leave the conversation discouraged or feeling attacked? Let’s say I am talking with two friends, and friend No. 1 compliments friend No. 2 on a recent activity we were all involved in. If I am feeling down (or down on myself), I may wonder, “Well, why didn’t the friend compliment me? Are they mad at me? Do they think I didn’t work as hard? Was that a jab at me?” It is too easy to personalize and expect a negative outcome, instead of thinking, “How nice friend No. 1 acknowledged friend No. 2. They did work really hard.” Or, “It was nice to see friend No. 2’s smile after the comment.” I don’t want you upset or getting down on yourself. These messages we send ourselves will affect our mood and anxiety levels.
We have enough to worry about already, and yet sometimes we pile it on. Negative energy will beget negative energy. Coming back to the same scenario above, what if you do leave that interaction feeling positive? I might be saying to myself, “How neat to have friends that support each other and get involved in important things.” This kind of reframing of the interaction moves me in the direction I want to go in my life. Friend No. 2 may be in a place in his or her life where that comment is needed more than I can imagine, and it does not have to be about me all the time. In fact, the more I look at how someone was helped (versus what I may have wanted to have happen), the more uplifted I feel anyway.
Watch your language! Take close examination of the past few times you felt hurt or down and reflect on what was going on for you. What did you say about yourself in these interactions? Positive thoughts will fuel hope and elevate our moods. Conversely, negative thoughts will fuel doubt and frustration—even when many of these are just misinterpretations on our parts. This reminds me of the wonderful tool called an Automatic Thought Record. I would love to outline this next time. Thank you!
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