Most of us will notice thoughts coming into and out of our heads all day. We are always thinking, evaluating and interpreting things that are going on around us. This is important for us to make sense of the world and to plan what we do next. But what you say to yourself can really influence how you feel emotionally.
Have you ever caught yourself being overly harsh with yourself, thinking the worst or taking everything personally? These are some of the common, unhelpful thinking patterns that can make life so much more difficult. Sometimes these thoughts can be so quick or automatic that you are not aware of them. You might feel upset, angry or a sudden pang of anxiety. Examining what thoughts actually led to these feelings can help you uncover any unhelpful themes in your day-to-day thinking.
Unhelpful thoughts can be like having a mean friend in your head. Someone who has been around for a long time; someone you know well and trust. But there can be a darker side. The mean friend knows your vulnerabilities and the worst interpretation of an event. They know how to get you thoroughly worked up.
Maybe in the past, we have credited this mean friend with whipping us into shape to achieve that good grade or to make it through tough times. But more often, it can lead us to becoming frozen by indecisiveness or demotivated for even the simplest of tasks.
Could we get more from ourselves with the carrot rather than the stick? We deserve a good friend to acknowledge our achievements and our skills; to be warm and understanding when life doesn’t always go to plan. We can be that person to ourselves. With increased awareness of what that inner voice is telling us and an understanding of self-compassion, you can replace your mean friend with a more supportive one.
A combination of cognitive therapy and self-compassion therapy can allow you to find a new voice that is realistic, pushes you to achieve your best and allows you to validate your emotions. It can be a gift not only to yourself, but to your relationships and those around you.
Wendy Roncolato and Prue Foster