- I will never get that job promotion.
- I am not pretty.
- I am not good enough to date that person.
- The rain is going to ruin our special day.
- I hate maths.
Doesn't sound good does it?!
1) Have Positive Self-talk
Think about what you see when you look at yourself in the mirror. What do you tell yourself about your body and your character and things that are going on in your life? Are you constantly picking yourself apart? Are you never good enough? Do you tell yourself that you don't deserve happiness? Do you not go for promotions because you don't think you'll get them? The more you say negative things to yourself, the lower your self-esteem sinks, the more likely you are to feel depressed, and you will quickly put up with mediocrity.
If your self-talk is constantly negative, you need to think seriously about changing it. Each day is a blessing and you were put on this earth of a reason.
Start the day with something good about yourself. I came across a meme with five things you should tell yourself each day which I like. This would be great pinned to your mirror. They are:
a. Today will be my day.
b. I am the best me there is.
c. I know that I’m a winner.
d. I can do it. I know I can.
e. God will always be with me.
Your day is already going to be more positive by doing this. Continue these positive affirmations throughout the day, and when something happens that threatens to make you think negatively, reframe it...
2) Reframe Your Negative Experiences
Negative experiences are painful. That’s a fact and it’s easy to try and bury them. But if we suppress them when they need to be expressed, they will leak out elsewhere and we will inevidently dump them on innocent people e.g. our husband or wife when we get home, or the driver of the car that cuts in front of us.
I’ve found some self-reflection questions that may be able to help you. At least give them a go! But before you ask yourself these questions it is good to take a deep breath and try to distance your emotion. Our emotions often cloud our logical and honest mind so the calmer and indifferent we are while we’re thinking, the better.
Ask yourself when you've had a negative experience:
- What went wrong?
- What is really at stake?
- What can I learn from this to do differently next time?
- Has this experience taught me a lesson? Maybe to be kinder, more generous, wiser, stronger or even that I need to keep on trying and practising so I get better.
If it is failure that is the negative experience then it’s always good to remember that professional sportsmen and musicians need to continually practice. They do hours and hours of swimming laps, or hitting tennis balls or golf balls or tackling etc. So why do we think that everything should come easily to us? Challenge those negative thoughts. Change, ‘I can’t’ to ‘I’m going to give it my best shot.’ And if I do fail, I will get back up and try again.’ It we’re afraid of failure we will never try anything new.
Now I must add here that if you are feeling in a really bad place with your thoughts and can’t see a light, reach out for help. Talk to someone, including your doctor, and surround yourself with positive people and posters.
3) Don't sweat the small stuff
I heard this saying quite a few years ago and it is something I do. I personally think the small stuff are those every day irritants that can ruffle our feathers and make us angry. Things like:
· We spill the milk all over the floor
· We are stuck in traffic or are cut off in traffic
· Someone takes our parking spot
· Our children are running late for school
· The cat wees on the towels
· We break a favourite plate.
How often do we get angry over a traffic light staying red for a long time, or upset because we burn the dinner, or can't find a matching pair of socks? So many instances of road rage are because people are impatient and can’t control themselves when they are impositioned by another road user. You get the idea. These inconveniences can get under our skin so to speak, but in the scheme of life they are not worth wasting our emotions over. How much better would it be if we put these things in perspective? How about a red light giving us more time to sing?
4) Learn from failure
I mentioned failure briefly above. Failure can be ego-destroying, it can make us feel stupid or of no worth, and it can change the direction of our life – in a positive or negative way. When we do fail, there are some strategies we can try to maintain a positive attitude.
a. Be Open
Even though most of us hate failure, it is okay to fail. Failure can actually give us valuable lessons from the process. It can educate us. I was watching the morning TV and Boy George was being interviewed about being on The Voice, a singing talent show. He said that failure is education, and I totally agree with him. (I knew it wasn’t just Boy George being different that drew me to him as a teenager!) We can gain wisdom and grow in resilience. It can lead us to change directions in life. This may even lead us to a better place.
b. Welcome failure
Instead of being scared of failure maybe we should turn our attitudes around. If we didn’t fail, how would we ever experience the self-satisfaction and joy of succeeding?
When we fail, we learn. Sometimes we learn what not to do again (like failing in Senior Chemistry showed me I wasn’t going to be a physiotherapist and I should let it go!), and on the other hand we learn what we need to do. We grow and we achieve new understandings.
c. It helps to make priorities in life
When we fail, as a teenager or an adult, we start to question what we really want in life and if the dreams we have for our future are achievable. Maybe we decide that we need to work harder, or maybe to change directions and try something new. Failure forces us to look at ourselves and think about or identify the things that really matter to us and the things that we value.
d. You can rewrite your goals
If we have a goal and we don’t succeed at it, we can change the goal. Maybe we could make the goal simpler, go a step backwards, or even give ourself a longer period of time. This rewriting of our goals allows us to gain more perspective. We can always say we’re still on the way to success. It’s just a setback.
Relating to my failure of chemistry, my goal changed from wanting to be a physio to either a journalist or teacher.
e. Others have failed too
When I was a teenager and young adult, failure cut me hard. I was a perfectionist and perfectionists don’t fail. Ha! Then as an adult I started to hear stories of people who have had setbacks, or failures, but went on to succeed in that particular area or another.
We all know the story of JK Rowling and the rise of her Harry Potter series. She was rejected by 12 publishers before one said yes. The rest is history.
Henry Ford’s first two companies failed. The first one went bankrupt. And the second one he had to walk away from with only the rights to his name after a big dispute. But it was his third try that really sealed the deal. He was so passionate about his mission that he refused to give up.
Bill Gates suffered failure in his first business but this didn’t discourage him from trying again. He didn’t give up because the sheer notion of business intrigued him. The next company as we all know was Microsoft.
What I came to realize was that many people in history, and around me, have failed numerous times before succeeding. It comes with being human.
f. You begin to look at obstacles differently
With those stories above, I noticed something. All of these people did not throw in the towel after their first setback, or failure. They continued on. Why? Because they were passionate about what it was they wanted, and they grew more determined to see it happen. This is something to think about.
I had a tough first year of teaching. It was a shock coming to the suburbs from a large country town. I’d never had to deal with very naughty children. I struggled with shyness, lack of self-confidence and first year nerves. I worked cooperatively with a colleague but it didn’t work out. I didn’t feel supported by the principal who I felt didn’t like me and made my life difficult. In the end she failed me on my probationary period and I was absolutely devastated. I thought I was a good teacher and the other teachers said so too. The principal told me that I should resign and do a different job. I didn’t want to do something else. I really liked teaching even though it was hard. That principal left and another one transferred in. The new principal liked me and took me under her wing. She believed in me as I had self-belief. She built up my self-confidence which had been totally destroyed and I passed my probationary period the following year. I then went on to teach and nurture hundreds of children.
So to finish, I have an challenge for you. Are you up for it?
I would you to think of 3 negative thoughts you've had lately and I want you to reframe them into positive ones. (And I don't want i am positive that I am going to fail this!)
Let me know how you go.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.