I am unsure what it is about our brains, but one common theme amongst all humans I have met or listened to is that we doubt ourselves, our abilities and our dreams. Even those who have risen to the greatest heights compete with negative self-talk, upper limit problems and limiting belief structures.
Since I have been down here in Baltimore, life has been a constant roller coaster of ups and downs in emotions, and the only thing that has remained constant is the self-doubt within. The difference is how well I handle it. Personal development has been critical to my remaining sane, and I have noticed that the days I handle my internal thoughts poorly are the days that I did very little personal development.
It’s more than just “the power of positive thinking”, it’s about training yourself into recognizing self-destructive thoughts and behaviors and having the will power to re-direct the energy or reframe your state of mind.
The triggers I have. I can definitely tell when I am being self-demeaning and destructive. I even know how silly the words in my head sound. There are times where it feels downright laborious to turn around the negativity into positivity. It feels like lead in your chest and salt in your eyes. The tricky thing is that I can only tell you, who may be facing these same issues, what works to get me out of my valley. Every person is going to have something a little different.
1) Remember that if anyone else talked to us the way we do, we certainly wouldn’t be friends with them.
If we’re not keeping toxic people around us, why should we keep toxic thoughts? Yes, easier said than done, but if you remind yourself of this every time the negativity creeps in we can start to eradicate it. If you do have friends that say things to you that make you feel terrible, maybe it’s time to think about cutting the toxicity out of your life. If you hang out with people who wear shirts that say “My Life Sucks”, chances are you are going to begin to believe that too. Not good.
2) Partake in a physical outlet
If you do something on the regular for workout, do something different. Challenge yourself. “But wouldn’t I just be setting myself for failure?” Maybe you might struggle with rock climbing or racquetball if you’ve never done it before, but if you focus your energy on learning the new thing or practicing the new hobby, that’s less time for you to dwell on whatever it was that set you down your negative path to begin with.
3) Write down 10 things you are grateful for
Gratitude journals are amazing. Keeping a small book in your purse, car or even just a piece of paper in your wallet can help you when the mood of depression or despair randomly strikes when you’re out and about in your day. Write down what you’re grateful for, or even 5 things that are going really well for you in your life or that you’re looking forward to. You can even write a gratitude list or goal sheet and put it on your wall or on the dashboard of your car.
4) Eat well
So many of us turn to food when we get bogged down in life. If you keep healthy snacks and treats in your house, then even if you lose self-control and binge out on celery. Well. That’s a good thing. That bowl of berries may have sugar, but at least you didn’t just put away 3 frozen burritos. Eating healthy can help your brain produce all the good hormones more often, and those with a healthy diet and exercise routine have been shown to be less depressed.
5) Schedule one day a week to spend with friends
This could be a girls’ night, game night or LAN party. Whatever you want to do to make sure you’re getting out and being in a positive frame of mind. It’s easy to feel guilty about setting time for ourselves, the self-talk may tell us that we’re not working hard enough or we don’t deserve the time with friends. But you do. No matter what you think, you deserve the time where you are happy and surrounded by friends.
6) Begin saving for something fun
Even when you’re stress comes from financial worries, having a coin jar that you put money into (and don’t smash!) to build up for something big can help you feel better about the direction you’re going. Plus, it gives your brains something to dream about. And dreams are always magical and happy things.
I get funny looks when my radio is working (even more when it isn’t working) and I have my windows rolled down and I’m belting “Defying Gravity”, “Rent”, “Nobody Does it Better”, “Let it Go”, “Dog Days Are Over”, “Radioactive”, “Edge of Glory” … you get the point. Pick the mood that you want to be in and grab a song list from there. If you need to sing out some angst get it out and move on. Use it as the release and then move forward.
8) Dance like no one is watching
Yup. When I’m not singing, I’m dancing. Again… usually in the car. “How to Be a Heartbreaker”, Glee’s mash-up of “I Will Survive”/”Survivor”, “Miss Jackson”, “4 Minutes”, “Body Movin’” … if you see a black VW with derby stickers and a chick rocking out in the driver seat – that’s me. Say hi. And throw down some moves yourself.
Why do you think I did this blog?
Not just writing out your gratitude journal, but sitting down at a keyboard and opening yourself up to be a little vulnerable. You don’t ever have to share the thoughts with anyone, but expressing them can be highly cathartic and help you get through whatever valley you find yourself in. If you have a passion, sit and write about it! It doesn’t matter if it’s knitting, cooking, lizards or Sumerian art… it doesn’t have to be your feelings, it just has to be something that will redirect your energy into something positive.
10) Listen to personal development
30 minutes a day of reading or listening sets a solid foundation for positivity in your life. Doing it in the morning, when your mind is most open to new thoughts and ideas is the best time. If you need a reboot mid-day, don’t be afraid to look up a video by Eric Thomas or Jim Rohn or Zig Ziglar. They are wonderful and can give you the energy to puff up your chest, do the hard deeds, keep your integrity and get things done.
Sometimes I just have to close my eyes, take a breath and remember that no matter what is happening… no matter how something may have fallen apart or shifted directions, it is not because I am fundamentally unlovable. It is not because I am doomed to be a failure or because no one stamped “WORTHY” on my forehead when I was born. Sometimes, it’s just the Universe throwing things in our way. Sometimes, life happens and the strongest among us rise above it, and the rest stay in bed and wonder why the pit in their chest won’t go away.
Breathe. Dance. Write. Sing. Be Grateful. Love your Friends & Family. Find art that you love. Find a new hobby. Be active. Be healthy. Listen to positive thoughts. Create triggers to recognize negative self-talk. Overcome. Be your best. Step into greatness. Love and you will be loved.
Even those of us who train hard and crave power and strength have times where we wonder why we work so hard. Is that extra rep worth it? Is that extra lifting session going to change anything?
Even we who struggle to change the discourse of beauty, and strive to shift the world’s gaze on women wonder if we’re beautiful. Does he not like me more because I’m not a skinny model? Am I too boyish to be seen with in public? Would he talk to me more if my cup size was bigger? Would he want to be my boyfriend if I was pretty like that other girl? Would he be less ashamed if I was more timid?
Even when confidence is at its peak and we know we can conquer the world, that voice in our head tries to belittle us. You can’t do it. You won’t do it. Look at you failing. You’re about to fail. No one wants you. No one trusts you. You’re defective. You won’t get it right. You’re making the wrong choices again. You’ll always be a failure. You’ll always lose. You’ll always be alone. You’re not girlfriend material. You’re too dumb. Too lazy. Too ugly. Too slow. Too clumsy. Too weak.
When every doubt comes at us with the speed and force of a bullet train, we must overcome.
We must trust ourselves to make the right decision when a new situation arises.
We must believe that we are greater than our fears.
We must persevere in the face of failure and doubt.
We must understand that we are desirable and beautiful. That the last rep is worth it. That our speed is greater than our mind can comprehend. That our passion is worthy.
And we must know that if the rest of the world doesn’t see that now, one day they will. That day, when we join the Giants we have been stretching for all of our lives? That will be the sweetest day we have ever known. At least, until we reach the next marker.