I was a very confident and outgoing child. I would talk to anyone, was always singing and dancing and putting on shows in front of anyone who would listen. I went through some awkward teenage years (I felt too skinny, I had no boobs to speak of, I didn’t like the way I looked compared to my friends…) but it was when I went to university and my rosacea emerged that the real damage was done to my confidence. I struggled to put myself out there and make new friends, I convinced myself that others were judging me, and treated myself horribly. After many years I’m finally trying to move away from those bad habits and so I wanted to share my tips on how to stop negative thoughts.
It goes without saying that I am not an expert: I am not therapist and I’m not trying to tell you that if you follow each of these steps then all of your problems will miraculously go away. But these are some things that really help me to gain perspective and treat myself with a little more kindness.
Here are some external ways to help with negative thoughts:
- Stop comparing yourself to others. This is the one that I struggle with, especially working in beauty and being surrounded by other people doing work similar to mine but slightly different. Remind yourself of your positive attributes and your strengths.
- Serve someone else. Whenever I am feeling terrible about myself, feeling like I am useless and have nothing to offer, I go out of my way to do something for someone else. It doesn’t have to be something huge: helping a struggling woman carry her pram up the stairs on the tube; dropping some change in a charity bucket; or leaving a compliment on someone’s selfie.
- Reach out. Send a letter or a postcard to a friend or family member. You don’t necessarily have to talk about the negative thoughts you are having, although if it helps you to vocalise them then you can do that. But sometimes it’s helpful to think about other things, and focus on updating them on your life outside of the negative aspects you’re focusing on.
- A digital detox isn’t for everyone but perhaps give it some thought. For me social media is a double-edged sword: trolls are mean and people can be thoughtless with their words, but on the other hand the internet has connected me to every single person reading these words right now (umm hi *waves awkwardly*). At the moment you can’t move for think-pieces on the use of technology and it’s impact on mental health and self-esteem, with many people doing . If you regularly find yourself feeling low or upset after using the internet then try to pinpoint why that is. Are there specific accounts you could unfollow, phrases you could mute, or patterns you could avoid? Think honestly about your habits and how these could potentially be impacting your confidence.
If you really can’t stop focusing on the negative thoughts, it may help to analyse and get to the bottom of them. Here are my ways to look at the internal causes of negative thoughts:
- Is this negative thought helpful? Sometimes when I look at the root cause of a negative thought it can motivate me to change something that I’m unhappy with. Late last year I was feeling very jealous of another blogger for their amazing blog content: when I looked closer it wasn’t the specific content they were producing, or their following, it was their work ethic and consistency. By acknowledging this it helped me to look at the way that I approach blogging and start to apply some of their drive to my own work.
- Is it a real problem or an imagined scenario? Recently I spoke at Knitcon, Pinterest’s internal staff conference. I am not a fan of public speaking and in the days leading up to the event I would lie awake worrying about it. So I started trying to pinpoint exactly what was worrying me. My main worry was that the audience would feel underwhelmed and bored by my talk… so I spent the next few days re-brainstorming to make sure my talk was as interesting and useful to them as possible. By going in knowing that I had prepared as well as I could, and feeling proud of what I was presenting, I could (nearly!) silence those negative thoughts.
- Try not to take things too personally. I’m a very emotional person and take a lot of things to heart. I often think that friends are annoyed with me, that I’ve accidentally upset someone, or that others are judging me. But recently I’ve been trying to play devil’s advocate for myself. I take a step back and look at things objectively: that friend has read my WhatsApp message but not replied they must hate me! Or perhaps they’re just busy and will get back to you later? That brand rejected my pitch, they must think my blog is terrible and that I’m a failure! Or maybe they have a tiny budget and can only work with bloggers who are an exact fit for their brand. That person is staring at me, they must think my skin is horrible and that I’m disgusting! Or they are wondering where my lipstick is from or whether they should cut their fringe back in? We like to jump to conclusions and, as a species, we’re very self-centred. I like to think what I would say to a friend if they had the same concerns, it really helps to distance myself from the root of the negative thought (a lack of confidence) and see it for what it is (usually an overactive mind jumping to conclusions).
Four last things to remember:
- You are not perfect and that is okay!
- You are not in control … and that is okay too!
- Feelings are universal and temporary. Although it may not seem like it, everyone has negative thoughts. It’s a normal and unavoidable part of being a human – hooray for stupid irrational brains!
- Ask for help – it’s allowed! No one will think less of you and usually people will be happy that you’ve trusted them. Although it can be scary to be vulnerable and admit that you need help, it often feels like a bigger deal beforehand than it actually ends up being. You are strong and asking for help doesn’t change that.
I hope these tips for stopping or managing negative thoughts were helpful. Please do let me know your tips or thoughts in the comments below, I would love to hear what works for you.
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