How willing are you to acknowledge unhelpful attitudes and beliefs that you may have?
Some of these may be unexamined ways of thinking about yourself and your life that were given to you by parents and other early caregivers. They may not really be your attitudes and values, but they were put there so early on, it is hard to tell that they do not belong with you.
You can recognise them because they are often distorted, exaggerated, self-critical, or self-defeating “tapes” that re-play over and over again in your head, causing personal anxiety, self-doubt, stress and depression. Some examples are:
- Compulsion to overwork
- Feelings of incompetence
- Non-acceptance of self
- Unprocessed regret
- Distorted sense of control
- Placing conditions on happiness
- Messages of unworthiness
- Non-acceptance of others
- Sense that the world ‘should’ be a certain way
- Lack of perspective
- Intolerance for self and others
- Fear of committing
- Lack of gratitude
The above causes you stress so the step is to question them. We do this by making a disputing statement which gives a kinder, more realistic evaluation of ourselves or our situation. The debate helps us to solve problems where the original statement, a “cognitive distortion”, would tend to keep us stuck.
For example, if we are stressing ourselves by obsessing over what Jamie has that we do not (let’s say, great professional standing), we can remind ourselves of what we do have (possibly a loving family, excellent health, or a loyal set of friends).
If the problem is, say, a feeling of incompetence, we can remind ourselves that, as a developing adult being, we are allowed to have “growing edges” or the way I like to put it is qualities that we are growing into.
Self-awareness is key.
· Which attitudes or beliefs do you identify for yourself as problematic?
· How do you currently deal with these distortions?
· How else might you handle them?
Practicing unconditional self-acceptance and compassion
One attitude/belief that deserves special mention is the art of accepting ourselves on an “as is, where is” basis. For us to be peacefully in relationship with our own humanness – our own combination of strengths, growing edges and unique quirks – means to have less stress from the source of our own critical voice.
You know the voice: the one that yells at us that we are not _____ (fill in the blank: “slender”, “clever”, “good at business”, etc), or that we have not achieved enough. The more we can truly live from a genuine sense of “I am ok”, the more that we can be in compassionate, accepting relationship with ourselves and others.
The more we manage to fund a deep sense of esteem from our own internal resources, the more we develop the autonomy and inner authority that prevents us crumpling from criticism or needing acceptance and approval from others.
It is not a short-term strategy, but there are few efforts that help with greater happiness and hardiness. The skills of self-awareness and self-regulation can work wonders here. Our increasing awareness of when we fail to accept ourselves can lead to increased ability to regulate our minds towards compassion.
Questions to ask yourself
1. On a scale of 1 – 100, how accepting of yourself are you?
2. Which specific areas of yourself do you identify as really hard to accept? This could include anything from physical characteristics (e.g., “I hate my nose”) to mental skills (“I am a terrible salesperson”) to global put-downs (“I’m a loser; I haven’t done anything with my life”).
3. How willing are you to choose one of these areas and re-write the negative self-talk you are giving yourself?
Sometimes we need a hand with this and this is where Counselling is extremely helpful in eliminating your limiting beliefs and easier than doing it alone.