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Stop Defeating Yourself. Move to Positive Thoughts

If you change a picture frame, the picture itself can look very different. Try these suggestions to reframe self-defeating thoughts into positive ones.

Think back to an experience that seemed negative when it happened. Looking back, did you learn something from it? Did it lead you in a new direction that turned out to be better? Then you changed a negative into a positive. The event itself didn’t change, but you reframed it so the outcome became positive.

Reframing can help you change self-defeating thoughts and feelings into empowering, positive ones.

Recognize your self-defeating thoughts

You have to recognize self-defeating thoughts before you can replace them with encouraging ones. Self-defeating thoughts often come from focusing too negatively on something you’ve said or done. Usually they start with statements like:

  • I shouldn’t have…
  • I always…
  • I never…
  • I’m too…

Putting yourself down discourages you and doesn't help you cope with problems or come up with solutions.

Learn to reframe your past

Understand how your past affects your present. Start by understanding how your past can affect your present. Some self-defeating thoughts can come from childhood experiences. For example, if an older sibling often said you were “dumb,” you may have come to believe it. If a teacher said “you’ll never amount to much,” you may be fulfilling that prediction.

Take a closer look at your self-defeating thoughts. Think about some of the things you’ve learned and the successes you’ve had since you were very young. When you catch yourself thinking something like “I'm a failure,” look closely at the thought and try to be specific:

  • Did you fail or did your plan of action fail?
  • If you made mistakes, can you correct them next time?

If you tell yourself you’re a failure, you are less likely to try again. If you see your plan as the failure, you are more likely to change the plan, try again and succeed next time.

Pay attention to the evidence. Ask yourself what proof there is to support your negative thoughts. For example, suppose you think you’re too old to go back to school:

  • What evidence do you have?
  • Is your belief based on myths like “You can't teach old dogs new tricks”? (Remember: it’s a myth!)
  • How much do you really know about what it’s like for adults who return to school?
  • Have you talked to people who’ve gone back to school?
  • Do you know that many adults discover they do much better and enjoy school much more than they did when they were younger? Their perspective has changed and they've learned a lot since they were last in school. They have more to contribute and they know how to apply what they learn.

What happens when you pay attention to the evidence for your negative thoughts?

Change negatives to positives. Write down your negative thoughts and reframe them to positive thoughts. Here are some examples:

Negative Thought  Reframed to Positive Thought 
I can't do it I've overcome difficulties before. 
I never should have Next time, I will...
I'm no good at anything. I'm good at...
What's the use? Things can only get better!

Try saying positive things to yourself. For example, complete the following sentences:

  • I feel really good when…
  • I was most successful when…
  • It made me feel good when someone told me that…
  • I am happy when…

Create your own positive thoughts. Try these ideas:

  • Identify what you can do, instead of focusing on what’s not possible.
  • Think about how to build on your strengths and improve on (or work around) your weaknesses.
  • Don't waste your time on regret.
  • Imagine yourself being confident and succeeding in an upcoming situation. Replay this mental movie often before the event.
  • Talk to people who have a positive outlook. Ask them for tips on staying positive.
  • Stay active: walk, run, swim or volunteer. Activity will help you feel good about yourself.

Practise moving from self-defeating to positive thoughts

You can learn to reframe negative thoughts and feelings. The more you practise, the better you will get at it. Eventually, you’ll notice that positive thoughts come easily.

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