How to Turn Your Negative Thoughts Into Your Strengths
We rarely give much attention to our thoughts,. But they are constantly in the background making noise that actually gives some impact to our actions. When we are alone, the noise these thoughts make just becomes amplified. Unfortunately, many of us don’t spend most of our day with thoughts like “I’m amazing!” and “Life is beautiful!” Instead, we often hear some of the following statements coming from our negative thoughts like:
“I shouldn’t have done that today”
“I’m so useless”
“Nobody likes me”
“I am not seeing results at all! I may as well give up”
“This is too hard; I should stop bothering.”
….And much more. Sound familiar? The bad (or maybe good, depends on your perspective) news: you’re not alone. Most people feel this way at least some of the time. The good news: you can actually take these thoughts and turn them into a propeller to your success instead.
What Your Thoughts are Telling You
While your negative thoughts may seem like a big burden on your motivation levels and maybe even your mental and physical energy levels, if you learn to listen to them, you can identify areas of yourself that you don’t feel confident or comfortable about. Let’s say, for example, that a thought you keep hearing is “I can’t do anything right.” Once you’ve identified this is the thought that runs through your head, you can dissect and look for the root cause of this thought. From there, you can take actionable steps to tackle the root cause and thus, become a better person in this process.
Let’s go back to the previous example. If you keep telling yourself that you can’t do anything right, you may dig deeper and find that the thought keeps occurring because:
- You are handling tasks that have a steeper learning curve than you would have expected
- You cannot complete tasks successfully or in a satisfactory manner because of a bad habit that is getting in the way (g. procrastination, a constant distraction from your phone, etc)
- Someone you hold close or admire greatly keeps telling you that you are not doing things right
- You keep doing tasks you have zero interest in and berate yourself when you fail at them
- You have impostor syndrome and keep underestimating the efforts you put in and the output you produce
- A combination or all of the above.
As mentioned, knowing the above helps you take the next steps in fixing the issue and thus, eliminating the thought. The moment you have this skill, you will find yourself blooming as a person with time, thus turning what was a negative thought, into a strength.
A Simple How-to Guide to Identifying and Turning Negative Thoughts into Strengths
Still somewhat vague about what the above statements mean? Don’t worry, here’s a simple and straightforward how-to on switching your negative thoughts to ever be in your favor. (Yes, that is a Hunger Games reference):
Step 1: Slowing Down and Reflecting on Your Thoughts
When you find your mind constantly spewing negative self-talk at you, take some time to sit alone and reflect on what those thoughts are. Remember, most of the time thoughts run in the background. We may not catch them making a racket and playing with our emotions and mental well-being. Write down those negative thoughts that and think about the events or circumstances that led to the thought.
Step 2: Identifying the Root Cause
Once you have thought of the external circumstances that led to the negative self-talk, think about the internal reasons you keep having those thoughts. Is it low self-esteem? Can it be a mismatch of expectations? Is it disappointment or resentment that is disguising itself in hateful thoughts? Be honest with yourself. After all, you don’t have to share these with other people. However, if you find it difficult to be objective about the root cause, you may consider discussing it with a trusted confidante, who can give you more insight into your negative self-talk.
Step 3: Taking actionable steps to turn a weakness into a strength
Let’s say, going back to the previous example, that the root cause to you constantly telling yourself “I can’t do anything right” is because you feel overwhelmed with some new tasks you have to execute that is taking you more time that you’d like to learn properly. You encounter hiccups with these tasks, and thus it results in a blow to your ego and the resulting self-battery. Knowing that this is the main cause, a few things you can do is:
- Start asking for more help from others to speed up the learning process
- Acknowledge that learning and perfecting some things is going to take time, and there is nothing wrong with that
- Ask people for feedback on your performance, to see if you really are doing as badly as you think you are (most of the time, the answer is likely no!)
- Constantly remind yourself that just because you can’t do some things right fast enough, doesn’t mean you can’t do other things right.
Once you start taking efforts to help yourself feel more positive and also gain a deeper insight into your performance, you will feel better and also improve in a more precise manner rather than shooting in the dark. And this itself will turn into a strength!
Step 4: Rinse and Repeat
Once you have tackled one negative thought, that doesn’t mean it’s over. There will always be other thoughts that pop up, and it is important to carry out the previous three steps on a consistent basis to help yourself improve as a person and to shoo away all that annoying self-talk. It doesn’t have to be every day, but even if you work on one nagging thought per week, you will find yourself flourishing as a person.
A Final Note
While it may seem easy, the given steps will actually be quite difficult to do for most people, as we naturally do not like to listen to ourselves and also do not like digging into emotions and memories that are unpleasant. Attempting to do the steps above requires some level of persistence and strength on its own, so if you’re trying, don’t give up too easily if you can’t seem to find a root cause or if you really aren’t sure what to do after you have identified one. It is a process, and it will take time.
However, if you find yourself constantly being barraged by negative talk and can’t shut the voices out in your head, as well as get so overwhelmed by these thoughts that it affects your day to day productivity and functionality, do see a medical professional or a therapist to see if something more is happening. That is not normal and should not be treated as such.
About the Author
Christopher created the website RedesigningTheMind.com to get to the bottom of our relationship with ourselves and how the world sees us. He has a Advanced Diploma in Social Science and a Graduate Diploma in Technology Education. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his young family and if he’s really lucky you can find him in the garden.