Individuals have been conditioned from an early age to adopt thought patterns that translate into actions and ultimately develop into habits. Some of these patterns can lead to destructive behaviors while others pave the way for a fulfilling life. Realizing how our deeply held beliefs unconsciously affect the way we interact with our environment is imperative to effect any kind of change. Usually this is accomplished by engaging in internal time travel to uncover how these beliefs were initially formed. But even if one can’t precisely pinpoint the onset of a belief, simply becoming aware of it and approaching it with curiosity and compassion can change how one will eventually address it.
Suppose you are five years old and you paint what your inner Picasso believes to be a masterpiece. You proudly showcase it to your friend who immediately starts laughing and making fun of your art. You then start thinking that you suck at painting and become reluctant to even touch a paintbrush ever again. Voilà, without your conscious knowledge, or consent for that matter, your brain just started adopting the “you are not good enough” belief.
Fast forward a few years into a thirteen year old sulking teenager suffering his/her first romantic rejection. The rejection triggers a thought that goes something like this: “If he/she doesn’t like me it must be because I am a(n) [insert a descriptive adjective here]“. Regardless of the chosen adjective, it will likely also be tied to this “not enoughness” feeling. Having your feelings crushed time and time again – or maybe even just once – can silence your inner voice that, depending on how many summers you’ve lived, still thinks you are enough. That still thinks you can contribute to the world in one way or another. That still thinks you worthy, creative, capable and courageous enough.
This “not enoughness” belief is so powerful that I would even argue psychologists owe it their livelihoods. Marisa Peer believes it’s the biggest disease affecting humanity. These four words – I am not enough – can wreak havoc on our psyche and be the culprit of our live’s most remarkable failures. If like me, you’ve had enough of feeling this way, don’t despair; there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
In light of that, let’s explore three simple techniques that can help reframe your perception of your beautiful, imperfect and unique self.
1. Write I AM ENOUGH post-its
Write I AM ENOUGH in several post-its and strategically place them in conspicuous places. I borrowed this technique from Marisa Peer (though she uses the mirror to showcase the words of wisdom) since she’s the expert on this topic. It may be cheesier that a quesadilla, but there’s a reason people do it – it works. Seeing it written time and time again will serve as a reminder that you ARE enough. It’s all about getting your brain acquainted with the idea. In Marisa’s own words, you have to make the unfamiliar familiar. If you have a deeply ingrained belief that you are not enough, you then have to work hard at convincing your brain otherwise. Hence the need for reminders around your house – post-it notes, your bathroom mirror, reminders on your phone, computer background… you get the idea. And don’t just repeat it like a broken record – feel it in your core. Experience the feeling of being enough. In order words, do whatever it takes to hammer that belief into your brain and soon enough you’ll notice how it will start shifting your thoughts and behaviors. Your brain believes what you tell it to believe, so why not manipulate it to your advantage?
2. Witness the voices in your head
Isn’t it odd, to put it nicely, how your internal voices are constantly harassing you instead of showering you with praise? You would think that because they are your voices they’d be kind enough to treat you nicely. Herein lies the problem; these thoughts aren’t you – they shouldn’t be allowed to dictate your behavior. They often manifest from a place of fear, anger, self-doubt and insecurity allowing your mind to successfully trick you into believing thoughts and self are one and only. Being able to separate your identity from your thoughts leads to a breakthrough. Try to just witness the chatter; allow the thoughts to say their peace. Then say thank you or laugh at, or make your best counter argument (yes, like a crazy person) and watch it drift away. Don’t allow a pop up window to entirely ruin the work you’ve accomplished so far. Close it and continue browsing. When you distance yourself from your mental chatter it can definitely annoy you; but it no longer has the power to hurt you.
3. Be kind to yourself
Would you ever speak to your best friend or partner the way you speak to yourself? You are a loser; you can’t do anything right; you’re fat; you’re ugly; you’re not that smart. I certainly hope not! What then makes you think it’s OK to talk to yourself that way? Perhaps because no one is listening? Otherwise, who would want to be around such a negative, self-deprecating, depressing person? Well, I hate to break it to you, but here’s who: you. Whenever you react to a negative thought, you are bringing it to life by listening to it. I bet you don’t choose your friends by how many unfavorable adjectives they can come up with to describe themselves; so don’t hang out with Negative Nancy 24/7 in your head. Choose to be “with” someone positive, fun, confident and kind. Whenever you become aware of your self-tirade, stop; address yourself in a compassionate manner and show yourself some love. We cannot be perfect all-the-time so, go on, give yourself a break.
While these three techniques have the potential to bring about positive changes when used consistently, they are not magical – life isn’t Hogwarts. Simply uttering a sentence won’t invoke a spell and defeat your inner Voldemorts. You have to make time for it like it’s a task on your calendar. As if your life, or sanity, depends on it; because it may very well be the case.