We all have negative thoughts that pass through our head at various times. They can be self-critical “Why did I make such a stupid mistake?” or blaming others “They were so careless – they should have paid more attention!” or deploring a situation “I can’t believe this is happening. This is terrible!”
This critical voice used to run in my head all the time. It pointed out all of my mistakes, chastised me for not doing enough and told me that expressing my own needs was selfish. This voice, our “Inner Critic” or “Saboteur”, means well and wants us to do better. However, because it so critical and judgmental, it also makes us feel bad about ourselves. Once I became aware of my Inner Critic, I realized I had to do something. I knew that talking to myself in such a negative way wasn’t good for me.
Conventional wisdom tells us to cultivate positive thoughts instead. When working with my clients, we often identify these “Inner Critic” or “Saboteur” voices and we also cultivate an alternative voice that we all have within us, which I call our “Inner Champion.” While our Saboteur voice can be negative, judgmental, jealous, angry, and mean, our Inner Champion is positive, kind, loving, understanding, compassionate and inspiring. We get to choose which voice we want to listen to. For more on the Inner Champion, see: Don’t Listen To Your Inner Critic – Listen To Your Inner Champion
But it’s even more important to realize that underlying all of this is the fact that what we believe is our reality are just thoughts. Our thoughts are just thoughts: they flow and change from moment to moment. Having a thought doesn’t mean anything – unless we decide to give it meaning.
If I have a negative thought, and I give it meaning, I am now going to really believe it. Let’s say I am about to give a presentation and I think “I am going to forget what I am going to say.” If I give it meaning, I will really believe that this thought is the truth and my reality. As a result, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I might really forget what I wanted to say.
But it really is just a negative thought. I can also decide to see it as such and not give it any meaning. “Ah, it’s just one of those thoughts flowing through my head. It doesn’t mean anything.” “Oh, this is a Saboteur talking. I will ignore it.”
The more we can accept that we will have negative thoughts that we don’t like – these could be jealous, judgmental, critical, or pessimistic thoughts – and realize that they don’t represent reality and we don’t have to believe them, the more easily we can avoid getting hooked on them.
So in short:
- Recognize that thoughts are just thoughts. They flow and change from moment to moment. Having a thought doesn’t mean anything.
- If you are having a negative thought, you don’t need to believe it. You don’t have to give it meaning.
- If the negative thought created a negative feeling, that’s ok, let yourself feel it. Just know that it was created by that thought and you don’t have to give it meaning either.
- Remember that you are already worthy and are naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Yes, of course you can grow if you’d like to, but you don’t need critical thoughts to drive you to make you or others “better.”
“When our thoughts look real, we live in a world of suffering. When they look subjective, we live in a world of choice. When they look arbitrary, we live in a world of possibility. And when we see them as illusory, we wake up inside a world of dreams.”
Manuela loves helping smart and compassionate professionals create a career and life they love, while feeling more confident and fulfilled! You can visit Manuela’s Website for Career Happiness Coaching.