In the months that followed my hospital stay, I struggled physically, but I struggled mentally as well. I began to lose confidence in myself. I began to question everything about my existence to that point. I wondered how long I had left to live and got extremely discouraged about my situation. I had a hard time fighting the negative emotions. It seemed like they were always there in my mind and that there was nothing I could do to get away from them, no matter how hard I tried. I wrote about my emotions almost every day, but my situation didn’t change. I didn’t expect it to since my condition is permanent. That discouraged me even more. I was in a dangerous place to say the least.
Even though I was in a dangerous place mentally, I was also on the verge of a major breakthrough. One day when I was feeling discouraged, I discovered the power of feeding positive thoughts to my mind. I had heard of positive affirmations before from my mentor, Kirk Duncan, and had used some that he gave me, but the affirmations he gave me were just to get me started in discovering my own truth. At that moment when I was struggling, I recognized that I was being pulled in two different directions. I wanted to be happy and to have purpose, but I also felt deep despair. A battle was being fought in my mind and I had to figure out how to win!
It was time for me to create affirmations, or as I like to call them declarations, of my own. How could I create a statement about myself that I could be excited to believe? How could I move past writing about the negative thoughts and emotions that kept surfacing and on to something more? Kirk taught me the steps to unlocking the truth of who I really am. In this post, I will explain the five steps I used to improve my self-esteem and how you can do it too.
1. Recognize the negative things you say to yourself
You have probably heard that we are each our harshest critics. I believe that is true. Have you ever caught yourself thinking that what you just did was stupid? Have you ever told yourself that you will never measure up to “them”? Have you ever thought that your nose was too big or that your ears looked weird? These are all examples of negative things that each one of us tells ourselves daily. You probably have so many more examples of negative comments you think about yourself. Take some time today to pay attention to your thoughts. If you said any of those comments to someone else, how would that person feel? Would you ever tell someone else that they are a failure because they forgot one tiny detail in a report or because they didn’t get all the laundry done? If not, why would you say that to yourself? The fact is that we all tell ourselves such hurtful things and we do it all the time. We do it so much that, although we don’t realize it, it has become our “truth”. We begin to believe the lies we tell ourselves because our brains can’t distinguish between truth and lies. They just believe what they are told to believe, whether true or not.
2. Write the negative thoughts down on paper
It is crucial that you write the negative thoughts down on paper. The simple act of writing down the negative thoughts gives evidence to your mind that you have identified the negative thoughts. This is a big step for many people. It can be very hard to recognize the negativity in your mind if it is constantly there. Here’s a secret about the negative thoughts you tell yourself: they are all lies that you have imbedded into your subconscious so deeply that you believe them to be true. Writing them down gets them out of the recesses of your mind and into the open. You will actually see the lies that you have told yourself!
3. Discover your real truth
Once you have discovered the lies that you tell yourself constantly, your next step is to tell yourself the truth. Telling yourself the truth is as simple as turning the negative thought around by finding its opposite statement. For example, you may tell yourself that you are a failure. This is the lie. The opposite statement could be “I am successful in all I do.” Turning lies into truths can feel strange at first because your mind wants to reject any new thoughts that seem contrary to what it “knows”. If this is how you feel, don’t worry. You are actually on the right track.
4. Strengthen your statements of truth
In order for your mind to accept your new statements of truth, also known as affirmations or declarations, and to fight off the lies, your new truth statements must be stronger than your lies. If your new truth is as strong as or weaker than the lies, it will not have a chance against the lies you have told yourself for so long. You must create powerful declarations in order to overcome the lies. In the example above, where “I am a failure” is the lie and “I am successful in all I do” is your new true statement, you can strengthen that new truth by combining it with another statement such as, “I am a huge success in all I do and I am a positive influence in the world.” The key to strengthening your declarations is to make sure that they feel good and that they are powerful. Avoid putting opposites of negatives in your declarations. For example, you would not want to say, “I am not a failure”. Your mind will not hear the word “not” so it will just hear “I am a failure”. This is your chance to recreate the truth you want to believe. Make it as powerful as you possibly can. Your mind will believe anything you tell it to so you might as well have fun with it and make your declaration powerful.
5. Say your Affirmations out loud
Once you have created a list of declarations, read through them out loud with as much passion and energy as you can. The more energy and feeling you can put into saying your declarations, the easier it will be for your mind to begin to believe them. After all, you are trying to fight off the pesky lies that have weaseled their way into your everyday thought process. They won’t go away easily. They will constantly try to creep back in. It may feel strange to say your declarations out loud. If this is the case for you, try saying them when you are alone. When nobody else can hear you, you can let loose. I like to say my declarations at least five times in a row, at least once a day. Obviously the more you say your declarations and the more feeling you put into them, the quicker they will become part of you. I like to create declarations that I can remember easily so I can say them whenever I want. Then, when I notice a negative thought try to creep in, I can use a relevant declaration to offset the lie that I just caught. If I am in public, I can’t always say my declaration out loud. In these situations, I will just think them in my mind over and over until the negative thought goes away.
In this world, there is so much negativity. It is everywhere. I believe we are so bombarded with it that we often don’t even realize that it is there. We have become so numb to the negativity and we just accept it as truth. Then we wonder why there is so much sadness, hostility, anger, etc. around us. Although there might not be anything we can do individually to prevent a global change for the better, we can do something for ourselves. If we want change, that change must start with each of us. You are the only person that you have control over, so take control of your own life, beginning with ridding your mind of negativity (by writing it all down) and replacing it with positive, constructive, powerful thoughts.
Remember, after you have written down all your negative emotions relating to a specific incident, as described here, your work is only half-way done. If you stop after removing the negative emotions, without intentionally replacing them with something better, the negative emotions will return. To prevent the negativity from returning, you will need to intentionally place positive thoughts into your mind. Just like negativity bombards your mind, you will need to bombard your mind with positive thoughts if you want to improve your self-esteem.