So you’ve decided to make a change in your life. You’ve realized that for too long your life hasn’t been working out the way you want it to. While this is a valuable goal, many of us make this decision because we are also listening to a not-so-kind voice that plays in our heads: “You need to change because there is something about you that is bad.”
You might have been hearing this message for a long time – so long that it might seem impossible to live without it. As it turns out, you have a lot to gain by letting go of self-loathing and embracing yourself as you are. Think of it like this – a child is more likely to clean their room if you praise them when they do a good job than if you scold them for not doing what you want.
A simple CBT technique of remembering the three “R”s can be incorporated into your daily life when you find yourself speaking negatively inside your head:
…that beating yourself up does not help you actually change. Remember the saying “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?” While this phrase was coined to inspire people to be nice to others in order to work better together, it also applies to our work with ourselves. It turns out that you are more productive and receptive to change when you feel good about yourself. You can actually help yourself break negative habits by first learning to let go of your inner negative voice.
… your strengths. Most people if given the choice would rather be happy than unhappy. Most of your negative habits, even the habit of talking down to yourself, at one point was a strategy to protect yourself. It can be important to recognize these negative self-thoughts as an attempt at self-improvement or protection. Once you’ve realized that, you can then work on letting them go. By following this step, you are now creating space to acknowledge your strengths, resilience, and all that you have to offer the world. The more you put this into practice, the more hopeful you will feel about yourself and your ability to create lasting change.
… how you think about yourself. You have strengths to contribute to the world. You sometimes just don’t see them because the voice of self-judgement has been so loud for so long. Practice saying nice things about yourself by writing affirmations or saying nice things about yourself out loud to the mirror.
Here’s an example of how using CBT to help yourself might go: Let’s imagine you are a single person and you tend to be hard on yourself after hanging out with friends who are all in relationships. You might go home with thoughts like, “Everyone has a partner, and I don’t. There must be something wrong with me. I don’t deserve to be in a relationship and will be lonely forever.” This thought makes you feel sad and hopeless, and at other points of your life, you would maybe be caught up in these or other negative feelings and have a hard time escaping them. Now, let’s start using the three R’s instead.
While acknowledging your feelings, realize that staying stuck on this thought is not serving you or helping you in this moment. Recognize that your internal voice might really be alerting you to the fact that something is off- which is an attempt to be helpful! However, this voice is doing so in a self-punishing way that causes you pain. You can tell this voice, “I appreciate that you are trying to let me know that I am lonely, but right now beating myself up isn’t helpful.” Now you are starting to reframe how you think about yourself. Sometimes the part of ourselves that is self-loathing isn’t looking at all the evidence. Take some time to make an inventory of the parts of yourself that you like, the skills that you have, or things you can do. Regardless of whether or not you have a partner right now, there are some really great things about you!
As you start to see all the wonderful parts of yourself that maybe you had forgotten you develop the resiliency to go deeper in the therapeutic work. CBT techniques can help you develop self-love and self-acceptance. It’s an important step in our journey of change. To make an appointment with one of our therapists who specialize in CBT therapy, click here.