“Everything you think is true. The opposite is also true.” How to shift your self defeating thoughts
One of my biggest challenges as an artist is dealing with my internal negative self talk while I’m working. I fight against this belief that I have nothing worth saying. More often than not, thoughts like “nothing I create is good enough”, “I am not interesting” or “I am a fraud” come to the surface. This overwhelming self doubt creeps in and with it, a total lack of belief in myself.
Experiencing the inner lizard
Martha Beck, in her book Steering by Starlight, calls this internal voice the “Inner Lizard,” and she describes this voice as the reptile part of our brain that works from a position of flight or fight. It's job is to instinctively protect us from harm with it's well meaning, but often unhelpful “it’s out to get you” world view.
The problem is that most of the time, this instinct creates a morbid version of truth in our heads.
Situations you experience are mirrors of your mind
It’s normal to experience self-doubt. It's normal to have your inner lizard turn the volume way up every time you make a move to be vulnerable and open yourself up to the world. It’s like a S.O.S alarm for self preservation and protection that screams at you to shut the hell up (and offers all kinds of reasons why you should) so that you don’t get hurt.
But what happens if the Lizard always win? When you give in and internalize, truly + deeply, those thoughts as absolute truth, they become your reality.
Your thoughts become your experience.
For example, sometimes my belief that I have nothing to say stops me from speaking, showing up and sharing my truth. When I don’t open myself up to the world, my internal lizard speak becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You will become what you fear becoming. Your experiences will mirror your thoughts.
Release the belief that your thoughts are absolute truth
So, begin to question your thoughts. Are they really true? Martha Beck asks, “Is this thought always true or are there times when it could be false?”
Like this thought that I have nothing to say, that I am uninteresting and have no story to tell. Is it really true? Absolute truth?
Of course not.
Just yesterday, I climbed a pine studded ridge and skiied down it through knee deep powder. I put the finishing touches on a painting in between playing “going to the beach” with my daughter and then I sweat down to my soul at a hot yoga class. It was a day in my life well lived and I wasn’t bored with it for even a minute.
Our negative thoughts, even though they feel so real, are not absolute truth. Thoughts that come from a place of fear are never absolute truth.
Everything you think is true, the opposite is also true.
Dig out your negative thought patterns by writing them down. What are 5-10 thoughts you have about yourself that you repeat on the regular? (You know, lizard stuff like, “I’m fat” I’m not flexible” “I’m not creative”, “People don’t like me”, “I am a failure”, “I’ll never look like so + so”, "I suck at [fill in the blank]”)
Write down an opposing view point of that statement. Make these second, life-affirming thoughts your new affirmations:
- "I am uninteresting and have nothing to say" becomes "I have an interesting story and a unique perspective to share".
- "I am a fraud" becomes "I am a living, breathing (artist, writer, entrepreneur, etc.) beautiful in all my imperfections".
- "I'll never look like that beautiful yogi I see all over instagram" becomes "I am beautiful and shining in my own way".
- "I’ll never be good enough" becomes "I am continually learning, expanding and becoming a better + better version of myself".
Turn your self defeating thoughts upside down
You can turn your self defeating thoughts upside down all you have to do is shift your perspective.
How to shift your perspective
Here are 4 ways that you can shift your perspective and change the filter of your normal, negative self talk:
- Change up your environment. Find a small and simple way to shake up your normal routine + everyday way of being: Drive a new route to work, go for a walk in a new neighborhood, visit a coffee shop you’ve never been to, change around your living room.
- Start a handstand practice. Commit to literally turning yourself upside down every day. Not only will it help jolt you out of your current mindset, it also will help to wake you up and flush your brain with blood and oxygen.
- Create a touchstone to remind you that your thoughts are not absolute truth. Pick an object that represents this new idea. It could be a stone, a photograph, a small statue of an animal. (For mine, I found a little silver fish). Close your eyes and bring the intention to release the idea that your thoughts are absolute truth and then blow that intention into your object. Keep it somewhere safe and every time you find yourself moving down a path of negative self talk, get the object and hold it in the palm of your hand for a few moments and remind yourself of the message it contains.
- Sit in the all encompassing energy of the heart. There is a beautiful meditation that invites you to sit, slow down and tune into the pulse of your own heartbeat. You bring your attention to this most micro detail that you can experience within your own body, and it pulls your attention away from distraction of the negative thought patterns occurring in your brain. It shifts your attention away from your head and into your heart.