A Simple but Powerful Practice to Change your Thoughts and Increase your Self-Worth.

"The Real Me"
The Real Me?

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”― Siddhārtha Gautama

“I’m a flop.”

“I loathe everything about me.”

“Nobody loves me. I’m not worthy of love.”

Have you experienced similar thoughts where you felt like you weren’t worthy or good enough?

You might have felt some of these emotions when you confronted traumatic life events at work, home or in your relationships.

You may have even had the recurring negative talk and thoughts of inadequacy when growing up.

Especially so if you grew up in a mob or KGB family. Or attended religious boarding schools with disciplinarian teachers!

Confronting my self-worth.

While I didn’t grow up in a mobster family or the KGB, I’ve had my fair share of self-hating reflections about myself.

Growing up, the barrage of critical and negative comments from family takes a toll.

There’s also no experience which tests a person’s self-worth like a divorce.

When someone who you love rejects you, you begin to feel like you’re inadequate and unworthy of love.

Like you’re not fit to be loved.

You’re not whole.

Broken. Damaged.

More than the breakup and separation, it were these reoccurring thoughts which filled my mind and my life. As time passed, my self-pity and sorrow turned more towards reaffirming self-loathing and hatred.

“Why would I want to live with myself when even my former wife didn’t?”.

I questioned and scrutinized myself with these unhealthy thoughts.

Of course, none of these thoughts were an accurate reflection of myself . They may have described how I was feeling in life but they were skewed and far removed from reality.

These were thoughts that I was expressing to myself because of some of the painful circumstances I was experiencing.

You may be going through something similar. Or you may have had emotionally scarring experiences and a rough childhood which created your negative self-image.

Self-loathing isn’t a permanent condition – you have the power to shift your mindset.

Thoughts of self-hatred and loathing can arise from painful life events. Or simply a recurring pattern from growing up in a negative and critical environment.

Such thoughts can come about before you slide into a state of depression. In fact, psychotherapist Drew Coster says “depression often happens when people feel like they’re not good enough, or a failure.”

Regardless of how these thoughts arise in your life, you can take action to turn around this self-imposed mindset of negativity.

Your thoughts and feelings are not etched in stone.

Instead think of them as rain drops sitting on the railing after a heavy rain. When the sun comes out, these raindrops, like your negative self-talk, have the ability to dry up quickly and evaporate.

A simple mind-shifting strategy to call out your negative self-talk and love yourself more.

Let’s start with this premise.

You don’t have to allow these thoughts which control your mind to control your life.

You can help boost your self-esteem to shift the tide of disheartening thoughts.

How do you develop self-esteem? According to Dr. David Burns, in the best-selling book, Feeling Good, The New Mood Therapy, says “you don’t have to do anything especially worthy to create or deserve self-esteem; all you have to do is turnoff that critical, haranguing inner voice.”

Here’s a very simple, yet powerful, mind-shifting, practice you can employ to turn the tide on the thoughts and feelings which arise from this emotional load you’ve been carrying around

1. Identify these thoughts of worthlessness you may be experiencing.

Catch those irritating critters like how you would pursue pesky mosquitos: patiently and mindfully.

Self-reflection, journaling, talking about your thoughts to a friend or professional, and mindfulness practices are some ways to come to observe and recognize your negative thought patterns.

As these thoughts arise, acknowledge them by writing them down.

2. Examine and evaluate your thoughts about yourself.

Are these thoughts and feelings valid? Ask yourself, “what if this thought wasn’t true?”

Look at these thoughts objectively – are the negative thoughts valid? Or are they simply inaccurate reflections created by your past?

You may have performed poorly in a task or had a failure at work, but does that make you an overall failure at life?

You could have bombed your last interview for a job but, does that mean you’re incompetent and not hireable by any company?

Play devil’s advocate with these negative thoughts to question their validity.

3. Challenge the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing.

Counter your thoughts. Challenge them.

For the thought, “I’m good at nothing”, counter with, “well, I successfully navigated to work and back, completed my job duties on time and effectively completed another day at work.”

For the thought, “No one likes me,” think about the friends you do have, the solid relationships you have cultivated and the people who enjoy your company.

When you think you’re not worthy or deserving of love, counter with the thought that you were born as a bundle of love. You were loved unconditionally as a baby, loved by many people in your life since then and have many people today who love you.

You’re both capable of receiving love and giving love.

Look for any small or large achievement of the day to show yourself that you’re not what a self-defeating thought is rattling to you.

View these thoughts through a lens of gratitude instead of lack and negativity.

This practice can be a challenge because your conditioned mind and emotions will try to prevent you from embracing more positive and loving thoughts. Your mind can feel uncomfortable experiencing something new and positive.

If you can’t carry out this exercise on your own, seek the assistance of a trusted friend to help you examine and challenge self-defeating thoughts.

If the thoughts and beliefs are more deep-rooted, seek counseling so a licensed professional can help you identify, evaluate and help you reject those disempowering and deep-rooted thoughts.

Once you do this practice once, like unruly weeds, harmful thoughts will crop up again. Each time, they do, be prepared to confront them and practice self-love.

Come up with counter-examples to destructive thoughts of how you’re capable, worthy and loveable.

Your assignment.

Take out a sheet of paper and capture those self-hating thoughts running through your mind. I’ve included a sample worksheet for you to use as a guideline – you can click here to see it: Selfloveworksheet.

self love worksheet

Divide the paper in three.

On the left side, capture the harsh talk and thoughts running through your mind.

In middle column, write down why these negative thoughts aren’t objectively true. Poke holes in these undesirable thoughts.

On the right side, take away power to those negative thoughts by replacing them with contrary and more empowering thoughts.

How is every thought you noted on the left side of the page inaccurate or false? Allow those thoughts to evaporate and allow the empowering thoughts on the right side of the paper to replace them.

Continue this practice until you can successfully confront, challenge and turn around harmful thoughts and feelings.

You can also try these practices, self-love or self-confidence affirmations,  treat yourself better, or writing healing self-notes to yourself.

* Image credit: Best Brain Possible

Do you experience negative and self-defeating thoughts? Please help other readers by sharing other practices to increase self-love, self-worth and improve one’s self-image in the comments below. 

44 Comments

  1. V – great, systematic way of dealing with negative self-talk. I love the question of asking if the thoughts weren’t true – or if the opposite were true.

    We have the ability to create and understand both, right?

    Final thought – the mosquitoes in my apartment are sprayed with deathly spray – does this work with negative self talk too?

    1. Thanks Razwana – yes, we do have the ability to create and understand both sides! We can also kill thoughts which no longer serve us like pesky mosquitoes:) Spraying yourself with mosquito spray is not recommended or encouraged though:)

  2. Wow! Vishnu, I was going to publish a post on self love today, but decided to schedule it for Wednesday as I didn’t want to mix it up with my Sunday post. Love the worksheet. Now I’ll add a link to your post when I publish on Wednesday.
    Self love is tough. For me, it could be upbringing because it was perceived as selfish. I am glad I got over that hurdle!

    Thank you!

    1. Thanks Vidya – no worries – I enjoyed reading your post too and appreciate more people talking about it. We need more self-love talk and posts to combat our tricky minds which are always swerving towards the negative!

      I’m glad you were able to come to terms with your upbringing and overcame this big hurdle to have more self-love in your life.

  3. I was raised in a home where my mom criticized almost everything. It took me a long time to outgrow my self-loathing, thinking I would never be good enough or worthy enough. However, all that changed when I became a practicing Christian and realized God loves me just the way I am.
    Long journey of love has, indeed, healed me!
    Blessings, Vishnu, and thanks for another marvelous post!

  4. Love this topic, Vishnu. The worksheet looks helpful and one that anyone could use. I have a situation right now where I’m watching a loved one be consumed with self defeating thoughts. I’ll send him this link. Self love can really make all the difference and help you move out of the self defeating negative cycle that honestly goes no where. Thanks for sharing! Enjoyed this post!

    1. Glad you liked it Cathy. Becoming conscious of our negativity is step one to shifting our thoughts and feelings about ourselves. Thanks for sharing this post – hope he finds the exercise useful.

  5. Hi Vishnu,
    I absolutely love this post! I can relate to everything you said. I found that making the bedrock of my life external things (like a partner) really rocked my Foundation, because it wasn’t rooted in self-love. Looking back I can see how negative experiences stay in my mind and shape my identity. Such is the human experience as we tend to remember pain more than pleasure.
    Thanks for sharing this beautiful post!
    Much love,
    amita

    1. Thanks Amita – glad it resonated and glad to see how much more conscious you’ve become of the negativity and lack of self-love previously. I think many many people have these similar experiences where we’ve had to combat the heaviness of pain and negativity and come to a place of self-love and acceptance.

  6. I really liked this post Vishnu. It is hard to develop “self love” what with the demands of society to live,look a certain way etc. I am sure I will find the worksheet helpful, always helps to put things down on paper.
    The one thing I try to remember when I am faced with negative thoughts about myself is that I am (and we are all) a part of that infinite ,allknowing, loving Universal Truth…so how bad can we be!!!

    1. That’s a great reflection, Anu. It’s just living with that understanding that we are all part of one consciousness. Everyday life and society constantly tries to divide and separate us from realizing this (as you point out) but once we realize that we are all part of one truth, there is no need for judgment, negativity or self-loathing. If we are love, how can we hate?

  7. I LOVE that you’ve broken this down and provided a tool to help people get ahold of these thoughts. I wish I had this worksheet years ago when I was working through my own negative self talk. The good news is, I’m living proof that this stuff works! Not that I’m cured or anything, but I have WAY fewer bad guys in my head than I used to!

    The thing about negative self talk (and any fear or meanness in general, I think) is if you can catch it and put it into the light (or even better, on a worksheet!) it won’t seem half as bad as it did in your head – and that’s even before you do any thing else with it.

    Thanks so much for providing the steps to work this through! They’re going to save a lot of people a lot of time, work, tears, and money spent on therapy (now you can go shopping instead! YAY!)

    1. Glad you found the worksheet useful Jess and thrilled by your progress over the years. And especially glad to hear it works:) Yeah, I think consciousness and awareness is the key to weeding one those negative vibes floating through our minds:) Thanks for your comment and I hope others do find it useful as well.

  8. Take a bow, Vishnu! I SO loved reading this post.

    Negative self talk is something we all battle with at different phases, some of us grapple it right from childhood. By now, I thought I would be the only one to get double PH.D in negative self-talk. You can’t even begin to imagine the kind of criticism I’ve been battling across years but that’s how life is, right?

    But whenever I have gone through those phases, my Guru has stepped in and stopped me from taking that route. That has really anchored me but as you already know, some habits are quite difficult to break. Whenever people find fault with what I say or do or are critical about me, I get back into the ‘negative self-talk’ mode.

    But you know what, thanks so much for the worksheet. I am sure that many people are going to be benefited by it. I will give this a try and make this worksheet a daily habit too.

    May God bless you with abundant happiness and love for the good work you do.

    1. Hi Swapna, I don’t think you are alone in this by a long shot and many can relate. Some habits are difficult to break and a continued practice is needed for a lifetime and I think the most powerful practice of all is recognition and awareness. Once you’re aware of it, then you can address, counter and challenge those negative thoughts.

      Once you can call it out, you can discredit it. I’m glad you found it helpful and others hopefully will too. Of course, I’m also on the same journey and can benefit from this shared and collective advice and thoughts.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  9. Powerful post Vishnu. To some degree or another humanity is judgemental, especially of ourselves. Your worksheet is a great idea, a sort of reality check. Because as Jessica said when you bring things out into the light you get to see much more clearly.

    I tend to break things down into three, do I want control, approval or security and then depending on the one I choose in the moment, I ask myself if I can let it go…of course the answer is always yes I can.

    It seems to work well for me, I’ve released all kinds of stuff over the years. Still have some to go, but I’m feeling much lighter all the time.

    1. Wow, great advice Elle – control, approval or security. And then letting it go. What a wonderful and freeing feeling it must be to make the decision to let go. thank you for reminding us that it’s possible and doable. Appreciate your tip and wisdom as always:)

  10. Great piece Vishnu! Documented and explained in one single place–great tool and reference article for anyone who needs it (and we all do at some point or the other need to be reminded when we meander off). Thanks for writing it!

    1. Thanks Bhavana – yes, hope others find it useful and yes, we’ve all been there:) And yes, I wrote it for myself as much as for everyone else:)

  11. Great post Vishnu! We are often our own worst critics. I have battled the negative self-talk, and I don’t always win. But, sometimes I catch myself with negative thoughts that are so ridiculous that they make me laugh! Being aware of these thoughts is the first step, and then as you say challenging them. I also challenge my thoughts by thinking about someone that I know in the same or similar situation. I wouldn’t judge someone else so why should I be so harsh on myself? That often help me snap out of the negative self-talk which is so destructive. I really like your worksheet.

    1. hey Lisa, so happy to see you here and your comment 🙂 I like the fact that you don’t judge others so realized that you shouldn’t have self-imposed negative talk and judgment on yourself. And also that you notice the negativity and laugh at the thought! Thanks for sharing these tips and glad you liked the post and worksheet.

  12. The mind is such a powerful thing. Getting a hold on that internal dialogue that we all have running inside of us is a big deal. Like you say, the first step is realising it’s actually there, so many of us fail to get to the point of being able to acknowledge the thoughts and beliefs that are undergirding the feelings. And even fewer get to the point of truly believing that they can change.

    1. You got it, Micah. I think observation or being more mindful (as you point out) is the first step to making some changes and shifting our thoughts so we’re not crushed by our powerful (and sometimes negative) thoughts.

  13. Hi Vishnu

    What an inspiring post and the introductory picture says it all, without words!

    Negative self talk kills many dreams in our mind only. We can take control of our mind, as you have righty pointed out, by identifying those thoughts and dealing with them before they overpower us. Your worksheet is an amazing tool to vanquish the harmful thoughts!! You must have read my post on Thoughts, which also talks about similar sentiments.

    This is surely going to help everyone as once in a while we all have to deal with negativity in life. Thanks for sharing it, Vishnu.

    1. hi Balroop, one of my friend’s posted that great photo on Facebook and it was spot on 🙂 YOu’re so right about how negative thoughts have the ability to kills dreams in our minds.

      I do hope the worksheet is a more visual representation for people to be more mindful of their thoughts. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Hi Vishnu
    It’s when you’re truly good to yourself that you’re best to others.This entirely depends on what kind of a self concept you hold of yourself.You have to form a good estimate of yourself.
    What you believe is your choice.Beliefs are free of cost.Yet they have profound effect on your life and your own world.Through your own beliefs and your constant attention(conscious and unconscious) to your beliefs.
    You make a good pont about challenging our thoughts and experiences.
    Thanks
    Mona

    1. No disagreements there, Mona, about the power of beliefs in our lives and that they cost zero dollars to us but if we use them the wrong way, they can harm us quite a lot.

      You talk a lot about this topic of our underlying beliefs in your own writing which I always learn from.

  15. Loving this Vishnu. You’re bridging that gap between spirituality and practicality beautifully sir.

    Self love is so ridiculously important. You’re totally on point that those pesky thoughts can take over your world if you don’t do something about them. They also require continuous maintenance.

    Great chart btw! I set specific focuses for each month and this looks like another fantastic thing to focus on.

    1. Thanks Kevin for the positive feedback. Weeding out the negativity is a life-long process and yeah daily or monthly focuses on this is probably the best way to go to make it a focused activity. Chart is just a visual for some of more visual people out there – glad you liked it!

  16. This is really great. The part that connected with me the most was when you said to challenge the thoughts and feeling you’re experiencing. Why don’t more people do this? Sometimes I think people assume that these things are passive – you just have to take what your mind throws at you. I say no. Take control of your mind. You can challenge those thoughts that pop up in your head. It’s the difference between being passive and being active inside your head. You can be active if you want.

    It’s like you said, your thoughts and feelings aren’t etched in stone. They’re like raindrops sitting in the sun. That negative self-talk can dry them up and make them evaporate. (love this metaphor by the way). I think of challenging your negative thoughts as if you’re just adding more heat to them. Eventually, they’ll dry up and go away.

    1. Steve – yes, let’s get more active – taking more ownership and action on our thoughts! I like it. I liked the metaphor too and glad you took it to the next level – adding more heat so all the negative self-talk is dried up and gone. Thanks for your input and reflections.

  17. That’s a good practical exercise you provided at the bottom.

    The reason I think it’s good is because by putting the problem on paper you’re able to subdivide it into smaller sections and make it easier to find out where you go wrong in the thought process – and fix it.

    1. Hey Ludwig, yeah, taking something as flighty and abstract as our thoughts and putting them down on paper helps us analyze our thoughts better and can help us change our thoughts as well. Thanks for your comment!

  18. Hello Vishnu,

    The actions and attitudes we have reflect what we regularly think about and what we tell our self. Either, for the good or bad. Being able to identify the negative or bad thoughts/self-talk then destroy them is crucial when it comes to living a significant and fulfilled life.

    I really thought this statement was powerful (and so true): “You’re both capable of receiving love and giving love.” It’s about loving the person we are.

    Great post!

    1. Thank you Dan! You’re absolutely right – becoming aware of the self-talk is a first step to living a fulfilling life. What we think about is how we carry ourselves out in the world so observing our thoughts is critical.

  19. Hi Vishnu,

    What a wonderful post, my friend! I just loved it.

    The steps you have laid out to overcome negative thoughts and increase our self-esteem are very practical, which we can start using immediately.

    I personally love looking for counter thoughts to negative thoughts I might have at times. There are always some counter thoughts. Even if a person can just remember one. It is still evidence to counter the negative thought, which enables us to doubt its validity and hopefully blow it up to bits! 🙂

    Thank you.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Hiten and found it helpful.

      Yes, focusing on the contrary and counter thoughts is an effective strategy to blowing up the negative thoughts! Glad you consciously do so and yes, even one small counter point will do the trick. Thank you.

  20. I wrote about ‘brooding over’ the past some time back in my blog which includes my personal experience. More often, I get stuck in an analysis paralysis kind of thing. One of the things experts have recommended is to ‘go cold turkey’. That is simply abandoning the thought and moving on like ignoring what you just went through thinking about a useless thought. That works for me because I’m sooo bad on controlling myself with negative self-talk. I agree with doing some analysis of what you are thinking but just do not go too far. At least that works for me.

    1. Thanks for sharing your tips here Rob! I get what you’re saying – sometimes being so overwhelmed with the thoughts and negativity that you just stop thinking. Or hitting the reset button by going cold turkey. I’m going to try to pull that old post of yours up and check it out. Thanks again!

  21. Excellent tips on how to replace negative self-talk with positive! This is something we all struggle with and something that I have been working on for the past few years. I will definitely take your tips and utilize them!

    1. Thanks Alex – something we all struggle with as humans:) and something everyone of us can improve on. Glad you found the tips useful.

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