Negative thoughts about the Self automatically create an attitude of fear and failure. It is this fear of failure and being judged, that can often create a phobia of social interactions.
The list of negative thoughts is endless. Do you recognize your own Self-Talk?
What happens if I screw up?
What if they are going to hate me?
I am a loser.
I am stupid.
Everybody is watching and judging me.
What if I blush, they will think I am weak and ridiculous.
I look like a wreck anyway.
Everyone will see my knees, hands, and body shaking.
My voice will wobble uncontrollably.
It will always be like that.
I cannot handle this.
If an inner dialogue is full of words that drain energy and produce inner stress, it is of no surprise, that feeling of anxiety and stress will be nourished and have space to grow.
How we use our vocabulary to talk to ourselves is part of our perception of the world around us. If everything is hard and exhausting, intolerant, militant, and unforgiving, it is.
Becoming aware of our inner dialogues, and the way we use words to describe the world around us and ourselves is an important step toward changing our perception of things.
Something I do hear a lot when people struggle with "negative thoughts" is, to think "positive" instead. I don't necessarily think, this is a very useful thing to do. Why not? Because for one it says, "negative thoughts" are not allowed to exist. They need to be pushed away. They need to be worked on... They need to be turned into positives. We need to use some technique to make them somehow go away. What that means in the end is, they take even more attention from us, because we have to put so much effort into fighting them. And that means we reinforce fear and anxiety. The focus is so strong on a THOUGHT, that we feel its effects in the body. It also means we recognize them as dangerous, as a threat to us. Yet, are they? Well, I wonder, how dangerous is a thought? Imagine something that you are totally ok with, but others might have a strong fear response to. Let's say dogs, spiders, or whatever that is for you.
Some people have a strong phobic response to anything that looks like a dog. It doesn't matter how fluffy and cute and small they are. Maybe you even have such a lovely cozy dog at home, that others would run away from. My question to you: What do you do differently to people who are afraid of dogs? Did you ever in your life experience a negative thought towards a dog? What did you do then?
Most people say: "hm...I don't know. I did nothing."
And what happened then? "Don't know, I just didn't think about it."
How would you explain to someone who is afraid of dogs, that yours is the loveliest dog on earth, who wouldn't hurt a fly? I believe this is important to remember right now or actually any time. A thought can't harm you. A thought is just that.
A thought comes up mostly in form of an image in your mind or a sound you hear "in your head".
Look at the image. How harmful and dangerous is that image?
Is it a dog?
Or is it an image of something you label a dog?
Do your feelings tell you something about the truth of your thought? Once this sinks in, it will free you from overwhelm, feeling crippling anxiety, and having panic attacks.
There is no such thing as a threat in your personal situation right now, only the thoughts around it. And again:
How dangerous is a thought? Only when you focus long enough on that thought and really buy into it, you can experience feelings in your body, that you label anxiety, depression, sadness, or whatever it is. There is nothing to fight because there is nothing there, that can hurt.
If you want to explore your inner dialogue, the thoughts that keep you awake at night, here are some ideas for you to give a go:
1) When you catch your inner voice trying to make it hard for you to go on, find other words to describe the world and yourself. Words that can empower you, words that give you ease and comfort, words that light you up. Find constructive alternatives for words that drain you.
2) Negative inner dialogue tends to generalize experiences and perceptions. Words like "always", "never", "all the time", "nobody", "everybody" etc. gives a sense of absolution to a situation and emotions.
Yet, is that really so? Aren't there really any exceptions? Haven't there been moments, that could contradict such an absolute statement? Ask yourself and find those exceptions. You will notice, how that simple exercise can shift your perception of "reality" and change your perspective.
3) Destructive self-talk ignores all things, that are good, positive, and productive. It limits the space for growth and learning and can give a sense of hopelessness and feelings of being stuck. A conscious decision to open up that narrow line of thought, allowing a wider range of thinking into life, just contemplating the idea of:
"Are there other options? Do I have more than one choice? And what steps could I take?" can already bring ideas to life that can be helpful and useful. Give yourself permission to believe you do have a choice, you can make decisions and seed the idea of creation.
Don't forget, we perceive the world through no other eyes than ours. It looks different from everybody else's. It is on us how we can shape the way we think and feel to our advantage and well-being. It is not about "never" having "any" problems. It is not about being positive "all" the time and neglecting difficulties.
It is about, how we handle obstacles and how we appreciate and respect ourselves along the way.
Be patient and forgiving to yourself. Allow mistakes on your path, acknowledge the existence of dark times, and know, they will pass eventually. Know, that you are on a journey of learning and growing, being human, being yourself, and experiencing the full range of emotions life has to offer. And isn't that a beautiful and useful thing?