Ever notice that loud voice in your head? You know the one that screams things like, you’ll never get a date with him, or you are not going to get that promotion, or why don’t you cook as good as your mother did, or you shouldn’t do _______ you don’t have the talent for that.
Where did the cacophony of all these voices come from, and why do we hear them or think these thoughts anyway? It is not like they are pleasant thoughts, happy thoughts, or thoughts that serve us well…
And yet, there they are providing a daily dose of you’re not good enough, smart enough, or somehow enough, or you are different and some how deficient because you are not “like the others.”
We’ll focus on two factors that combine to create this dynamic in our thinking and therefore our feelings that lead us down this road of negativity.( and sometimes guilt, depression or anxiety).
One- We humans are all built with negative emotion. Research tells us that the 6 most common emotions experienced by humans, regardless of gender, geographic location, age, etc. are Happy, Sad, Mad, Fear, Disgust and Surprise. Did you notice that 4.5 out of the six are negative? (Surprise can be awesome if you got a surprise birthday party and you love that, but not so great if it’s a surprise- someone is following you in a dark alley.)
Therefore, inherent in our being is the propensity to think, feel and act in negative ways. Now as awful as that sounds, it is imperative to remember two more things… this mechanism insured survival for mankind… think caveman in the jungle. Tiger. Run, fight or freeze. Berries. Food or poison? I should fear that. (maybe I’ll let my cave buddy eat first and see what happens). Negative, but essential thoughts, would you agree?
Secondarily, you are not stuck with the brain you have, so even when we are hard wired for negative emotion, we can change those neural pathways especially since we no longer fear tigers in the jungle as a daily threat.
Two. We are all incredibly influenced and impacted by our family of origin learning experiences, modeling and messaging. If a parent is a perfectionist or is high in command and control and low in empathy, then the messaging is often well intentioned, yet woefully distressing, inaccurate and not helpful. Dad might have thought he was helping you be strong, or “be a man” when he didn’t notice your efforts and abilities and constantly pressed you to do more. This dynamic often inadvertently creates fear, negativity and a lifelong voice that results in “you’re not enough”.
Often the voice in our head is not our voice at all. It came from well meaning people who gave us modeling and messaging that they believed would be helpful.
Most of us are motivated much of the time by fear and reward. So also factor that in especially as we look at messaging from others.( As kids we fear consequences from adults and we seek the reward of pleasing them.)
It is also important to note, that if we don’t like how we are feeling in any given moment, we need to back up a few clicks to visit our thoughts ( or the voices in our head) and listen to what they are saying. Because our thoughts produce our feelings, and then we often act on those feelings, we can remain in negative thinking and feeling cycles for a long time.
Let’s say that you had a harsh parent who lacked compassion who told you a task you did was “not good enough” or “you could do better” or even worse, “you were lazy – you did not do that job right.”
Their intent- “Make you better”. Work harder. Don’t stop ‘til the job is done right. (All noble parental goals.)
You as a child with your immature not- quite -developed -brain may hear and interpret “ I’m not good enough”, or “ I can’t do anything right.”
Do you see how the intent completely misses the mark? We end up with what I call an unintended consequence to that message, which actually hurts the child as they grow into an adult who does not ever feel capable or competent on the job or anywhere else.
At age 6, or 10 or 12, we do not have the prefrontal cortex capability, (PFC is where we have reasoning, critical thinking, and choice making ability) to say, “oh that’s just my dad, he’s a perfectionist who just wants the best for me. I’ll take what’s useful and ignore the rest.”
Hopefully that explains a lot about why you struggle. Why your brain often (or constantly for some) has a negative no off button switch of reminders of our weaknesses, failures and flaws.
Ok, so we know what does not work. Now what?
If you are ready to not be ruled by your past, by negative messaging that never got corrected, and by your natural tendencies for negative thinking, then there is help available and a few things you can begin to do today, on your own.
1. CREATE AWARENESS OF YOUR THOUGHTS. Just because you think a thought, or hear a negative nagging voice, does not make it true, accurate or beneficial. It starts with awareness. What thoughts am I thinking? Write them down.
2. QUESTION THEM FOR ACCURACY. Is it true I did not do the job “right” or is it accurate that I did it the best I could with the skill set I had at the time? What is the truth? Write it down.
3. LOOK AT THE CONTRAST between the first and second. Begin to identify which ongoing themes or patterns of thought are emerging. What can you identify?
4. ASK YOURSELF 4 QUESTIONS IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING WITH THIS:
1. Is this thought true? 2. Can I know with 100% certainty that this thought (or voice) is true? 3. How do I feel when I think this thought? 4. How might I feel without this thought?
5. PRACTICE ACCURATE THINKING- When you begin to more quickly and more often catch these negative reoccurring thoughts, practice immediately saying them out loud, or writing them down and replace them with what I call a truth statement that reflects what is true and accurate and beneficial to you.
We all struggle with negative thinking and therefore negative emotion. That is part of the human condition. However, armed with new knowledge and awareness you can live with more intention to combat these negative thoughts and emotions, and to replace them with your own voice with affirmations about what is true for you in the moment.
Essentially, your brain needs to hear you speak truth to it. This will in time break those old messages (voices) until they become a distant echo of the past.
Meet us in the LWK FB Community group to continue the conversation by joining us at
Note- if these kind of repetitive thoughts are negatively affecting you, and you are feeling guilty, anxious or depressed, please seek professional help. Let us know how we can assist you. You can confidentially reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org as well.