Positively Positive

Last Friday I touched on positive self-talk when I challenged you all to remove “what if” from your vocabulary. This is somewhat of a sequel to that post because I want to get more into what positive self-talk is, and how you can practice it.

So what is positive self-talk? It comes up a lot when dealing with anxiety as well as self-doubt, and it’s about reframing your negative thoughts. Taking those negative thoughts and putting them in a more positive light. That sounds impossible, right? How could you take your worries and find a positive spin? It’s not easy but I like to think of it as having a debate with yourself, feeding the logical part of your brain more than the emotional one.

Let’s start with a relatively simple, low-stakes example. You’re talking to someone, you get a fact about something wrong and they correct you. How do you feel? If you have anxiety or even just a negative image of yourself your thoughts are probably something along the lines of “oh crap, why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut? I’m an idiot!” It feels like you failed, like you did something wrong, but you can take that and turn it around. You could instead say “I guess I learned something new today.” See how that’s a much more positive spin on what happened?

As anxiety sufferers, we build these narratives in our heads that aren’t entirely accurate, and positive self-talk is about breaking down those narratives and can be applied to a variety of worries and phobias. For example, I have a phobia of crossing the street. My mind jumps to “I’m not going to make it to the other side, I’m going to get hit if I go too slow, or fall if I go too fast”, among other things. How do I reframe that? How can I possibly put a positive spin on that? One word: facts!

I can look at reality, as well as my personal experiences. Yes there’s a non-zero chance of me getting hit by a car crossing the street, but if I’m careful, wait to cross until it’s safe, and be aware of my surroundings, I have a very minuscule chance of getting hit by a car. Furthermore, when I look into my history, how many times have I crossed a street in my 31 years on Earth? Zero. The odds are very much in my favor.

Once again I’m assigning some homework for you. For this, you will need to grab your journal, a piece of paper, your laptop, whatever you write in. First, think of a situation where you feel like you said or did something wrong and write down a way you could reframe that in a positive light. Second, think of a worry or fear you have and come up with one fact and one experience you’ve had that prove the anxiety wrong. Finally, keep practicing through writing, but also work on practicing in your head. It’s not always going to be easy, I’ve been practicing positive self-talk for years now and I still struggle, but it’s yet another tool in your anti-anxiety arsenal.

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