This post is for those of us that struggle with low self esteem, negative thinking patterns, or thoughts we don’t think we should be having.
My inspiration for this post comes from a day at work when I found myself seeing every situation and every interaction through the lens of low self esteem.
My mind began to chatter: They think I’m doing a bad job. They don’t like me. They are thinking I’m weird.
And the list goes on.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM SOMEONE WITH PARANOID SCHIZOPHRENIA
There is something that I learned a few months back that really helped me and changed my outlook on how I engage with my thoughts. I work in the mental health field and was working with a young lady diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was very functional – she was in college, employed, and pretty independent.
I remember sitting in our clinical team meeting and someone brought up some paranoid thoughts this young lady had been having. She had recently lost her job. She did not accept that it was due to working at a slower pace in a fast pace environment, as had been communicated to her. She believed she was fired for a different reason. She expressed that she felt someone had been out to get her and there was some scheme all long for her to get her fired.
All of the staff seemed boggled as to why this would be her perspective when there was no evidence of this.
But our clinical director clarified.
Remember team, this girl has paranoid schizophrenia and because of this her brain is going to try to turn every situation into one to be paranoid about and one where people are out to get her. It is not her fault. What we need to help her do is help her understand that her brain is wired this way so that she can realize when she starts having these thoughts, that they are not necessarily true. If she can understand and believe that, she has the ability to be very successful in her life despite the fact she has paranoid schizophrenia.
First of all, this was SO hopeful to me for this young lady and anyone with mental illness. The fact that no, she could not control that she had schizophrenia, but the fact that she can make a choice if she believes the thoughts. I do want to acknowledge that with more extreme cases of schizophrenia this may be a very different story and I do not feel educated to speak to those cases. But for this girl, she had hope!
YOU ARE NOT YOUR BRAIN OR YOUR THOUGHTS!
I felt like I had a very big paradigm shift in this moment. That we don’t have to succumb to our natural tendencies and brain wiring – we just have to acknowledge them. If there was hope for a young lady with schizophrenia, there was hope for me! And since that moment, I think differently when I find myself having moments of low self esteem.
When I start thinking: Maybe someone’s talking bad about me? Or [fill in the blank] means maybe they don’t like me… I am now free to instead think: For whatever reason, your brain has been wired/trained/has a natural tendency to have these thoughts. You are looking for evidence that is not really there. And once I know I can’t trust these thoughts, I actually start feeling a whole lot better.
I know it’s difficult not to trust your thoughts. Isn’t it you in there after all? And why wouldn’t you trust yourself? But the truth is, we are biological too. We are not just souls. We are souls inhabiting a body. And bodies are imperfect. And your brain is a biological part of your body. It can mess up, it can be imperfect. And luckily, your soul or “higher brain” or whatever you want to call it, can acknowledge this.
I know it’s tricky with our brains – we don’t want to think of them as biological. But like anything else – it can function improperly at times. You accept that your digestion system can function improperly at times so accept that your brain can too.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY HUSBAND
My husband (who happens to be a brain scientist) is adamant that he does not struggle with impure thoughts about other women. I ask him how he does not struggle, as you hear most men do struggle with this. But he tells me that he does not struggle because he accepts that he has a divine spirit/soul/higher brain within a biological/primal/instinct brain.
So if he sees a curvy woman walk by that is not me, his primal brain may notice her as this is a human’s built in instinct. But he does not beat himself up about it because he recognizes this as the primal part of his brain. And then he accesses his higher mind which tells him I have a wife I love and this thought means nothing to me. And that’s it, the whole encounter is over.
I know that sounds too easy. But I think for whatever reason, our culture doesn’t usually get this right. We have two extremes. There are people who follow any bodily desire that they have and see no issue with this. And there are people who notice the opposite gender that is not their spouse, spend a lot of time beating themselves up about the fact they noticed that person, which often times, makes them think about it even more because they are so desperately running away from it.
YOU ARE IN CHARGE
Think of your body and brain as a tool in your life – an imperfect tool – but a tool. Or think of your body and brain as an organization of a bunch of imperfect people working together. You need to work with the team – but ultimately YOU (your higher self) is the boss and you get to choose how you react. The team might have some insight, but they don’t always know the truth. Also, remember your brain is your physical body – if you get sick – you don’t beat yourself up about it – you make decisions about how to solve the problem.
So next time you have low self-esteem, negative thoughts, or thoughts you don’t think you should be having:
- Don’t believe them. Your brain is wired to think this way – but there may be no evidence for these thoughts.
- Don’t beat yourself up about the initial thought – you cannot control what thoughts come to your mind, you can only control if you choose to dwell on them.
- Ultimately, you (your higher self) runs this show so don’t have weird chemicals in your brain trying to tell you otherwise! You get to decide!
I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise. So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!
- What negative thinking lens do you find re-occurring in your daily life?
- How much truth, weight, or power are you currently giving negative thoughts? Are you open to thinking about thoughts differently – and recognizing they may be influenced by your biology and brain wiring?
- Who have you allowed to be in charge in your own life – your higher brain or your lower/primal brain? Or a little bit of both? What are some examples? How in the upcoming week will you hand the power over to your higher brain/self?
I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR COMMENTS!
Let me know if this entry helped you in any way, if you have any further questions, or if there is anything else you would be interested in learning related to this topic!
Also, I would love to hear what negative thoughts you have battled and how you have worked to overcome them.
Thanks for reading! Happy thinking!