A while ago, Starfish asked for techniques for evicting negative voices when they showed up. So, here goes my ideas!
Please remember that I am not a trained anything (counselor, psychiatrist, etc) and so these suggestions I make are only that, suggestions. They are what has helped me in the past, and still help me today. These suggestions are helping me now, as I rebuild my self-esteem. I hope they will help others as well.
The first step really is to recognize what the voices are saying is a lie. Yes, I know I covered this before, but it’s really the basis of evicting those voices. Do research on the things ‘everybody knows’ (such as being fat causes any number of fatal diseases). Find out the truth. It is critical that you find out what the truth is. Go to the CDC and find out that deaths from the so-called fat related illnesses dropped in the past year, while the reported instances of obesity increased. Look up when the BMI was changed (1997) arbitrarily to make more people “overweight” and “obese” who hadn’t been previously. Find out who funded the studies that ‘show’ that the “fatz r ZOMG going to kill us all!” Take the 45 minutes it takes to find out who the ‘experts’ are on the ‘study’ that shows that fat people cause global warming and all the ills of the world. Knowledge IS power.
Then use the truth every single time the negative voices come up. Use the research you’ve done to shut down the voices. It is a concious effort to recognize the voice and to counter it, especially at first. Once you realize that you are going into the same thought patterns, use the research you’ve found, the truth, to break the hold the lie has on you. Example: You think about how you are going to die if you don’t lose weight due to high blood pressure/chance of stroke or heart attack. You counter with the research that shows being overweight can increase the chances of surviving a heart attack or stroke.
If your voices have to do more with the subjective side (ie, you are ugly, nobody would want to be around you, you are stupid because you are fat, etc), it’s a bit tougher. Because everybody has different opinions of what is beautiful or pretty. And no matter what the standardized IQ is, people are usually pretty subjective about what equals stupid and what doesn’t. But there’s still way to shut down the negative voices.
If you are in a healthy relationship, you can use that to help. If your significant other doesn’t have an issue with your looks, then you are not ‘ugly’. Yes, I know, this is still using other people’s opinions to form your own, but it’s baby steps. I found it impossible to suddenly believe I was not ugly on my own. I had to first realize that my husband really DID see me as being beautiful.
The thing that caused me to finally realize he saw me as beautiful was a conversation we had one day. We were both dressing up for something (going out to dinner or whatever) and he told me how beautiful I looked. I discounted his view and told him that he needed to get new glasses, as he obviously couldn’t see out of that prescription. He became really quiet, and after a minute, he told me that every time I discounted his opinion of my beauty, I hurt him. He asked me why strangers’ words had more sway with me than he did. He demanded to know if I thought he was lying, and if so, what I thought he’d get out of lying. After all, we were already married. It wasn’t like he was trying to flatter me so we’d have sex. I saw the hurt, and the anger. And I realized he was right. I apologized that night, and promised I would try never to do that again.
It was a tiny, baby step, but after that, every time he told me I was beautiful, I didn’t deny it. I even said thank you (because that really is what one is supposed to say to a compliment, who knew), and let the thank you stand alone. Yes, in my head, I was still denying it. I was still thinking things like “if he thinks I’m beautiful now, what would he think if I lost 100 pounds”. But I never said it anymore.
That leads me to another thing, I don’t know how other people’s brains work, but mine seems to give credence to things that are spoken. So, if I hear “You are beautiful”, my brain ‘says’: It’s been said, that must mean it’s valid. It doesn’t matter who is saying it. It could be my husband, a child, my grandmother, friends, or myself. On the other hand, if I hear “You are ugly” my brain will believe that too. And the way my brain works, if I say something negative about myself, my brain believes it even more because I said it.
By not saying it, I stopped verbally reinforcing the negative thoughts.
And the most important thing for me, is to always go back to the very first step: I am okay just were I am. Repeat that to yourself over and over until you understand it emotionally. Because that really is the first building block to healthy self-esteem.
Also, this is something that may take time. After all, believing the lies didn’t happen overnight. Neither will believing the truth. Just keep repeating “I am okay just the way I am.” Because you are.
And so am I.