Why I No Longer Believe There’s Something Wrong with Me

By Zachary Goodson

Our thoughts create our beliefs, meaning if you think about yourself a certain way for a long enough period of time you will ultimately believe it.” ~Anonymous

You’re ugly. You’re stupid. You’re a loser. 

Imagine thinking this way about yourself every day. No exaggeration. That was me.

When a girl didn’t want to go on a second date with me, I told myself I was ugly. When I didn’t know what someone was talking about, I told myself I was stupid. When my Instagram post only received two likes, I told myself I was loser.

I spoon-fed myself toxic thoughts like these on a daily basis for years. And what’s worse is I believed them.

But why? Where do these toxic thoughts and beliefs even come from? Well, for most of us they come from our childhoods, and they are largely based on experiences with our caregivers. 

My belief system (which fuels those not-so-nice thoughts listed above) was formed by the tragic death of my mother when I was three-and-a-half years old and by my rageaholic cocaine-addict father. I internalized Mom’s death and Dad’s crazy behavior (trust me, it was bad) the only way I knew how to: I thought I was the problem.

You see, my dad never sat me down and apologized for bursting into my room in the middle of the night high on cocaine and torturing me. He never apologized for not allowing me to celebrate my birthdays. He never apologized for making me get in front of my soccer team and tell them that I was a bad boy and couldn’t play in that week’s game.

Since he never apologized to me, my growing little mind took it personally and figured I must be the problem. I thought I deserved to be punished and as such, a negative thought pattern was born.

Like a kid at school writing on a chalkboard because he did something wrong, my thoughts wrote in my mind over and over again: I did something wrong. I did something wrong. 

This consistent negative self-talk eventually turned into a core belief: I am wrong. I am wrong.   

Imagine growing up believing that your very existence is wrong. That was me. I was hard-wired by my parents to believe this. It was like being sentenced for a crime that I didn’t commit.

As an adult I actively looked for validation in other people as a result of this belief. I became a people-pleaser, a yes man, a guy that would do anything for you to like me. Please like me, please tell me I’m okay.

If you liked me, I felt less broken, but one person liking me was never enough. If I was in a room with 100 people and all of them but one liked me I would worry and fret, wondering what I had done to upset that one person.

I also thought I had to be perfect in every area of my life. My hair had to be perfect. My clothes had to be perfect.

I had to say the right things. Do the right things. Be the right thing.

I also used each failed attempt for your validation as proof that I was broken. See!

I would go to bed at night saying I was done with that kind behavior, yet I would wake up in the morning and start it all over again. It was like the movie Groundhog Day. I was living the same day over and over again, and I couldn’t stop.

I hit what I’ll call my rock bottom eight years ago when I was thirty-seven-years old. I hated myself and the life I had created and desperately wanted change.

But how? How do we let go of deeply rooted false beliefs that no longer serve us? The same way we formed them.

You begin by detaching from the individual thoughts that reinforce the negative belief, then you let go of the belief all together. I’ve heard them called illusions, false beliefs, and even lies. It took time for me to believe these lies and it took time for me to undo them.

Henry David Thoreau said, “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

In order to let go of false beliefs, we have to practice observing our thoughts and recognize when we are acting on old stories about our worth. By repeatedly choosing not to get caught up in the old stories, we can begin to experience the world in a new way.

You don’t go to the gym once and suddenly you’re in the best shape of your life. No, you go five to six times a week, eat healthy, and get plenty of rest. And you do this over and over again.

The same goes for our minds. The more we work toward mindfulness and self-kindness, the quicker we will default to it. When you catch yourself having a negative thought, recognize that you don’t have to get attached to it and choose to let it pass. If you’re having trouble letting it go, tell yourself a new, more empowering story.

And above all else, just remember, it had nothing to do with you. You did nothing wrong. You are not flawed. 

I didn’t commit a crime. I just absorbed the information given to me the only way my eight-year-old mind knew how to.

So where do we start? It’s different for all of us, but if you’re reading this and relating to any of it then that in and of itself is a start. That’s the beginning of self-awareness.

For me it was all about becoming self-aware. That was my first step toward personal change.

I knew I couldn’t do things on my own (been there, tried that), so I started with a twelve-step program. Liberation would never be possible if I kept reaching for validation from other people, so I took a deep breath and courageously stepped into my first meeting and admitted that I had a problem.

It was there that I opened up and allowed myself to be seen for who I was: a wounded man who sometimes still felt like a scared little boy. Eventually, little by little, I shared my childhood secrets and I was loved for doing so. It was an eye opening experience, which immediately changed my thought process to: I did nothing wrong.

For the last eight years I’ve been letting go of false thoughts and beliefs, which in turn has created new possibilities for how I think and feel in relationships. I hope you can do the same.

About Zachary Goodson

Zachary is a writer, a coach, and a heart-centered entrepreneur who loves helping others. His writing focuses on his experiences around holistic health, inner child work, addiction, recovery, spirituality, and fatherhood. His coaching is devoted to helping people experience deep fulfillment in relationships, career, and life. You can connect with him at zacharygoodson.com.Web | More Posts

Stop Beating Yourself Up: 40 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic

tinybuddha.com

By Laura Tong

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

If you’re anything like I used to be, your inner critic packs a powerful punch.

You’ve got a vicious voice bad mouthing you for much of the day. And when it’s in one of those moods, wow, are you going to suffer.

It’s no wonder you feel small, disappointed, and ashamed of who you are.

It’s the reason you lie in bed at night feeling like a failure, convinced you’re a nobody, certain you’re a serial mistake maker.

It was exactly why I used to just lie in the dark, a lot. Most days in fact. Not sleeping, not even thinking, just lying.

I was forever longing for my life to go away. I’d gotten so good at beating myself up that each day seemed to present more opportunities to fail, to feel insignificant and never good enough. 

Alone in the dark, I could pretend that all my problems disappeared and that I was free of the stress. I could make-believe that the pressure had evaporated.

You see, I’d taken on one of those jobs, one of those supposed leaps up the career ladder. But hell, being the head of a college department turned out to be a bad life choice … given my oh-so critical inner voice.

Every day added to my imagined portfolio of failures. Every day blew another hole in my smokescreen of having any confidence in my ability. And every day, I became more fearful of being exposed as the ‘fake’ I believed I was.

I felt like I was constantly aching yet feeling numb at the same time, which became too painful to bear. I dragged my shameful self into the college and quit. I left my entire library of books on the table along with my resignation.

Four years on, even though I’d tried to move on, even changing countries, I still felt the same. No more confident and no less self-critical.

That’s when I learned that even if I hadn’t packed any belongings, I still took a devastating amount of baggage with me. Even worse, I’d allowed my inner critic to ride passenger.

That voice—that mean, vicious, ever-present voice—had to go if life was going to be worth living.

Consciously and patiently, I set out to understand why this self-critical person had become such a huge part of me. I learned how to recognize and counter the habitual negative messages and destructive behavior patterns. I learned how to beat my inner critic, for the most part.

And now it’s your turn.

Because it’s time you felt free from the pain of constant self-criticism as well. It’s time you finally stopped beating yourself up over everything you say or do. And it’s time you were able to breathe, smile, and be pleased with yourself, just as you are.

How? With one simple, small action at a time.

Some of these ideas will speak to you; some will shout. Others will only mumble. Try a handful that grab your imagination. Add in others from the list over time as you learn to build them into an inner-critic-beating habit.

1. Keep a self-praise journal.

Pocket-size is best. Each time you feel pleased by something you’ve done or said, jot it down. Flip through the pages every time you feel your critical voice starting to pipe up.

2. Write a positive self-message.

Use a permanent marker and inscribe it on the inside of your shoes.

3. Diminish your inner critic’s power.

Repeat a negative thought back in a silly voice.

4. Update your Facebook status:

“Happy to be me. Work in progress.”

5. Send yourself a loving text.

Keep it, and re-read it often. Appreciate yourself.

6. Add a positive self-message to an image.

Put it on your phone and laptop.

7. Draw a caricature.

Give your inner critic a silly feature that makes you laugh. Stick it on your fridge.

8. Make a face or blow a raspberry.

At your inner critic, not yourself!

9. Visualize your inner critic.

Imagine it as an evil gremlin squatting on your shoulder. Each time it speaks up, turn and flick it away.

10. Look in the mirror.

Smile and compliment yourself on one quality or trait you like.

11. Keep a list of self-forgiveness quotes.

Or sign up to receive daily emails from Tiny Buddha.

12. Write a list of qualities others like about you.

Keep it in your purse or wallet.

13. Write a list of qualities you like about yourself.

Add it to your purse or wallet as well.

14. Remind yourself: 

“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” ~Unknown.

15. End each negative thought with a positive.

For example, “But I’m human and I can learn not to make the same mistake,” or, “But I have the power to change this.”

16. Jot down one thing you’d like to be better at.

Then take one tiny step toward that.

17. Remember “not good enough” doesn’t exist.

“I don’t know a perfect person, I only know flawed people who are still worth loving.” ~John Green

18. Ask yourself why you think you should be good at everything. 

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Concentrate on your strengths.

19. Find one thing each day to reward yourself for.

Make it something you truly look forward to.

20. Apologize to yourself.

Do this every time you recognize self-criticism (tell yourself you’re sorry out loud if you can).

21. Ring someone you haven’t spoken to in ages.

Tell them how much they mean to you. The best way to feel better about yourself is to make someone else feel better.

22. Remember that self-hate is not an option.

You’re the only person you can guarantee you’ll be in a relationship with from birth to death, so learn to love yourself.

23. Remember there’s no shame in messing up.

You’re trying to do something, grow, and contribute.

24. Break the cycle.

Admit you made a mistake and ask, “Now what can I do about it?”

25. Look at a mistake or “failure” in context.

Will it really matter in a week, a year, or ten years from now?

26. Recognize that you make fewer mistakes than you think.

You just criticize yourself repeatedly for the same few.

27. Drown out your inner critic.

Put on your favorite feel-good music.

28. Stop trying to do too much.

Strike one task from your to-do list that won’t stop Earth from revolving if it isn’t done.

29. Reflect on how you’re only on this planet for a short time.

You can either spend it beating yourself up and being miserable or learn to love yourself and be happy.

30. Stop focusing on the one thing you got wrong.

Focus on the many things you got right.

31. Recognize the good you do for others.

The more you beat yourself up, the less good you do.

32. Keep a daily, written tally of positive self-messages.

Increase this by at least one each day.

33. Physically pat yourself on the back.

Do this for everything you’ve done well this week.

34. Look at a satellite image of the earth.

Realize that you are an important part of this amazing creation.

35. Realize that over six billion people in the world don’t care.

Only you care that you made a mistake.

36. Think of a fun, positive adjective.

Adopt this as your middle name so that every time you criticize yourself by name, you’ve described yourself in a positive way.

37. Buy a houseplant.

When you tend it remind yourself you need this much love and attention.

38. Note down kind words from others.

Write them on slips of paper and keep them in a compliment jar. Dip into this whenever you need to counter a negative self-message.

39. Halt a negative self-thought.

Use an act of self-care. For example apply hand cream, or give yourself a neck rub.

40. Stop comparing yourself to others.

Remember Dr. Seuss: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You!”

Stop Beating Yourself Up Once and for All

Beating yourself up leaves you feeling horrible.

All that constant self-criticism is exhausting. It leaves you aching inside.

Small, simple actions can bring great leaps in breaking this negative cycle—for good.

Let these ideas speak to you. Pick the ones that shout loudest.

Defeat self-depreciating thoughts you’ve heard over and over with conscious, positive acts of self-compassion.

Stop letting your inner critic overpower you. Fight back with self-love.

About Laura Tong

Laura Tong is a regular contributor on The Huffington Post and other top blogs. Grab her free cheat sheet: 5 Guilt Free Ways To Say No Without Offending Anyone (Even If You Hate Conflict). Laura also hosts the Re-write The Rules In Your Life interview series where she shares awesome happiness and positivity tips from experts around the world. Click here to listen free to the latest episodes.

Setting Emotional Boundaries: Stop Taking on Other People’s Feelings

The tiny buddha.com

By Alana Mbanza

“The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others.” ~Sonya Friedman

The longer I stayed on the phone, the more agitated I became. My mother was on the other end, as usual, dumping her emotions on me. I had moved to Los Angeles for graduate school in part to escape all of this—my mother’s unhappiness, my sense of responsibility, the pressure to be perfect.

When I hung up the phone, I felt an overwhelming sense of anger. At the time, I could not (correction: would not) allow myself to admit that I was angry with my mother. I couldn’t reconcile having such negative feelings and loving my mother at the same time.

After all, hadn’t she sacrificed so much for me? Hadn’t I always considered her to be my closest confidante? Didn’t I proudly declare her to be my best friend when I was younger?

Even the most positive memories between my mother and me have been eclipsed by the shadow of her depression.

As a young child, I could never understand why my mommy was so sad all the time. I cherished the rare days she was carefree and silly and held these moments close to my heart. When she slipped into a depressive state, sleeping days at a time in her dark room, I willed her to come out.

Early on, I learned to temper my behavior and my own emotions so as not to instigate or prolong her sadness. In my young mind, I made myself responsible for her and was not able to separate her feelings from mine.  

I wanted her to be happy and thought that if I was always “good,” she would be. When she wasn’t happy, I blamed myself.

Unconsciously, my mother fed this belief when she constantly bragged to others that I was the “perfect daughter.” The pressure to live up to my mother’s expectations overwhelmed me. I suppressed a lot of negative feelings and experiences in favor of upholding the ideal she and I had co-created.

That day, I turned this anger toward a safer target, my co-worker. That day at work, I blew up. I can’t remember what I said, but I distinctly remember the look of confusion on her face. My frustration with my inability to express myself made me even angrier. I excused myself, ran to the bathroom, locked myself in the last stall, and bawled my eyes out.

Soon after, I took advantage of the free counseling services on campus. Over the next several weeks, my counselor helped me realize that it was okay to feel the way I was feeling. This was a radical idea for me, and one I struggled with at first.

Because I had suppressed my own feelings for so long, when I finally allowed them to surface, they were explosive.

Anger, resentment, and disgust came alive and pulsed through my body whenever I spoke with my mother during this time. While she seemed to accept truth and honesty from other people, I tiptoed around certain topics for fear of upsetting her.

I never felt I could share the difficulties and challenges I experienced in my own life because this contradicted who I was to her. I felt I had no right to be unhappy. When I attempted to open up about these things, she often interrupted me with a story of her own suffering, invalidating the pain I felt. 

She seemed committed to being the ultimate victim and I resented her for what I perceived as weakness.

I realized that to get through my graduate program with my sanity intact, I needed to limit the amount of time and energy I gave to her. Instead, I found ways to protect and restore my energy. Writing became therapeutic for me. I found I could say things in writing I was unable to verbalize to my mother.

This won’t be an easy letter for you to read and I apologize if it hurts you, but I feel like our relationship is falling apart, and one of the reasons is that I’ve kept a lot of this bottled up for so long. I never thought you could handle honesty from me, and so I lied and pretended everything was okay because I was always afraid I would “set you off” or that you would go into a depressed mood.

You unconsciously put so much pressure on other people (me especially) to fill your emptiness, but that’s a dangerous and unrealistic expectation and people can’t and won’t live up to it. And they start to resent you for it. I do want you to be happy, but I’m starting to realize that I can’t be responsible for your happiness and healing; only you can.

Seeing my truth on paper was the ultimate form of validation for me. I no longer needed to be “perfect.” I gave myself permission to be authentic and honored every feeling that came up.

When I was ready, I practiced establishing boundaries with my mother. I let her know that I loved and supported her, but it negatively affected me when she used our conversations as her own personal therapy sessions. I released the need to try to “fix” things for her.

I took care of me.

Do you have trouble establishing healthy emotional boundaries?

Take a moment to answer the following questions adapted from Charles Whitfield’s Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting and Enjoying the Self.

Answer with “never,” “seldom,” “occasionally,” “often,” or “usually.”

  • I feel as if my happiness depends on other people.
  • I would rather attend to others than attend to myself.
  • I spend my time and energy helping others so much that I neglect my own wants and needs.
  • I tend to take on the moods of people close to me.
  • I am overly sensitive to criticism.
  • I tend to get “caught up” in other people’s problems.
  • I feel responsible for other people’s feelings.

If you answered “often” or “usually” to the above statements, this might be an indication that you have trouble establishing healthy emotional boundaries.

Like me, you’re probably extremely affected by the emotions and energy of the people and spaces around you. At times, it can be incredibly hard to distinguish between your “stuff” and other people’s “stuff.”

It is incredibly important to establish clear emotional boundaries, or we can become so overwhelmed and overstimulated by what’s going around us that it’s sometimes hard to function.

Here are a few ways to begin the process of establishing healthier emotional boundaries.

1. Protect yourself from other people’s “stuff.”

I can feel when someone is violating a boundary because my body tenses up. I realize that my breathing is very shallow. I feel trapped, small, helpless.

The first thing I do is to remind myself to breathe. The act of focusing on my breath centers me and expands the energy around me. In this space, I can think and act more clearly.

When I feel myself becoming too overwhelmed, I try to immediately remove myself from the situation. Sometimes all it takes is a couple minutes to walk away and regain my balance. Other times, I have had to make the decision not to spend time with people who consistently drain my energy.

Having a safe space to retreat, practicing mindfulness and meditation, or visualizing a protective shield around yourself are other methods that can help restore balance when boundaries are invaded.

Find out what works best for you.

2. Learn to communicate your boundaries in a clear and consistent way.

For many, this can be the most difficult part of the process for various reasons. We don’t like to appear confrontational. We’re afraid that if we clear set boundaries for ourselves, the people in our lives will begin to resent us. However, learning to communicate boundaries effectively is necessary for healthy relationships.

I’m not comfortable with that. 

It doesn’t feel good to…

I’m not okay with…

I appreciate if you wouldn’t…

Please don’t…

If you cringed at the thought of using any of these phrases, you’ll be relieved to know that communicating your boundaries doesn’t always have to be with words. You can also effectively communicate through the use of non-verbal.

Closing the door, taking a step back, shaking your head, or signaling with your hands can be less threatening ways of letting others know what you will and won’t accept from them.

3. Be patient with the process.

When I first realized that I was taking on the negative emotions of my mother, I became extremely resentful and disgusted with her. Instead of taking responsibility for my role in allowing this dynamic to occur, I blamed her for every negative thing that had happened in my life.

I closed myself off from her and shut her out completely. Our relationship became incredibly strained during this time as we both readjusted to the new boundaries I was setting.

Eventually, I was able to allow her to have her own emotional experience without making it about me. I could listen and no longer become enmeshed or feel obligated to do something about what she was feeling.

Whenever you change a pattern, it is natural to feel resistance from inside as well as outside the self. As you practice, your ego may start to act up and make you feel like you are “wrong” in establishing boundaries.

Others may also become resentful of your newfound assertiveness. They may be used to a certain dynamic in your relationship and any change has the potential to cause conflict.

Remember to be kind to yourself through the process and repeat the following affirmation:

I respect and love myself enough to recognize when something isn’t healthy for me, and I am confident enough to set clear boundaries to protect myself. 

About Alana Mbanza

Alana Mbanza is a freelance writer and the author of LoveSick: Learning to Love and Let Go. Even more than a writer, she strives to be an active agent of creation, choosing to see and create life through the lens of love. Visit her website for more information about her freelance writing and coaching services.