I used to have very negative beliefs about myself. My Mum was a worrier and always anxious about everything. In fact if she was not worrying she was worried that there was nothing to worry about.
I learnt this behaviour – my head was my head and I was used to it – it was depressing and energy sapping but I did not know any different because that was all I was used to.
This blog is going to tell you how I learnt to be more positive and what you can do to be a more positive thinker too.
Well about 16 years ago I was going through a very bad patch at work and had got myself into a negative downward spiral. I just couldn’t face standing up in front of groups and had lost my confidence to design and deliver training courses that made a difference to people.
So what I did was approach a consultancy whose work I valued to see if I could work for them. Predictably I did not perform well but at the time I was also given some valuable feedback which was ‘ you are very good but you take a long time to warm up’. I knew straightaway the value of this feedback since it mirrored my experience when running courses. And then I heard the following words popping out of my mouth. “will you be my mentor’ and to my complete and utter surprise the guy agreed to help me.
We met on 3 occasions over a 6 month period and during the second session he mentioned that I had a lot of negative beliefs about myself. And suggested an approach to become more positive which I used I have used consistently ever since.
Basically he said that most people have negative beliefs about themselves, which then negatively influence their internal thoughts. Which then go on to interrupt their performance when they are in the situation or with the person that they have negative beliefs around. This then goes on to confirm and reinforce the negative belief that they held in the first place.
When he first told me about the approach I went around this cycle many times and found that I did indeed have very negative beliefs about myself and lacked confidence in a wide range of situations. In fact I felt that my negative beliefs piggy-backed on each other and were like a ball of knotted string that all knitted together. Which I had to gradually, unravel one by one.
One important thing I realised was that I was not creating these negative internal reactions but instead shining a light on them. They were always there working away under the surface. When I did this exercise I became aware of what I was up against and why I felt so negative about myself.
An example of this approach might be the belief that a person does not like you.
Which then leads on to the internal reaction like
- What’s the point I tried before
- I can’t be bothered
- They spend time with other people but can’t wait to get me out the door
- They never smile at me or make positive comments about me
- The other’s are their favourites.
When you believe this stuff about yourself, it no surprise that you are withdrawn and preoccupied with your thoughts and looking for clues to reinforce your belief that they do not like you. In other words you don’t truly engage and therefore almost create and confirm the negative beliefs and the outcomes that you fear.
The good news about this approach is that you can almost reprogramme yourself to think differently, just by selecting a more positive belief for example they ‘like me’ or if you can’t quite manage that, how about, ‘they are neutral towards me’.? The interesting thing about this approach is that if you go around this cycle you will begin to feel more positive about yourself and the other person or situation even though nothing else has changed. After a while you start to get some better results and that serves to reinforce your more positive results.
Anyway I used this approach to help myself become more positive and then started to notice how people on my courses like the assertiveness course also clearly felt negative about their experience. At first I thought this was to be expected on a course like this and then I began to notice this pattern of thinking on the management courses too and then amongst my more senior executive coaching clients. In other words lots of people have negative beliefs about themselves but it just is not something that we tend to talk about.
Now I believe that changing negative beliefs is the precurser to learning new skills and I will not even try to teach the skills until people are ready to believe that the skills will work or more importantly that they will work for them.
The interesting thing about this is that I did not realise I had negative beliefs before someone pointed this out to me nor did I believe that my thinking pattern could be changed.
So if after reading this you think that you might have some negative beliefs, first of all you are not alone and secondly there is a way of reprogramming your thought processes to become more positive.
It worked for me, it worked for thousands of my clients and if you take the time and trouble to shine a light on your negative beliefs and select some more positive ones it will work for you.
If you would like to know more about the ideas presented in this blog you might be interested to read my books called the People Skills Revolution and the People Skills Revolution Handbook which is a step by step and cumulative guide to developing sophisticated people skills including assertiveness, influencing, negotiation, taking a stand and finally making peace. Both book are available on Amazon and directly from the publisher at Global Professional Publishing.
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