By: Jessie Funk
I remember distinctly the first time a truly negative thought about myself came into my head. I was eight years old and I was competing in a beauty pageant (stay with me gents, this is a relevant story for you, too). I remember looking around at all of the gorgeous girls around me, my very dear friends, and the completely spontaneous, innocent, automatic words came into my head- “you are not as pretty as these other girls, Jessie.”
Every human being on the planet has automatic negative thoughts. And the one idea I want you to open your mind to while reading this, is that you are the boss of those negative thoughts. There is no magic pill to get them to go away completely but when they pop into your head uninvited, you have permission to put your foot down and kick them out!
Dr. Daniel Amen coined the term, “automatic negative thoughts” (or A.N.T.’s as he calls them). And the trouble with ANTs is that it’s really easy to think they are true. Sometimes they are, sometimes they are only half true, and sometimes they are not true at all! Was I as pretty as those other girls in the pageant? Was it a full truth, just as my ANT had stated in my head? Who decides what’s “beautiful” or “handsome” anyway? Do we get a say in whether or not we’re attractive? Some of those girls were definitely more naturally beautiful- according to the world’s standard- than I was, but I had a lot going for me as well! I have always loved my eyes, I have gloriously symmetrical ear lobes, my hair usually does what it’s told, and I have been told many times that my smile lights up a room. So instead of believing that lie that came into my head without permission, I should have drop-kicked that sucker OUT by talking back to it! When the thought came in, “you are not as pretty as the other girls, Jessie,” I should have instantly said, “there sure are a lot of beautiful girls here and I am beautiful, too. I’m also a good person and that matters so much more than physical beauty anyway.”
Dr. Amen has spent years studying this with his psychiatric patients and has seen amazing things happen. You can talk back to your negative thoughts. You also don’t have to believe every thought that comes into your head. You are the boss.
So, when an ANT shows up in your head and says something like, “you suck at soccer,” or, “you shouldn’t try out for the school musical because you’ll look stupid on that stage,” or, “you will never live up to your parents’ expectations,” talk back to those ANTs!
Ask yourself if it’s true. If it is true- like, if you truly are not good at soccer- is that the end of the world? Are there any other sports you have potential in? Does not being hood at soccer mean you are a totally worthless human being? Of course not. But, maybe it’s not true and you just need to apply yourself more to get better and tell yourself that everyone has off-days.
Learning to love yourself starts with you. If you change your thoughts you can change how you feel. Be the boss of your brain. Yes- it takes effort but YOU are worth it!