All about the mind

What do you tell yourself?

This post has been partly inspired by a post on the blog The Daily Brain Shelter and stuff that I have been going through lately.

One of the main things I tell my clients in our introduction to therapy is “the way you think influences the way you feel and behave” which is one of the premises of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT is an evidence-based therapy and has been empirically shown to be the most efficacious form of treatment for most mental health problems including depression, social anxiety, phobias, post-traumatic stress etc. Anyway, this post is not to talk about CBT.

Rather, I am curious about what we tell ourselves.

I, for one, know that I have a lot of negative self-talk and sometimes it can get really bad and I feel depressed. I use the term depressed in a very lay manner…I have not been clinically depressed but I think that’s because I have insight into my ways of thinking and behaving and can therefore catch myself before I go too far (Thank God for psychology!). I am also a very anxious person and once again, I recognise that it is what I tell myself that results in my anxiety.

I remember worrying about going up on stage to make speeches for years…my thoughts: “I am going to make a fool of myself“. I sometimes think to myself “I am so fucking fat…I’m never going to lose weight” The result: Hating myself and feeling down. I sometimes tell myself “I am not going to be able to cope if such-and-such doesn’t work out” resulting in anxiety even before it happens. Or I find I tell myself “I am not going to cope with my finances”. I then feel extremely anxious and finally depressed because I think that I actually can’t cope! And of course, I have caught myself thinking “The dating scene is too fucking hard…there’s a man drought…I’m never going to find anyone at this rate” and what do I do? Feel defeated and not bother.

The problem with what we tell ourselves is how it influences our feelings and behaviours and can actually result in this vicious cycle of self-defeat. (I haven’t reached there…the above were some examples which I do manage to get out of) So how do we get out of this? Well, CBT tells us to challenge our thoughts and look at evidence for and against them, following which we can come up with more helpful thoughts (Notice I didn’t say ‘positive’. I have something against that term. I prefer helpful and realistic thoughts). So for example, with my ‘fat thoughts’, it would be a bit delusional to tell myself “I’m hot and fantastic looking“. Rather, a more realistic way would be “Well, I’m on the plump side but it’s not the end of the world. All I need to do is to set goals to lose weight and I can exercise” And so on, and so forth.

What we tell ourselves is quite important. We can bring ourselves down. We can bring our self-esteem down. We can demean ourselves. Hence, it is important for us to challenge it all. To come up with healthier and more helpful ways of thinking.

It is hard, no doubt. It’s so much easier to berate ourselves and to believe our thoughts. It’s hard work to challenge. It’s even harder to remember to challenge.

But in the end, it’s worth it.

If you can be a little less anxious or a little less depressed, it’s worth the effort.

Change the way you think if you want to change the way you feel.

So if you would like to, please share what you tell yourself.

And how you feel after you do so.

Until next time,


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  • soin
    11 October 2009 at 6:55 am

    i still cant the hang of the mind talking to itself..i mean its all a single entity.. the body mind and

  • Nu
    11 October 2009 at 8:31 am

    Yes I believe that all is in mind ! And that’s what is true… it’s said and explained in so many ways..I hope the man kind understands it well !

    And being on the plum side.. I do that to myself.. telling that it’s not the end of world and I have time and life to go on and loose some weight !

  • Titaxy
    11 October 2009 at 2:28 pm

    my fathers tells us (me and sisters) this every now and then…what you think has a big influence on what’s gonna happen…and i’ve seen it to be true in many of my cases too…anyway..

    and lol on the ‘positive’ and ‘realistic’ part… :D…so true!!!

  • BlueMist
    11 October 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Thanks so much. Something I needed to be told. Sometimes I feel the negative thoughts bring on chain reaction. Like one might feel low about weight; it can further bring on something else and make oneself more depressed.
    I have passed this phase of low self esteem. So this days if i get low ; i tend to further hit the ground. 😀

  • Psych Babbler
    11 October 2009 at 11:26 pm

    @ Soin: Well, there is a lot of research to show otherwise

    @ Nu: Yep…realistic thinking is the way to go than to get depressed

    @ Titaxy: Oh it really annoys me when people say ‘think positive’ 😛 Maybe that comes from me being a pessimist but still!

    @ Blue Mist: There’s a really good book by Albert Ellis called ‘A guide to rational living’ which is catered to the lay person to help in managing and challenging our irrational and unhelpful ways of thinking. And yes, you are right about it being a chain reaction!! And that’s what makes it harder. At those stages, I need help from friends who can look at it objectively and challenge my thinking.

  • The Survivor
    12 October 2009 at 3:46 am

    Very Rightly Put!!

    Not many of us realize how our inner thought process is responsible for the way we behave and act.

    What’s worse is that sometimes we are too good at critcizing ourselves than come up with positive thoughts!!

  • Nilu
    25 April 2011 at 6:56 pm

    I think about what all I’ve achieved in life, what all I have survived & if I can did all that, I can very well face what’s in the future too.

  • Psych Babbler
    25 April 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Welcome here Nilu! That’s great that you do that — it’s actually used as part of treatment in CBT — to look at previous evidence that you have overcome difficulties etc and that indicates you are capable of handling any future difficulties!

  • Psych Babbler
    25 April 2011 at 10:31 pm

    The reason why we don’t notice our thought process is because our thoughts are so automatic! We are more likely to notice the feeling coming after. And yes, you are right in that we are a whole lot better in putting ourselves down than being good to ourselves!