We all blow it and fall short once in a while. Usually after feeling embarrassed for a while, most of us can get over it. But when those blunders keep coming back to haunt us and we find our minds taken over with those thoughts, we can spiral into self-hate.
Negative words that keep replaying over and over in our minds are called ruminations. This is a repeated pattern of thinking or obsessing over the offence and its consequences. Such repeated self-condemning thoughts could have taken root from an initial comment and criticism from someone else. Or it could be a reactive thought that we had when a negative incident occurred.
Often it starts with an action or incident that triggers an emotion, that leads to a whole string of false, exaggerated negative thoughts. E.g., I shouldn’t have eaten that extra piece of cake, I feel so sick of myself, I have no self-control, I’m useless, I don’t deserve to be loved by anyone.
Do you have self-condemning thoughts such as the following?
- I find it hard to enjoy activities because of I’m always thinking of sad things
- When I feel like I’ve disappointed others, my emotions take a tumble.
- Even though other people may not blame me, I still feel horribly responsible
- After a conflict with someone else, I hate myself for what I said
- I can’t get over small things that goes wrong and I always feel shameful and responsible
- I’m always worried about not meeting up to my own standards or other people’s standards
- I keep thinking about what a failure I am when I cannot solve a problem or when I make a mistake
- I worry a lot about making mistakes and it makes it difficult for me to concentrate on my work
- I am very concern about what other people think about me especially if they knew my flaws.
If the above thoughts keep disturbing your mind, it can lead to mental conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Why do we ruminate and condemn ourselves?
- Most of the time, we fall into the trap of such ruminations because of distorted thinking. We need to challenge those wrong thoughts.
- Ruminations often happen when we have unrealistic high standards of ourselves. Here’s how you can challenge self-imposed expectations.
- Think of a standard that you expect from yourself. E.g I must score straight ‘A’s to feel smart.
- Would you expect other people to achieve that same standard? Why and why not
- If other people did not achieve those standards, why should they still be valuable people?
How to take control of ruminations
- Observe the negative thoughts that keep playing in your mind.
- Look for patterns of thinking rather than just a single thought.
- E.g., Instead of thinking ‘I’m not smart’, think of the thoughts before and after such as ‘When my friends give a correct answer before I do, I feel disappointed with myself and I think that I’m not smart enough to answer quicker. That means I’m stupid and worthless and I’ll never amount to anything in life.
- Find ways to interrupt those thoughts.
- Think of a quick action that you can do to interrupt those thoughts.
- E.g., Take a deep breath, snap a rubber band around your wrist. etc
- Work on thinking positive thoughts that are opposite to that negative thought.
- Write down that negative thought on a piece of paper, then flip the paper over and write a positive thought to counter that negative thought.
- Pin those positive thoughts on your wall and reward yourself for a job well done.
Breaking free from self-condemning thoughts and self-hate will take a lot of patience and practice. Sometimes these thoughts are linked to deep-seated believes that we hold about ourselves and the way we view the world. Read about schema’s here. Learning to value yourself and love yourself is not impossible.
Remember, you are more than what other people say and think about you. Your self-worth is not based on what you have achieved or failed to do but on the values that you uphold as a person. Never let failure, setbacks and criticism define who are and who you can become.