I wish there were a switch in our brains we could flip when negative thoughts intrude. I wish there were a way to push away the inner critic who often sabotages us, so we could develop and sustain healthy, positive self-images. Not puffed-up images of ourselves, but honest, “I’m a good person, perfectly human” self-perceptions.
And, I discovered, there is a way.
There is a switch in our brains we can flip whenever we choose—it’s our self-talk.
We can choose our thoughts. We can determine which words we’ll entertain and those we release.
We can grouse about ourselves and others all day long. We can judge ourselves and our imperfections until those negative thoughts become a broken record. We then become grouchy grumps.
Or we can replace our negative self-talk with positive words and images. The tipping point is awareness—learning to monitor our self-talk.
For example, the simple words, “I love and respect myself,” can become a mantra—words to chew on and digest like feeding ourselves steak instead of garbage.
So, I decided for a week I’d practice flipping the switch in my brain. Each time I noticed a negative thought creeping in, I replaced it with the mantra, “I love and respect myself.”
The first thing I noticed was that savoring those words eased my tension, relaxed my forehead, and slowed my breathing. The mantra calmed me as my anxious thinking was replaced with gentle kindness.
Unfortunately, replacing those negative tapes with positive ones doesn’t come naturally. It takes work to develop this new way of thinking—especially if we’re in the habit of allowing an army of negative thoughts run rampant through our brains.
I realized too that I needed to ask God for help. I need his grace—his positive energy—to let this flip-switching become a lifestyle and a deeper, more honest way of respecting myself and others.
Slowly throughout the week, the practice took hold. When I noticed a negative thought scud-missile its way into my head, I shot it down with my mantra, “I love and respect myself.”
As I did, I paused, took a few relaxing breaths, and smiled at myself. It felt good—definitely a lot better than the negative static electricity I’d become accustomed to carrying around within me.
As my self-respect grew, I noticed I also had deeper compassion for others. When the clerk at the grocery store snarled at me because I dropped my change on the counter, my mantra, “I love and respect myself,” rose up instantly within me. I cut myself and the clerk some slack for being human.
Perhaps respecting ourselves is what Jesus meant when he invited us to love God, love others, and love ourselves. And the tool to live from that more authentic place of self-compassion is within our grasp. We just need to flip the switch of our negative self-talk and practice love and respect for ourselves.
Try it this week. Flip the negative switch in your brain with a positive mantra—a word or short phrase of self-respect. See what happens.
—brian j plachta