Negative Thoughts — The Weeds In The Garden of Our Mind — On The Forum
As long as I was awake, negative thoughts permeated every minute of the day.
It was the middle of March 2016, and the nervousness had taken it’s toll. Surprisingly, it was an old washing machine that did it. A constant headache, for sure. However, it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
When the machine busted, something inside me became unhinged. The tears poured out unapologetically.
When The Negative Thoughts Outweigh The Positive Ones
Enlightened moments are few and far in between. That day in March, for the first time in my entire life, I realized something was wrong.
Looking back four years later, I’ve learned that what I thought was a personality trait — being nervous all the time — was not at all normal. Anxiety had governed my feelings and behaviors for most of my waking hours, and negative thoughts were constantly feeding into them. They told me I sounded stupid when I was speaking on the phone at work. Their whispers kept me from raising my hand in class, even though I knew the answer. When surrounded by people, the negative thoughts drew my attention to all that was wrong with them and me.
I isolated myself.
When negative thoughts flood your mind, however, it all feels normal to you. Even as the outside world seems to get bigger and farther apart from you, it’s a feeling of loneliness and narcissistic superiority all tangled into normalcy.
The Metaphor Of The Weeds
Thinking back, I don’t remember the first time I came across this metaphor. Perhaps it was while reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It could have been while listening to Jim Rohn on YouTube. All I know is that, since then, I have come across it a few times. The law of familiarity, perhaps?
Your mind is like a garden, they say, and if you do not water it with positivity and productivity, weeds will grow within it.
Certainly, the metaphor is powerfully visual. Those weeds are the negative thoughts.
I don’t deserve love. I’m not smart enough for that job. No one would want to be friends with someone as uninteresting as me.
Little by little, the negative thoughts take hold of not only your mind, but also the way you feel and how you behave. Drowning in this sea of consistent negativity pushes you to dig a bigger hole; you will only sink deeper and become consumed by the darkness.
Never-ending acres of weeds have infested the garden of your mind.
Negative Thoughts Translated Into Feelings
After getting better acquainted with my negative thoughts, I began to detect them almost as soon as they started brooding. Not surprisingly, they’re sneaky. They disguise themselves in various feelings and beliefs.
Here are just three of the most pervasive:
A lack of confidence in oneself and one’s abilities. This popped up a lot for me whenever I was with other people. Did I say the right thing? Am I acting as I should? Are they enjoying what I am saying? The negative thoughts in this case were: I’m not interesting, I’m not like them, I don’t belong here .
The weeds of self-doubt feels like isolation, like you will never fit in.
Looking back, I feel tremendous pain for that girl who thought she was alone and could not relate to other people. I question where this inexperienced child ever got this idea that she was not worthy enough.
Hindsight is 20/20, and as I’m sitting here writing — knowing the person that I am today — I realize that it was all a farse. I had allowed my negative thoughts, unfortunately, to fool me into a completely false narrative about myself and the world.
The seeds of limiting beliefs are planted in our younger years. We’re constricted by what those around us tell us we can and cannot do.
Think about it.
Did you ever feel like money would always be a problem? As a woman, were you suffocated by the apparently limited choices you felt were available to you? Was your hometown the only place you ever imagined living in?
There’s nothing wrong with choosing to live your life on your own terms. The weight of the negative thoughts transmute into limiting beliefs when our desires are curved by our own expectations of what is and what is not available to us.
Lucky for me, limiting beliefs rarely arose as a consequence of my negative thoughts. I’m grateful that my mind is continuously open to the unlimited possibilities out there.
The one area where I willingly subscribed to limiting beliefs was in the realm of finances. The feeling of never having enough and always chasing after money was unbearable. In this case, the negative thoughts were the following: Who am I to aspire to such wealth? Nobody I know has ever achieved this level of financial success? Why do I deserve to have this financial security, when others are struggling more than I am?
It’s so easy to allow such thoughts to keep you stagnant.
Self-doubt and limiting beliefs prevent you from taking the necessary steps towards the outcome you want. Self-criticism, on the other hand, gives you permission to brood over what you have done or failed to do.
When negative thoughts transform into self-criticism, you allow anxiety to take over. This anxiety, in turn, brings you further away from the present moment. In doing so, you allow the negative thoughts to keep taking over your mind.
I struggle much more with self-doubt than with self-criticism. Nevertheless, it has always been easier to look at my actions or lack thereof through dark-tinted glasses.
The Toll of Negative Thoughts On Our Self-Esteem
Regardless of the shape that negative thoughts take in our mind, the toll on our self-esteem is devastating. Whether it’s self-doubt, limiting beliefs, or self-criticism, the smell of fear that oozes from our weed-infested garden is unmistakable: it chains us to pain; it’s shackles leave us paralyzed. It blinds us to what is possible.
The awful thing about this is that we buy into whatever the fear tells us. We start believing that the negative thoughts are true. Consequently, our self-esteem is damaged. It has no chance of escaping, of pushing through. It helps perpetuate the pattern of negativity.
Self-esteem is the foundation of our actions. For this reason, mending the wounds left by negative thoughts, and uprooting the weeds from the garden of your mind is a matter of urgency.
How Can We Start Digging Out The Weeds From The Garden Of Our Mind?
I do not know where negative thoughts come from, or why we have them at all. I have certainly not rid myself of them completely. They are persistently present. However, though you cannot get rid of them, it is certainly possible to manage them.
Here are some of the tools I’ve used to better handle my negative thinking:
Meditation brings your awareness back to the present moment by focusing your attention on your body and your breath. This practice teaches you to let go of your thoughts, allowing you to more easily escape dwelling on them.
It takes time to develop a meditation practice, and it might be difficult to concentrate at first. However, the relief you’ll start to feel will be worth the effort.
Self-love is those beautiful flowers you plant in the garden of your mind, which prevent the weeds from growing.
The power of loving and believing in yourself lies in your acceptance of who you are, and an understanding of what you’re capable of — which is a lot more than you can imagine!
Put Yourself Out There
One of the most insidious aspects of negative thinking is that it persuades us to formulate the worst of the worst scenarios in our mind.
For example, when deciding to start this blog, I was afraid that I would not be focused enough to follow through. I bought into a story I made up in my mind. Luckily, by pushing through and putting myself out there, I realized that I could trust myself to follow through on what I’d set for myself.
If you’re willing to trust yourself beyond the negative thoughts, your actions will prove you right 100% of the time.
Embrace Mistakes As Part Of The Journey
Embracing self-love and putting yourself out there confidently does not mean that you will not fail. In fact, the more you act, the higher your failure rate.
We can choose to see mistakes and failures as evidence of our increased efforts and faith in ourselves, instead of excuses to no longer persist in our efforts. This, in turn, will keep us motivated and the negative thoughts at bay.
Persist. See The Little Progress Along The Way
Living during a time where instant gratification feels intoxicatingly delicious, it’s no wonder we get discouraged if we don’t see immediate results from our efforts.
We shoot ourselves in the foot when we don’t have the patience to persist and wait for the slowly growing bamboo tree of our progress to shoot up in it’s long-awaited magnificence.
In order to achieve anything of value, it’s essential to make a commitment of time and energy. It’s also helps tremendously to learn to view small progress as success towards our goals, instead of dwelling on what we haven’t achieved.
Share your experience with others
Negative thoughts are most pervasive when we’re by ourselves. It’s challenging to overcome this because negative thoughts push us further away from people, perpetuating a cycle of negativity.
If we’re fortunate enough to recognize the maze we’re stuck in, we may be able to learn more about how to manage our thoughts and feelings, and this will lead us to discover people with similar experiences. The knowledge that you’re not the only person suffering through what you’re suffering through, and that others have gotten pass the same struggles, can motivate you to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as dim as it may appear.
Anything Is Possible
Our imagination is powerful. It can just as easily lead us towards darkness as it can lead us towards light.
This is why I share my own struggles. I’ve felt the most transformation when listening to others who have felt the same negative feelings I have felt. They opened my eyes to possibilities greater than I could imagine for myself.
There is an escape from negative thoughts, and the more self-aware we are, the easier it will be to achieve it.
Remember that, everything is possible as long as we’re alive.
Originally published at https://ontheforum.com on May 22, 2020.