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Change Your Truth: How to Let Go of Negative Beliefs About Yourself

Womans Reflection

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.” ~Robert Gary Lee

A year ago, I began to accept that I was depressed, and had been for a long time. It was scary. I broke up with my live-in boyfriend of almost three years, quit my job, and though I didn’t want to, I moved halfway across the country to move back in with my parents.

I was a wreck; all of the feelings that I had been suppressing for years, some literally since childhood, came flooding back. My only defense in the past had been to ignore these feelings, though I did so quite poorly and ended up being an emotional basket case most of the time anyway.

After months of talking to my therapist and anyone who would listen, I finally began to heal. I started to find strength in myself, in my own thoughts, and was able to stop denying the truth that has always been inside of me. Now, when I get upset, I am able to accept it as a feeling, not as a truth; and I no longer have to run from my feelings.

This is a process that I wrote out, but came from a combination of help from good friends, said former boyfriend, and of course, my wonderful therapist.

1. Identify your feelings.

Where in your body do you feel it? What does it feel like? What thoughts come up?

These thoughts are what your mind is defining as your “truth.” You can redefine your truth. You may be thinking, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m weak,” “I’m broken,” or something similar.

These are not feelings; these do not describe how you feel. They describe what you think you are, your false “truth.”

Change “I am” to “I feel” when these “truths” come up.

When you hear, “I’m broken,” replace it with, “I feel broken.”

My personal false “truth” was, and sometimes still is, “I am incapable.” When changed to “I feel incapable,” I really notice the difference in emphasis.

I used to truly believe that I was incapable of a lot of things, usually relating to work or school. “I feel incapable” is a statement of the negativity that my mind was stuck in, a false belief, not a “truth” about myself.

Now that you’ve recognized you aren’t this thing—you only feel this way—dig deeper. Ask yourself why you feel this way; what’s behind the feelings?

2. Accept your feelings.

Repeat them to yourself. Don’t judge them; just feel them.

If you feel like crying, let yourself cry. If you have tension, sit with that tension; breathe it in and breathe it out.

I felt incapable because I had performed poorly in jobs before, and I used this as evidence that I truly was incapable of doing better.

This acceptance hurts, but it ultimately brings us peace by releasing the negativity that we are holding onto.

3. Replace your old truths with new ones. Back them up with reasoning, and trust that this is the real truth.

For example, you might change “I feel that I’m not good enough” to “I am good enough. I am having a hard time because… and I accept that. I am working on these issues to become even stronger.”

By accepting that I felt incapable because of the past, I could now remember the good things that happened at work—the projects I was proud of, the people who I had helped, the difference I made.

4. Repeat the new “truth” back to yourself.

Notice what feelings come up and compare them to the feelings that came up from step two.

Which feels better to you? Which sounds more true to you now?

The intent of going through these steps is to examine these “truths.” In your gut, you know the real truth.

You may feel a sense of relief after doing this once. You may not feel much different at all. But if you trust your intuition, the new “truth” will become the new voice in your head, after going through the steps more times.

I knew on a deeper level that I was actually capable of doing a good job at work, a job I could be proud of. The negative “truth” hid what I really know I am capable of.

5. Do something constructive with these good thoughts.

Write. Make art. Make music. Dance. Exercise; do something physical.

Do something that expresses how you feel now, that solidifies in your body as well as your mind what your “truth” really is, and how good you deserve to feel about yourself, no matter what unpleasant circumstances you may be going through.

Our bodies contain memories that we don’t consciously know of. Doing something active with these new ideas and feelings will bring positive body associations.

I find journaling and yoga to be very healing. I sit and give myself time to really think and feel instead of never questioning the false “truth” that I sometimes carry around with me. I write that out. And I reinforce the new truth when I am going through the movements in yoga poses. My body remembers that feeling.

Each time the old “truth” comes up, go through these steps. Your brain currently has a habit of jumping from a negative feeling to a false truth in your consciousness as a single thought. Sometimes these thoughts are also subconscious, as they were for me, because you’ve ignored them for so long as your mind tried to shield you from the pain of admitting negative feelings.

“I am incapable” actually led me to feel so poorly about myself that I really did perform inconsistently at work. Once I started to dismantle it, I was able to start fresh and not let the subconscious “truth” fester and keep me from being productive.

Even better than waiting for these thoughts to come up, practice this daily. Soon, you’ll change the habit of clinging to false truths so to the positive, real truth becomes your first thought.

Instead of the old thoughts festering, these new thoughts are mindful, and they creative positive energy, which will continue to build.

If you still can’t get yourself to really feel that this new truth is reality, just try to trust it. Trusting it is trusting yourself. And once the habit forms, it starts to feel like the truth.

Woman’s reflection image via Shutterstock

About Allie Bernhard

Allie Bernhard writes at "both/and"about her spiritual and healing journey, and hopes to help others on their own path. As an aspiring policy analyst, she hopes to work within our current political system to make long lasting change for the people who need it most. She is aiming to bring holistic and integrated approaches to the mainstream.

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  • Hi Allie
    Thanks so much for such a great post. Our beliefs form the core of our whole experience, and we are often carrying around pretty crappy ones that are not serving us too well. We picked up so many of them from other people and experiences that made us feel a certain way, and they got deeply ingrained. And then said beliefs attracted so many ‘bad’ experiences into our lives that just solidified these false beliefs, and we mistakenly look at that as ‘proof’ not realizing the belief caused the situation.

    If we can remember that, it gets easier to shift beliefs because the truth that those experiences weren’t proof of anything , that they were just a reflection of what was happening within begins to shine brighter.

    I really liked your tips and insights..great post!

  • 6. Say it loud

    I guess it`s much easier to combat negative thoughts when you talk yourself out of it “loudly”.. It`s when you shut your mind for a while and let your mouth defend yourself.

    ——–

    I have a word file that I love to keep the lovely insights that I get online to keep reading them whenever I feel down. This post is definitely worth saving.

    Really nice one Allie 🙂

  • tt

    Loved this. Thanks for sharing.
    Peace

  • Thanks so much!

    And yes, I have totally used the “say it loud” approach — you just go from the gut, all the chatter disappears for a moment, and when you come back, sometimes the chatter just isn’t so confusing, sometimes it’s just not as loud, sometimes it just decides your gut is right and shuts up altogether. 🙂

  • Thanks so much!

    One of my favorite quotes describes that pretty well:

    “A long time ago, when you were a wee thing, you learned something, some way to cope, something that, if you did it, would help you survive. It wasn’t the healthiest thing, it wasn’t gonna get you free, but it was gonna keep you alive. You learned it, at five or six, and it worked, it *did* help you survive. You carried it with you all your life, used it whenever you needed it. It got you out–out of your assbackwards town, away from an abuser, out of range of your mother’s un-love. Or whatever. It worked for you. You’re still here now partly because of this thing that you learned. The thing is, though, at some point you stopped needing it. At some point, you got far enough away, surrounded yourself with people who love you. You survived. And because you survived, you now had a shot at more than just staying alive. You had a shot now at getting free. But that thing that you learned when you were five was not then and is not now designed to help you be free. It is designed only to help you survive. And, in fact, it keeps you from being free. You need to figure out what this thing is and work your ass off to un-learn it. Because the things we learn to do to survive at all costs are not the things that will help us get FREE. Getting free is a whole different journey altogether.”

    ― Mia McKenzie, The Summer We Got Free

  • lv2terp

    GREAT post! Wonderful insight, and steps to retrain ourselves! 🙂

  • Talya Price

    Thank you for this.

  • Flower

    Really good post. I too have been depressed for a long time but have used various blockers to avoid admitting it. Such a roller coaster without the bad things I used to use to cover the pain. Happy weeks n then my bf goes to bed early and I’m faced with being alone with my thoughts and its tears n pain.
    Will definitely use these steps next time 🙂

  • Flo

    What is it about Tiny Buddha – if I’m struggling with something I’ll come on here and a new article dealing with the exact relevant topic will be waiting for me. Thank you for yet another great article with helpful tips.

  • Annys

    I agree with Flo; this is absolutely right for me right now. Suddenly realising what I’ve been doing to myself for so long it’s ridiculous. Many thanks, Allie <3

  • Annys

    … but one of the things I’m working on is that I taught myself not to feel, not to cry. I suppose the answer is to just be kind and gentle and patient with myself?

  • Yes! Definitely be patient! I was never very good at getting myself to not feel, so when I started to just say “feel what you feel” it all came rushing out. For someone who has mastered that skill, I would think that just acknowledging when you have bad thoughts, what small feelings are you getting? I think then going through the process some more each day/however often you find helpful, each time you will feel a bit more. Just what I am assuming. I felt a lot, the part for me that was hard was acknowledging the thoughts. I just felt so bad that I couldn’t even identify why – I identified with the “truth” so much that I couldn’t even consciously figure out what it was that my mind was saying for a while. I had to be patient with myself and meditate on it, until, gradually, I could hear the thought.

    Went back to look in my blog for this quote that I had saved:

    “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
    – Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

    Basically, try to appreciate what you are doing for yourself, let yourself feel at ease, even if it only lasts for a second. Soon, you will see the results, just trust that what you are doing is good for you even if you can’t feel it right away.

    Be kind to yourself! <3

  • Icecreambubbletea

    i can get pass step 1 and step 2… but just cant get pass step 3…

  • Annys

    Absolutely, Allie! Thank you, that helps. But being still, I realise, is so difficult for me (practise, practise …). And being kind to myself is not something I, like many others I’m sure, learned at my mother’s knee! I think that staying with the feeling, once you’ve got it, and not getting caught up in the story (or stories) is important, so the feeling has its own space and can come and go as it will. So then, what’s the difference between stories and thoughts?

  • I think we each have a most difficult step. Mine is the first step. Identifying my thoughts, or my “false truth” is hard for me sometimes, when it is so ingrained in me, I can’t even see that it is not a feeling, because all I am conscious of is the feeling behind it, if that makes any sense.

    But, once I can get past step 1, everything else becomes a whole lot easier. So, for me, everything flows once I get past the first step. For you, the real healing step that you need to get through to get to the spot where it can flow more easily and really hit your core is the 3rd step, so it seems more daunting. Because, yeah, you can get through the first 2, but you haven’t had that sense of true healing yet. Once you get through step 3, steps 4 and 5 will be even easier than 1 and 2, because on a deeper level, you know the real “truth”.

    Trust is really key here! Fake it til ya make it! If you are having a hard time with trust, just try to appreciate any tiny moment you can of what you are doing for yourself, let yourself feel at ease, even if it only lasts for a second. Soon, you will see the results, just trust that what you are doing is good for you even if you can’t feel it right away.

  • Annys

    Sorry to get things muddled – the main issue I think for me is my anxiety about feeling at all! So I’ll continue to work on that. Thanks for the blog, I look forward to more.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    That’s a beautiful quote…its now going into my fav quote collection! Thank you for sharing that…:)

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    Hey there; Kelli, read a number of your comments/feedbacks recently & they are quite insightful & thought-provoking…you should write a blog in our Tiny Buddha one of these days! 🙂

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    “So then, what’s the difference between stories and thoughts?” I think, only you will be able to truly answer that for yourself, regardless of how long it may take…Just try to take it day by day, moment by moment…& most of all be patient, like you said it yourself. Just hang in there!

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    For what its worth, it gets better with time…I was like that for a very long time & still struggle with it quite a lot as well… As hard as it is, try to me more MINDFUL of the situations in your day-to-day life where you avoid feeling your emotions & how you numb yourself with distractions. It could also be very helpful if you can find a good therapist to talk about your struggles…

  • Thanks so much! I was thinking about doing that actually. I have a blog of my own as well if you feel so inclined to check it out. The link is in my disqus profile. You made my day!

  • Thank you for sharing your process with us, Allie. I myself am busy working through this exact thing at the moment and I find it so difficult, it really does take daily practice. Thank you for reminding and reassuring me that the hard work will pay off if we just keep going and trust in ourselves. A very inspiration article.

  • Don Dressel

    I generally feel good about myself but because of my wife’s actions I feel insecure. How do we stop letting other people make us feel this way?

  • ellie

    This is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing! I so often learn of ways to be good to myself, but when feelings of inadequacy or some other form of suffering come up, I often wish that I had a protocol to follow to get myself back to where I need to be. This is exactly what I was looking for – especially its focus on “truths”. Good stuff! Thank you!!e