How to Change What You Feel and Believe About Yourself

“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.

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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