What are you believing about yourself? What negative loops play in your own head? This is the second in a two-part series entitled “Who says I can’t?” The chances are that the person saying that the loudest is … yourself. But it does not have to be that way. When we can identify the negative beliefs we have about ourselves, we are then able to re-write them as positive beliefs and live in the freedom we have in God.
There are two tools that help with this process.
The first is recognising your power of choice.
You – and you alone – get to choose your response to whatever happens or is said to you. Steven Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People says this “Between stimulus and response is our greatest power – the freedom to choose.” He was referencing Victor Frankl, a Jew imprisoned in a Nazi death camp, who identified that the last human freedom he had in those awful circumstances was his ability to choose his response to what happened to him. No one could take that freedom away from him.
The truth is this: only you have power over what is going on inside your own head. No one can make you feel a certain thing. For example, it might be that someone does something and your response is anger. But that person did not make you angry, you chose anger as a response. The key here is to recognise that we can choose a different response.
Everything we do is a choice. If we choose to focus on what we can’t do in relation to others, we remain stuck. Those negative thinking loops can be deeply entrenched. But we can choose to break them, with God’s help. At the point at which that negative voice would normally kick in – mid consultation, or before a difficult operation or meeting for example – stop, notice the voice, and stop the familiar pattern. Choose instead to claim who God says you are and ask Him for help to trust and believe.
It is also important to choose to focus on that over which we do have control, and not expend energy on weaknesses or problems in the system or in others. This only leads to frustration, negativity, blame and lack of progress.
We have no control over the past or the future; over what other people say, think or do; or what happens around us.
But we DO have control over our own thoughts, actions, self-talk, goals, boundaries, and responses. We can’t change what has been said to us, or what others might continue to say to us. But when we choose instead to be proactive and work on that which we can do something about – our own response – things start to change. We choose to create a different path across the grass.
We will get this wrong. But we give ourselves grace to start afresh each hour, each day. We remind ourselves that just because I got it wrong yesterday does not mean I will get it wrong today – that is the difference between failing and labelling ourselves a failure.
It is important, especially in difficult situations, that we behave with kindness, integrity, and honesty. We are not responsible for other people’s behaviour or opinions, but that does not mean we can behave as we like. We are called to grow in the fruit of the Spirit and that means choosing kindness, grace, love, self-control towards others, and to take responsibility for where we have got it wrong and make amends.
The second tool at our disposal as we unlearn negative beliefs and choose positive ones is gratitude.
Gratitude shifts our perspective from negative to positive. When we look back at our lives with regret at what has not been, and only see the negative, we will more likely look forward with fear and pessimism. However, when we can learn to look back with gratitude and see and acknowledge the positive, we are empowered to look forward with hope and optimism.
Rather than labelling yourself with “I’m not, I can’t, I don’t have” we choose instead to declare “I am, I can, I have.” Gratitude helps us see where we have succeeded, where we have seen God help, what has gone well and what we have achieved. This helps to rewire our brains as we remind ourselves of what is good, positive and that we are thankful for. We need to create new ways of thinking about ourselves that become our default patterns instead of the old, negative ways, and gratitude is a great tool to keep reminding ourselves of all that is good.
There is so much in the Bible about the importance of gratitude. Ps 118:29 encourages us to “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.” And 1 Thessalonians 5:8 points out the importance of “Giving thanks in all circumstances” – again, this is the power of choice in action as we may not feel thankful, but we choose to give thanks anyway as it reminds us of who God is and who He says we are.
How often do we take an “I have to…” approach to life and work? Practicing gratitude helps us shift to an “I get to …” approach. Again, this is a choice that takes practice and proactivity.
Try a practical exercise for a week and see how it begins to change how you see yourself. Every day, take 5 minutes to write down a few things that you are grateful for about that day: about yourself, your life, something you achieved and where you have seen God at work. Writing these things down each day helps us build a foundation of what we can do and where we have seen God at work in our lives. This strengthens our healthy belief system and builds confidence to keep choosing to see what we are and what we can do.
In summary, identify one negative belief and replace it with a positive, Godly belief. Write that down, and practice saying it to yourself multiple times a day. Set small targets and give yourself grace to see this as a gradual process. Be thankful for what you are learning and understanding about yourself and recognise and celebrate small wins. Keep a gratitude list of what you are achieving to build solid positive foundations and recognise your power to choose a healthy response. You choose what you are filling your mind with, so notice and choose to focus on what is good, true, and healthy. And don’t do this alone – ask a fellow VCF member to pray for you, offer to pray for them, and encourage each other. You get to choose your response – choose freedom!
Catriona Futter is a Christian Life Coach and author, married to Ian who is a vet.
Read more of her writing on her blog at http://equipforlifecoaching.com/blog/ follow her on Twitter at @Equipflcoaching, on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/equipforlifecoaching or email her via her website if you have any questions.