There are a lot of things you’re feeling pretty great about—that delicious (and incredibly easy) curry recipe you found, that overwater bungalow vacay you booked, reconnecting with your long lost college friend. But sometimes, all these positives can turn to dust when your mind starts racing with thoughts you know you shouldn’t be giving a voice to—well, that recipe’s easy, anyone can make it. Going on vacation probably makes me seem lazy at work. Why did I say that stupid thing to my friend at dinner?
These unsubstantiated judgements are toxic thoughts, bubbling to the surface and making you second-guess yourself over things you shouldn’t, causing stress and anxiety. Letting go of these toxic thoughts and replacing them with healthier alternatives will help get you to a more positive state of mind that will give you a better quality of life. It’s not always easy to change our thinking, but it is worth it.
1. Do They Like Me?
On some level, everyone wants to be liked. You may wonder if your coworkers or your boss like you, or even your friends and family. It may not matter whether they tell you every day that they like you. Once this toxic thought enters your mind, it sticks like industrial glue.
When you catch yourself thinking this thought, replace it with reasons why you like yourself. Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether anyone likes you or not. If you're living your best life as your authentic self, that's the only thing that matters.
2. Did I Make a Mistake?
Everyone's made their fair share of mistakes, but it's much easier to be hard on yourself for your own. Whether what you did was big or small, tormenting yourself with wondering if something was a mistake will only make you feel miserable.
Instead, give yourself grace. No one is perfect, so you can't expect yourself to be either. No one else is keeping track of how long you can go without messing up. If a mistake happens, breathe through it and do your best not to repeat it again. That's all anyone can do.
3. What Will Go Wrong?
Getting into a situation that's new can be scary. It doesn't matter if you're bungee jumping off a cliff or trying yellowtail sushi for the first time. That moment where you're trying to step outside your comfort zone is intimidating.
The habit of wondering what will go wrong when you're about to try something new stems from rising anxiety, which takes a physical toll on your body. Studies have shown that anxiety changes your cortisol levels, forcing your body into a state of stress that does things like make you gain weight and have higher blood pressure.
Switch things up and ask yourself the opposite question instead. How will that new thing will add joy to your life or give you a new experience? It'll make the situation seem less scary and lead to more positive adventure in your life.
4. How Will I Fail?
Failure, like making a mistake, is unavoidable. Remind yourself that everyone fails. But focusing on how it’s going to happen to you before you even try will almost surely set yourself up for failure.
Instead of contemplating how your inevitable demise will happen, focus on how you will succeed. And know that if you do “fail,” it’s just an opportunity to reframe the situation as a chance to grow. Learn from what led to the failure and try not to repeat it. And if you do end up repeating it, learn from that, too. It's part of being human.
5. Am I Good Enough?
It's good to be challenged to grow and be the best you can be. This mind-set crosses a line when you begin to wonder if you're good enough for everyday things.
In order to defeat this toxic thought, you'll need to work on your self-confidence. Do things like affirm your successes, no matter how small they are. Set small goals and celebrate when you reach them. Small acts of self-care go a long way in building your self-confidence, so you don't ever have to wonder if you're good enough anymore.
6. What Will Their Opinion Be?
After you do or create something, it's natural to wonder what people will think of it. It becomes toxic when you value other people's opinions over your self-worth.
Try to hear opinions as constructive criticism whenever you can. If you hear something you completely disagree with, learn to let go of it. It's OK for someone not to like something you did. They probably haven’t internalized it, so you don’t need to either.