Danni nervously entered her favourite inner city bar and ordered a lychee martini. ‘I can do this’ she told herself as she awkwardly wriggled onto the bar stool in spite of her too-tight pencil skirt. Attempting to create an air of mystery as she gulped the last drop of her cocktail, Danni casually peered around the bar and offered a Combination Hair-Flick/Giggle for anyone who cared to observe. ‘Oh that guy next to me is gorrrrgeous, OMG, that jaw-line, those teeth … he probably won’t even notice me’. “I’m Rob” he drawled, “Can I buy you a drink?”
Before responding Danni was overcome by her own thoughts, ‘I am so awkward and unrefined, he is a total gentleman and if I have a drink with him it will take 10 minutes before he realises I am a complete fraud, I shouldn’t embarrass myself any further, must make an excuse and get away now’. “er, I’ve been drinking lycee martinis” and without missing a beat he ordered them both martinis and paid with a crisp $100 bill.
The sight of the bill was enough to send Danni’s heart racing ‘he’s loaded, obviously out of my league’ and she noticed her breathing becoming faster and shallower. How embarrassing. The man moved seats so he was sitting right next to Danni, almost close enough for their knees to touch.
‘Oh God, he’s going to notice my knee shaking and he’ll know I’m a total novice. Now that he’s so close he’ll see that pimple I tried to conceal on my chin, it feels massive. I wonder if I have BO, I can’t get a whiff without being totally obvious. Did I clean my teeth tonight, can’t remember, I probably have tragic breath. I really do not deserve this stunning man’s attention … what if I? How Can I? I have to…’
Danni quickly got up from the bar stool, turned without saying a word and ran out of the bar.
Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation to Danni?
Ever sabotaged yourself by your own thoughts?
Ever talked yourself out of trying something, assuming you were doomed to failure?
Our internal dialogue or self-talk is the most powerful motivator we have. If our inner voice is the voice of a ‘friend’ it can enhance feelings of positive self-esteem and propel us to act in a way that will move us toward our goals. If, however, our inner voice is the voice of a ‘frenemy’ it can lead to feelings of self-doubt and stop us from taking action toward our goals.
Put simply, our thoughts influence our feelings and our feelings influence our behaviour, therefore, our thoughts create our life experience.
We all have an unhelpful inner voice that rears its ugly head from time to time, but we also have choice about how we respond to it. A disempowered approach would be to believe the negative thoughts and mindlessly follow them, as if on auto-pilot.
A more empowered approach would be to challenge the thoughts and consciously choose to act differently.
1. Reality Checking
♥ What evidence is there to support the thoughts?
♥ Are they based on facts, or your interpretations and perceptions?
♥ Are you jumping to negative conclusions?
♥ How can you investigate and find out if the thoughts are true?
2. Alternative view points
♥ What other ways could you look at this situation?
♥ What else could this mean?
♥ If you were being positive, how might you perceive this situation?
3. Put it in perspective
♥ Is it as bad as you think it is?
♥ What is the worst possible thing that could happen? How likely is this?
♥ What is the best possible thing that could happen?
♥ Will this matter in 5 years’ time?
4. Come back to your goals
♥ Are these thoughts helping you feel better in the moment (band-aid) or helping you move toward your goals?
♥ What can you do to solve the problem and move towards getting what you want?
♥ What can you learn from this situation to help you next time?
By using these questions throughout your day, you can become your own Thought Detective. Gather evidence and challenge your thoughts and if they don’t stack up, change them.
Get your head right
I recommend a fantastic App called Moodkit. It’s like having a psychologist (or in this case, dating coach) in your pocket. You can enter your unhelpful thoughts, evaluate yourself for thinking errors and reframe your thoughts for more constructive outcomes.
It’s also a great tool for keeping a record of your thoughts so you can start to notice patterns that might need changing.
One Month Challenge
Over the next month, your challenge is to make conscious choices about your life rather than running on auto-pilot:
Week One: Keep a thought journal, either in a book or in Moodkit. Record all the thoughts you can recall, positive and negative, helpful and unhelpful. The aim is not to judge the thoughts, but to simply record them each day.
Week Two: This week, divide your journal into two columns and record the helpful and unhelpful thoughts in separate columns. This will help you to identify the quality and quantity of the thoughts, and start to evaluate the degree to which your frenemy thinking styles are creeping in.
Week Three: Now that you are becoming more aware of your thinking patterns, it’s time to start challenging them. This time, divide your journal into three columns; one for helpful thoughts, one for unhelpful thoughts and another for challenging questions.
Use the third column to jot down questions to challenge the frenemy thoughts; your questions can relate to reality checking, alternative points of view, putting it in perspective and checking in with your goals.
Week Four: In your final week of the challenge, your objective is to re-frame any frenemy thoughts. Going back to a two column page, this time record your frenemy thoughts in one column and the new, re-framed thoughts in the other.
So take the challenge, step up and reframe your self-talk to create a friend rather than frenemy within … and watch your life change as a result!
[A Frenemy is a blend of a friend and an enemy, as cited in the Sex and the City Episode, Frenemies, 2000. Often a frenemy appears in your life as an enemy disguised in friend’s clothing.]