We All Have Our Own Negative Thoughts
Human beings all tend to have their own insecurities. These insecurities may cause us to view the world differently and hinder us from living a fulfilling life. If you pay attention to those around you, you will realize that a negative inner voice exists in all of us.
This internal critic may tell us that we aren't good enough and that we don't deserve what we want. However, not everyone will be affected by this inner critic in the same way or same stage in their lives. While some may simply feel uncomfortable for a short time and be otherwise unaffected, others may become their own worst enemy in life; self-sabotaging relationships, opportunities, and more.
This critical voice may lead some of us to experience intense social anxiety. The critic tells us to isolate ourselves - perhaps instructing us to avoid social situations or making us overanalyze everything to the point we just stop talking in social settings.
The critic makes us nervous and leads us away from our real self; pulling us into a ceaseless stream of painful thoughts, self-shaming observations, and self-limiting advice - leaving us feeling lonely and stifled.
Where Do Negative Thoughts Come From?
The critical inner voice forms early in our lives, and it's built out of hurtful and negative attitudes we were exposed to in childhood, especially from significant caretakers. If our parents didn't have a healthy relationship or if a parent thought of us as lazy, helpless, or as a troublemaker, we might incorporate these negative thoughts and attitudes toward ourselves and our lives unconsciously.
Most common critical thought patterns are influenced by how our parents felt toward themselves. As children spend time with their parents the most, they often take on some of their parent's critical perceptions of themselves as their own.
If caretakers of a child felt awkward in social situations or had a lot of self-doubt, their child may adopt that to their own life - often unaware of how or why they're doing it. However, that is just one example of how negative thought process shifts may occur. When you add to this the countless other social experiences where we felt put down, shamed, or rejected; we can start to see exactly how our inner critic took shape.
Dealing With and Overcoming Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts strongly influence us into "All or Nothing Thinking" or "Black and White Thinking." Saying something along the lines of "If this one thing goes badly, my whole life will go badly." is just one example of having this mindset. This thinking is just what our inner critic is saying and not the actual reality of our external circumstances.
When we think back on our day, our inner critic may distort things others said to us or even how certain social interactions took place negatively.
We tend to overanalyze everything when, in reality, only you are thinking that deeply about it, and everyone else is typically worried about themselves. These negative thoughts put significant pressure on our social skills, causing us to see the world as threatening or unaccepting.
This often leads to us acting in the same way we had thought others were doing to us - pushing away friends before they have the opportunity to push us away. Spending time challenging this all-or-nothing thinking is essential to helping us view the world around us in a more positive light.
Just because a few people like us, we don't think to ourselves, "Everybody likes me." So if a couple of people don't like us, why would we think, "Nobody likes me?"
By paying attention to the times negative thoughts seep in and tamper with our inner voice, we can begin to recognize how our actions are affected by this destructive thought process and turn it into something positive instead.
If you are experiencing these negative thoughts repeatedly, it can be extremely beneficial to seek therapy to help sort through where these self-shaming feelings come from and how to challenge them with the help of a professional.
Self-Confidence: A Hard But Satisfying Thing
Confidence is one of the best things a person can have in their arsenal for developing healthy social skills. Confidence is a feeling of trust within yourself, your abilities, and your judgments. It's integral to succeeding in a variety of social interactions in this world, from getting a job, having romantic relationships, making friends, or even simply accomplishing a personal life goal.
Having confidence will improve your success in creating a satisfying life and even increase other possibilities that you maybe hadn't thought of before, as you were thinking too small.
Even if you aren’t the best at one thing, you can still think in positive ways as you understand that not being immediately good at one thing doesn't define your self-worth. It's even been found that believing you can do something, no matter the circumstances, actually increases your ability to accomplish those things. The sole action of shifting your thought process from "I can't do it." to "I can do it." makes a world of difference.
Additionally, if you have at least one person in your life who believes in you, it increases your chances of having confidence in yourself by a long shot.
Tips on Improving Self-Confidence
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
The Social Comparison Theory states that people often value their worth by paying attention to how they compare to others. While comparing yourself to another person is natural, it often leads to low self-esteem. It's important when comparing yourself to others that you realize everyone has negative thoughts about themselves. Everyone you see is fighting a battle, no matter how perfect their lives may seem to you. Life isn't a race, nor is it a competition, pay attention to your strengths and successes instead of spending time looking to others.
Surround Yourself With Positive People
Humans are an innately social species, and having a healthy relationship with other humans is directly correlated with confidence levels. Paying attention to how our friends make us feel is critical, as the people we spend time with can influence the thoughts and attitudes we have about ourselves.
If you find that you often have negative thought about yourself after hanging out with a particular person, it might be time to say goodbye and make new friends. Surrounding yourself with people who love you and want the best for you helps improve your overall social skills and confidence, and their outer voice may eventually fade the negative thoughts of your inner voice.
Take Care of Your Body
If you aren't feeling good physically, it's hard to feel good about yourself mentally, which is why it is essential to take care of your body. When you practice self-care, you know that you're doing something positive for your mind, body, and spirit - which helps calm your critical voice and allow you to feel more nurtured and whole.
There is a variety of different ways you can practice self-care, including eating healthy, having good quality sleep, and exercising regularly. Studies show that practicing these consistently can help boost levels of confidence and self-esteem, among other benefits.
Another self-care practice to help your body is meditation. Through repeated sessions of meditation, you will begin to recognize and accept yourself, as well as learn to silence that critical inner voice and even transmute it into something positive. Essentially, if you spend time taking care of yourself, your body will be able to return the favor.
Be Kind to Yourself
Treating yourself with kindness when you make a mistake or experience a setback allows you to become more stable emotionally, which can help you better form more positive reasons for experiencing setbacks in life. By being kind to yourself consistently, you will also be able to better enhance your emotional connection to others, as you won't judge them harshly when they make a mistake too.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
Practicing positive self-talk is another way to foster self-compassion and help you overcome self-doubt, especially when taking on new challenges. When you have negative self-talk, you can become your own worst enemy. Remind yourself that your thoughts are not always accurate, and find a way to turn those thoughts into something more positive.
Face Your Fears
One of the best ways to build your confidence is by facing your fears head-on. Instead of avoiding social interactions and opportunities to meet new people, put yourself out there! Join community projects or clubs, maybe even go to public events like sports and festivals. You will learn that being a little anxious and making mistakes doesn't have as bad an outcome as you had thought. Each time you move forward with these new experiences, you will gain more confidence in yourself.
Do Things You're Good At
The belief that you have in your ability to build on your strengths is related to your overall life satisfaction levels. When you do things that you are good at, your confidence increases, and the satisfaction you feel with your life can become greater.
Know When to Say No
It's extremely important to recognize situations for what they are and be able to remove yourself if necessary. Saying no to activities that tend to zap your confidence or upset you is okay. Setting boundaries both socially and emotionally enables you to feel safer psychologically and helps you feel more in control of your life.
Set Realistic Goals
Setting high-reaching goals and failing to achieve them has been found to damage confidence levels severely. Setting smaller goals and viewing them as stepping stones to your ultimate goal will allow you to be more successful and confident when you're able to achieve them. The more you achieve your goals, the greater your confidence in yourself and your abilities will be.
Work on your mental health
Mental health is very closely linked with self-esteem. It might feel harder to cope with setbacks or take the necessary steps to improve your self-esteem if you are already struggling with your day-to-day mental health. Seeing a licensed therapist may help you work through these setbacks.
Improve your social skills
If you're unsure of how to improve your social skills, it may hold you back in social settings. By changing your approach to being more sociable, you can better avoid unnecessary points of friction with others caused by misunderstandings and improve how you're perceived by others. Developing your social skills can help you feel more at home with new people and give you a better sense of belonging - both important things that will affect your mental health, motivation, and ability to succeed.
Finding Your Community
Loneliness has little to do with the actual number of people you're around, and you can be in a room of 50 people and still feel lonely. Being a part of a community is essential for people to experience rich and fulfilling lives. Having a solid community has even been shown to prevent chronic diseases, strengthen mental health, and lower risk factors that are caused by stress. Having a community of people who understand you and cheer you on throughout your highs and lows is easier to find than you may think.
Reach out to groups that align with your hobbies and interests
If you are anxious about putting yourself out there, try first engaging with things you are confident in. For example, if you love to garden, try finding a gardening community project or club. Going with something you know will help you feel more confident, which increases the likelihood of you talking to others.
Reach out to your current friends
Invite your friends to do activities you both want to do, or ask them if you can join in on some of theirs. Your community is waiting for you to find them, but you will need to put in the effort to find them first.
Try to get into a fitness or sports group
Another great way to make new friends and find community is to find a local physical activity group with a lot of members, like a local running club or cycling group. Involving yourself with your local community every day will help enrich your life and familiarize yourself with new people around you.
Find and attend places of worship
A group of people who live by your values and choices is another great place to start when looking for community. Religion is a major way to find a common group of people who think the same way you do and believe in the things you believe in. Talking with these people can often lead to engaging and deep discussions, which can help improve your confidence. While opinions on religion certainly differ, many religious communities can be wonderful places for people to come together and practice kindness, gratitude, and peace.
Find and participate in support groups
If you've been through a trauma, it can be exceedingly difficult to try connecting with people, as they often can't understand what you have been through if they haven't been through the same themselves. Finding support groups is a great way to maneuver through this dilemma. If you find you're struggling to express yourself and open up, support groups can offer a great sense of community and help prevent you from feeling isolated and lonely.
Join advocacy or volunteer groups
If you're passionate about environmental and humanitarian efforts, joining or volunteering for charity groups is a great way to meet similar-thinking people. Joining volunteering efforts has also been shown to fight depression, boost confidence, and even improve physical health.
Join and participate in book clubs and sports leagues
Sport, book, TV show, and geek culture communities are yet another powerful unifier and creator of community. Immersing yourself in these communities can help deepen friendships and provide a lot of opportunities to work on not only your social skills but your teamwork and leadership skills as well.
Learn to start saying yes
Saying yes to things you'd typically be too scared to do is a great way to get comfortable with taking risks and doing things unfamiliar to you. Putting yourself out there and trying new things will often lead to amazing experiences and increased confidence.