We all have lies we tell ourselves. These lies come from negative patterns of thinking. This can be due to comments people have made to us, what we grew up hearing, what societal pressures are placed on us, and a variety of other reasons. It is important to recognize what we call “stuck points,” or negative thoughts we have that are rooted in our pattern of thinking. Where did these thoughts come from? How long have these thoughts existed? Are you feeding the negative thoughts, causing them to grow? The most common negative thoughts are:
- I am ugly.
- I am fat.
- Nobody loves me.
- I am not good enough.
- I am unhappy/miserable.
I have had conversations with friends and clients who have been stuck in many of these patterns of thinking. Even my younger self felt the pressure to somehow be a different me because the person I was at the time didn’t seem to be good enough.
Growing up in cultures that place so much emphasis on looks, it’s hard to know where to fit in and how we can be accepted as we are. I was always told things like, “If only you lost weight, you would be pretty!” or “If you were thinner, you would be able to find a husband.” and even “Go straighten your hair!” (since my hair is naturally curly). These, and other comments like them, made me feel like I needed to look like a generic barbie doll in order to be loved and accepted by my friends and family and, of course, a future husband. I happen to think the curly haired Meira is pretty awesome, and every day is a work in progress to be healthy and active.
It’s true, when the whisper of the Shaytan (Devil) takes over and these negative thoughts persist, it seems like it is never going to go away. It finally dawned on me one day when my dear friend made a helpful observation. She said, “Would we ever call our friends or family fat, ugly, stupid, or other hurtful comments? Then why is it that we tell ourselves these hurtful statements?”
It occurred to me that we are programmed to be so harsh with ourselves due to all of the negative energy that is around us. It takes maturity, wisdom, and strength to get out of that negative way of thinking and on to healthier, more positive patterns of thinking.
Instead of repeating those negative statements, how can they be re-framed into positive ways of thinking?
- I’m ugly – By whose standards do we feel ugly? God created each of us in our own unique way, and standards of beauty are not universal. Some people prefer lighter hair, some people prefer darker. Some people wish they were taller, and some people wish they were shorter. Each of us have things that perhaps we wish we could change, but first, we must accept ourselves as we are and the way God created us. I happen to believe you are a beautiful human being.
Say instead: “I am beautiful and wonderful and unique. There is only one ME.”
- I am fat – Rather than looking at ourselves as “fat” or “skinny” how about we look at ourselves as healthy? The fact that you are alive and you have the ability to make the conscious decision to make healthier choices such as eating better, exercising, replacing soda with water, and getting more sleep, means you still have power to change your situation. There are many people with a negative outlook on their body image and that can lead to health problems, so it is important to understand whether or not our negative thought patterns are leading to healthy or unhealthy behaviors.
Say instead: “I am alive and every day I have a choice to improve my health.”
- Nobody loves me – The One who created you loves you more than any human being walking on this earth does, and once we really get to the place where we are open to God’s love and the love of our family and friends, we will notice there is more love in our life than we ever thought possible. We always assume that love is equated with romantic love, and that if we don’t have a significant other, then we are somehow less worthy of love.
Say instead: “I am so loved, at this very moment, and I am open to love.”
- I am not good enough – When we have challenges in life, it can lead to even more negative patterns of thinking which can make us feel like failures. Perhaps you are going through a difficult life situation such as not getting the job you applied for or not getting accepted into a school you applied to. Perhaps you feel rejected by people. Or perhaps you just feel stuck in life. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe God is redirecting you to something else? Everyone has a purpose and some place they are meant to shine. The key is to find the places and people who make you feel like you belong. This will help you have a more resilient outlook and an overall better sense of well-being.
Say instead: “I am more than enough, I deserve all the good things in life.”
- I am unhappy/miserable – Although you may be unhappy at the moment, think about what you can choose to be happy about at this very moment? There is always something to be thankful for, no matter what. Even if your situation is difficult and it is not turning out the way you thought it would, you can always turn to the things that make you happy to help you get out of the funk. For some people, that could be spending time in nature, spending time with certain people who make them laugh, or even taking extra time to pray and read Quran. Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace.
Say instead: “There is always something to be happy about and thankful for.”
It takes practice and a lot of conscious effort to stop our negative thought patterns in their tracks and reroute them to more positive ones. Pay attention to your thoughts and be mindful. When you have negative thoughts, replace them with positive ones. Look in the mirror and tell yourself at least 3 positive things each day, even if it seems silly or forced, because eventually it will become more natural. One suggestion that I heard from a friend, is to set your alarm three times a day to stop and think about only positive thoughts for a full minute.
Whatever you need to do to work on changing negative thoughts into positive ones will be worth it. You will learn to love yourself more and will be more fun to be around because you’ll radiate so much positivity, it will inevitably seep into all parts of your life.
Stay positive, stay inspired.