Updated: Jul 26, 2022
"Conscience is solid, convicting, and permanently demonstrative; belief is only a matter of opinion, changeable by superior reasoning." Marcus Garvey
Conformity shapes who someone else wants you to be. “The world exists for the education of each man.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Guard your mind against becoming what you think about yourself. Equally important is to determine who influences your thoughts. Your mind records your observations. The things you see and the remarks you hear are synchronized with your behavior.
Sometimes a person shares a thought with you, and the narrative is self-defeating. Instinctively you offer unsolicited guidance. You offer well-intentioned advice, but it doesn't address the source of the person's negative internal dialogue.
The person you are listening to is not the source of the self-defeating negative internal dialogue. Instead, the person is only the host of these thoughts. The source of the negative, self-defeating thoughts is the person(s) who influence the host's thinking.
Indeed, the person is obligated to challenge and reframe their self-defeating narrative. However, be mindful that self-defeating narratives do not develop overnight, and there is no immediate antidote to this type of thinking.
For example, a student is accepted to one of the top-ranked universities in the country. Still, she is anxious about revealing to her family that she was admitted to her first choice university. She is nervous about sharing her university admission so, she keeps it a secret because the university is not her mother's first choice. It is difficult not to empathize with her, but it is best to listen nonjudgmentally at the moment.
Although you may find it appropriate to inform the student, she is an adult and must lead a life that will make her feel whole. Crucially, the student's preferred future is still connected to what her parent wants for her, juxtaposed with what she wants for herself.
You cannot overlook the underlying message in her narrative. Instead, recognize she wants the approval of her family, especially that of her mother. She describes her mother as never seeing the good in anything that did not match her (mother's) view of success.
You may consider the mother's behavior unreasonable. But neglecting the impact of the mom's view on the child's self-confidence ignores the child's need to please her mom. And the effect pleasing her mom has on her sense of self. Ideally, you want to support her in working through the emotions associated with the anxiety she feels about not receiving her mother's approval.
What to do when the source of the negative, self-defeating narrative is a parent? The answer is not straightforward, given the parent is the provider and likely the one paying for the student's education.
The self-limiting thoughts that drive her inner dialogue can change. However, she will have to work on retraining her brain to undo the pattern of ideas that shaped her self-image. She can begin by acknowledging the self-imposed limitations.
Learning to act in the truth of herself is a significant step in changing her inner dialogue and reflecting on her preferred self. Discovering your sense of freedom does not mean that you do not seek feedback when needed. Still, it is a recognition that the final decision about your future is yours to make.
Engage in Socratic dialogue in the first person experience to arrive at potential solutions to your concerns. This dialogue improves your critical thinking and reasoning skills as you attempt to reach a shared understanding of a topic. Thereby cultivating the habit of actively participating in discussions related to your preferred future.
When you say, "don't do that," follow up with "do this instead." Consequently, you practice shifting from a negative to a positive pattern. The pattern shift provides an opportunity for exploring other possibilities. Instead, focus on the action rather than the thought that focuses on the inaction.
Shred the negative, self-defeating script and begin writing a new script with awareness of your automatic thoughts and learning to examine the evidence used in your decision-making.
Stay Naturally Curious