We are all hardwired to repeat certain ‘learned’ behaviours. We may pick these behaviours up when we’re growing up or through repetition throughout our lives. If our parents repeatedly told us to be quiet, we may go through life finding it difficult to express ourselves vocally. If we experienced a lot of failures in adolescence, such as poor grades or bad relationships, we could end up feeling that we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes .
Here’s the thing though, you’re not doomed. You’re just stuck in a repeated pattern of negative behaviour, triggered by your ‘learned’ responses to previous situations. It’s difficult to break a cycle. In some ways it’s the same as having an addiction.
Your brain has been programmed to respond to a situation in a certain, prescribed way through learned behaviour. If every time you’ve had a bad day at work, the first thing you do is pour a drink, then chances are that the next time that happens, you will do it again. If every time you are criticised at work, you respond in an aggressive manner, then it’s no surprise that you respond in the same way if challenged.
In today’s blog, we’re going to look at ways in which you can break the cycle and change your behaviours for the better. We all want to lead positive, successful lives but it’s easy to fall in to patterns that are detrimental to our prosperity and wellbeing. Learning to re-programme your psychological triggers can be difficult but it’s not impossible and we’re here to give you some tips on how to start.
Put Your Inner Critic on Mute
We all have a little voice inside our heads that judges us on the way we act and reminds us of everything that could go wrong if we go after the things we really want in life. If you’ve grown up without a lot of positive reinforcement, your inner critic may be louder than others as it reminds you of the same criticisms you had directed at you as a child. Although we can try and ignore that voice in our heads, it seems to always be there so what can we do to stop it from impeding us?
Try imagining saying some of the things you tell yourself to someone that you care about. What would they say if you constantly put them down or belittled their dreams? They would be shocked and most likely, quite angry with you. So why do you think that treating yourself in such a poor manner is acceptable? It isn’t.
No one can be as mean to us as we are to ourselves. We’re our own biggest critics. In order to try and give your inner critic a positive makeover, try reframing every negative thought that pops into your head. When you think ‘I’m going to fail’, try reframing that thought to, ‘I’m going to succeed but if I do fail, it won’t stop me from trying again’.
If you are faced with having a tricky conversation that makes you feel nervous then try imagining having that conversation in your head as a positive exchange. Ditching our inner critics is not an easy task but with enough practice and preparation we can turn that negative critic into a positive cheerleader and reap the benefits of having a more positive frame of mind.
Self-care isn’t selfish – it’s survival. Looking after yourself mentally and physically should always be at the top of your to-do list. If you have poor self-esteem or a negative view of yourself then you need to work doubly hard to regain your confidence in the power of ‘you’.
Try reminding yourself on a daily basis of just how much value you have and how important you are to the people around you. Look in the mirror and give yourself 3 positive compliments every morning. These could range from positive thoughts about your attributes like, ‘You are a good listener’ to things that you have done like, ‘I always help my friends out when they need me’.
Building up a ‘bank’ of positive thoughts about yourself in your head will help you to learn to love and appreciate yourself, growing your confidence along the way. Also, if you have things that you enjoy doing, take the time to practice them as both a form of self-love and as a way to build up your skills and strengths in that area. Recognising that you are ‘good’ at something will go a long way in helping you to love yourself.
Stop Avoiding Difficult Situations
Conflict can often affect people in very different ways. Some people love to have a good argument whilst others can’t think of anything worse and will actively try to avoid it at all costs. However, avoiding conflict and difficult situations will not make the situation better in the long run.
Early memories of fear and anger can make us shrink away from any form of confrontation, particularly if you had parents who argued in front of you when you were a child. Our natural childlike state is to fear loud noises and disruptions to our routines as it threatens the ‘safety’ of our environment and upsets our status quo. Carrying this fear over into adulthood can stunt your development and have a negative affect on your long-term relationships.
The best thing to do if you find conflict difficult is to practice your reactions. Prepare yourself by picturing the kinds of situations that make you uneasy and imagine how you’re going to react to them. If you have to have a difficult conversation with a partner then imagine how the conversation will go and picture the kinds of responses you believe you will get.
It’s only by biting the bullet and actually having the difficult conversation that you will be able to move past your fear and your tendency to avoid. As with all things in life, you can’t guarantee the outcome but there is no point in you being miserable when you can face your fears and ultimately make your life better as a result.
Trust in Yourself
Learning to trust your instincts is an important part of self-development. If you’ve gone through life having the majority of your decisions made for you, it may be difficult to start making them for yourself. If you haven’t been allowed to make any mistakes, you don’t have a reason to trust your own judgement.
Although it may seem daunting, it is only through experience that we can learn to trust ourselves and establish our own core beliefs. Rather than looking for someone else’s judgement to provide you with direction, you need to start exploring your own choices. You need to establish your own core beliefs and values in order to repair any issues you have with trust; starting with yourself.
We hope that we have given you some food for thought on how to change your negative behaviours. Change is always difficult but it’s not impossible. It’s never too late to start living the life you want, you just have to take the first step.