Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Want to Silence Self-Defeating Thoughts? Ask my new friends Oprah and Brené!

Our next door neighbor brought over homemade pumpkin-bread yesterday afternoon. Her kind gesture was deeply appreciated because in addition to the beautifully wrapped (still warm) bread, she brought along her 2-year-old son.

We adore this child. He’s not only cute as a button, he has the kind of smile that’s infectious. I defy anyone to resist smiling back when a little one offers a wide grin revealing the few teeth that popped through their gums.

However, after years of babysitting and engaging with countless nieces, nephews and kids of friends, I’ve learned the hard way, behind the smile of a cherub lurks incessant “pay attention to me” behavior.

In the last 12 years or so, I’ve done a lot of self-discovery work. I’ve come to realize how very similar this toddler-like behavior is to the judgmental, negative “gremlin” thinking that sometimes cycle my mind.

These tricky little manipulative thought-monsters love to dance and sing about why I’m a failure, unworthy, or not smart enough, and that I should feel ashamed of myself for not being fully in control of my life. Worse yet, they seem to get louder when I’m about to achieve something I’m afraid I’ll fail at doing.

Years ago I’d welcome a glass of wine to take the edge off, then quickly pour another to assure I’d drown out the chatter. Or, to feel in control, I’d pull out all the stops to assure the scale reflected confirmation I was a success.

Those aren’t options for me anymore when I’m in the throes of self-criticism; when I’m both the attacker and the attacked. One minute I’m using criticism as a motivator and the next I’m falling victim to the idea of running in the other direction.

Lately I’ve been struggling to ignore silent messages relentlessly marking me incapable of doing the work surrounding the book I’m writing. I’ve tried talking with others moving through similar author-type issues and those who know me best. While I appreciate all the input and supportive words, I still feel less than brave.

So you can imagine my excitement when I read about the livestream taping of Oprah’s Life Class with Brené Brown, author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead.  I clicked the link and wouldn’t you know, they were talking about what to do when that “gremlin” thinking starts to creep in.

I could hardly contain myself as I feverishly took notes, drinking in everything they said. I listened intently as Brené Brown talked about combating mental self-defeating messages which seem to get louder the closer you get to what you’re after.

My ears really perked up when Oprah asked those in the social media audience to submit questions for live discussion. Although nervous, I pulled up Twitter, gave my best shot at crafting the 140-character question I craved to have answered, took a deep breath and hit the “Tweet” button.

When I clicked back to the livestream my heart just about stopped when I heard Ms. Winfrey herself say my name!

Offering a heartfelt, thorough response, Brené and Oprah helped me recognize there are ways to push against negative thinking and move closer to my authentic self. I will take their suggestions to inch ever closer to believing I’m far more capable of doing that which I fear I cannot. I will conduct a “reality check” about self-defeating thoughts and if I can’t invalidate them on my own, I’ll reach out to someone I trust and ask for space to talk through what brings me shame.

I hope the question I asked and the answer provided benefited others who took part in Oprah’s Life Class.  I appreciated being part of an empowering global conversation, reminding me once again I’m definitely not alone.


A Moment to Breathe …

What gremlin thoughts are lurking in your mind?  What evidence do you have to prove their validity?  If you need help to relinquish their paralyzing grip, pick up the phone and call a friend.  Ask for five minutes to talk about what brings you such self-doubt.  Remember, the best antidote for shame is empathy and that’s something we can never have enough of!    

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2 thoughts on “Want to Silence Self-Defeating Thoughts? Ask my new friends Oprah and Brené!

  1. Nice post! Yeah, those self-defeating negative self-talk thoughts can be so damaging. A lot of times they are so persistent and consistent that they become background noise and we don’t realize those thoughts are there – or how much harm they are inflicting!

    • Thanks for your kind words Christine! You’re absolutely right, that negative self-talk can be extremely harmful mostly because of how the words keep me from becoming my best self. Appreciate your support of my message.

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