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SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Help Me Stop the Negative Thoughts

I really want to be more positive with myself daily but it never works. I don't have any confidence whatsoever, in school, my body image, my personality, my singing voice etc. I'm guessing I second guess myself all the time because I always try to give myself advice and so does my mother but I just don't listen because it's like I know it's not going to work and I won't improve.

I overthink absolutely everything and I just need help, I compare myself to others almost 24/7. I feel like a weight on my body as if it's like a positive barrier and I feel weak, I feel this sensation mostly on my arms and back, I lost my strength. Please, this has happened for too long and it has completely taken away my happiness and my will to live.

Elder Response

Your situation is not an unusual one, Kayleese. The bad news is, it's extremely uncomfortable. The good news: it's fix-able.

Before you go about taking more steps to help yourself, though, you should definitely check with your doctor. The thoughts and feelings you describe could be symptoms of a physically-based depression. If that's the case, you need medication to re-balance the chemistry of your nervous system. No big deal; just like taking any other sort of medicine to deal with something your body needs help with.

Once that's done, here's what I suggest:

First, sit down with a cup of tea or a coke, all by yourself, and ask yourself a serious question: do I FOR SURE want to change how I think and feel about myself? This isn't as silly as it sounds, so don't just dismiss it with an immediate "of course I do." Think about what would change if you no longer entertained those negative thoughts. How would your relationships change? Your attitude toward school or work? The way you spend your time? Whenever we make a profound change in ourselves, no matter how desirable, there is always a cost. What would be the cost to you of feeling and thinking differently about yourself? Are you sure it would be worth it?

If your answer is "yes, I definitely want to change, no matter what it costs or how difficult it is," then the next step is to put that in the form of a decision: "I am going to do whatever it takes to make myself think and feel better about me."

Then, make a list of what you would rather be thinking, instead of the negative things you tell yourself now. Why? Because it's almost impossible to "stop" doing something. What is possible is to replace the thing you don't want with something you do want. So, for instance, just trying to stop telling yourself "I can't sing worth a darn" is very, very hard. But you can, every time you catch yourself thinking that thought, switch to "My voice is good, and it's getting better." You may not believe the new self-talk, but you can still say it. Having a list of desirable thoughts, all ready to go, gives you ammunition for your battle against negativity.

So, every single time a negative thought pops up, stop, give yourself a mental compliment for recognizing it, and then tell yourself one of the things on the list. You almost for sure won't believe the new thing, and that's okay. There's a part of you, deep down in the unconscious part of your brain, that will hear and respond to what you're saying. Say it out loud if you're alone; focus your thoughts on the words and what they mean if you're around other people.

There will be several benefits from this practice, though you won't notice them for a few weeks or so. First, you will know that you are doing something to get better -- you're not just a helpless victim of your emotions. That alone will add to your sense of self-confidence. Second, the new thoughts will gradually become a part of your mental vocabulary. They'll become more familiar. And as that happens, you will actually begin to believe them. You'll find them more reasonable than the old lies you've been telling yourself. And your emotions will follow your thoughts: as you begin to be able to see yourself as you actually are, the sadness and pain will begin to fade.

Kayleese, this may sound so simple that it's actually silly. Let me warn you: sticking to this program is simple, but it's not easy. You'll probably find yourself thinking "this is so dumb, and it's never going to make any difference." (That's another bit of negative self-talk that needs to be recognized and replaced.) You'll get discouraged, you'll get tired of the whole thing. It will take determination, and stubbornly sticking with that decision, to break the negative thoughts habit. Probably, right at the top of your list of desirable thoughts/feelings, should be "I can do this."

And you can, my dear. It won't happen overnight, and you will have to make a conscious effort to keep up the replacement process even when you find yourself backsliding. But it is do-able, and hundreds of people have done it and have changed their lives. I hope you'll be one of them, because you certainly deserve to live a better life than the one you have described to me.

So good luck, and hang in there -- and I hope you'll write back and let me know how you're doing. I'll be thinking of you, and sending you all the good vibes I can --



Letter ID Letter Title
401372 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Nervous About Asking a Boy to a Dance
401216 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Rough Past and No Family Support
401181 FRIENDSHIP: Upset About Friend's Lack of Manners
401175 FAMILY: Is It Wrong To Keep My Pregancy Secret From Family?
401122 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: My Ex Was My Entire Support System
400858 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Heart Isn't In It, But Feel Obligated to Try
400833 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Help Me Stop the Negative Thoughts
400783 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Why Did He Leave Me? How Do I Get Him Back?
400685 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: His sexual history bothers me
400653 FAMILY: Selfish, Self-Centered Sister
400651 MARRIAGE: Husband Sending Nude Pics to Other Men
400614 OTHER: Trans Woman Tired of Living a Lie
400176 FAMILY: Worried My Little Sister Is Cutting Herself
400175 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Is this love or friendship?
400174 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Serious n00b in need of advice
400162 CAREER: Office Gossip
400145 SCHOOL: How Can I Motivate Students Who Do Not Seem To Care?
400120 SCHOOL: Feeling Unmotivated and Disappointed in Myself
400114 FAMILY: Do I Have to Reconcile with Grandma?
400113 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Boyfriend is Friends with My Enemy
400097 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: My Moral Compass Is Breaking
399985 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: How Can I Avoid the Friend Zone?
399895 FINANCE: Spend Money to Repay Friend on Take a Sorely Needed Vacation?
399879 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: The Guilt Is Weighing On My Chest
399826 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: I think I may have an eating disorder
399823 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Feeling Targeted Because of My Race
399734 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Apparently Everything Is My Fault
399719 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Still Not Over Her And It's Been Six Months
399673 FRIENDSHIP: Torn Between Betraying Trust and Helping My Friend
399580 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Her Parent Don't Want Her to Date Me Because I'm Black
398270 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: She's Holding On To A Gift From Her Ex
398242 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Will It Always Be Heartache and BS?
398223 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Relationship - and my life - is deteriorating
398188 FRIENDSHIP: Best Friend Is Pulling Away From Me
398181 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Which Boy to Choose?
398092 CAREER: Single Mom Having Trouble Finding Work
397847 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: My crush is into someone else
397797 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Don't Want to Stay in This Limbo
397746 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Old Flame or Current Boyfriend?
397717 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Wracked with Guilt from Sleeping Around
397630 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Feeling Stuck In Relationship Due to Money
397626 CAREER: Can Majoring in Philosophy Lead to a Career?
397595 OTHER: Help - My Girlfriend is Depressed and Cutting
397590 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Should I Keep Trying to Connect with My Tinder Match?
397506 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Can This Online, Long-Distance Relationship Work?
397472 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Have a Broken Heart of Confusion
397466 FRIENDSHIP: Think I'm Going to Be Left Out by Two Best Friends
397448 FAMILY: Want to Tell All Family I'm Transgender and Invite Them to My Wedding
397381 FRIENDSHIP: Is This Friendship Worth Saving?
397377 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Caught Him with Another Girl
397326 MARRIAGE: Husband Mistakenly Thinks I Planned to Cheat
397236 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Feeling Overwhelmed by Meetings, Classes, and Demands
396216 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Help Me Communicate With People
396161 FAMILY: Having Trouble Accepting That I'm Adopted
396142 CAREER: How to Choose a Career Path?
396095 MARRIAGE: Broken Marriage, Broken Dreams
396078 FRIENDSHIP: Feeling Excluded By Friends
396048 OTHER: How to Say an Embarrassing Thing Without Embarrassing the Person
395288 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Cruel Words Are Stuck In My Head
395130 FRIENDSHIP: Fifth Wheel Is Derailing Our Group Friendship
395127 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: He Wants to Be Friends with Benefits
395111 FAMILY: Feel Like Mom is Choosing Her New Husband Over Me
395044 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Boyfriend Still On A Dating Site
395005 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: No Luck On Dating Sites
394948 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Become More Than Friends with a Man-Whore?
394474 FRIENDSHIP: Can This Friendship Be Repaired?
394398 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Failing college and looking for passion
394359 OTHER: Neighbor Has Me Worried for My Family's Safety
394322 CHILDREN: Daughter Doesn't Know I'm Her Biological Father
394218 FRIENDSHIP: Best Friend Is Mad At Me Over Untrue Rumor
394215 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Is Third Time the Charm?
394213 SCHOOL: People Make Me Feel Like a Loser
394119 FAMILY: Who do I take to show - Hubby or Son?
394116 FAMILY: Worried My Brother's Wife Is Ruining My Nephew
394001 FAMILY: Mom Won't Let Me Date Until College!
393948 OTHER: How Cold Is Too Cold for a Dog?
393702 CHILDREN: Behavior Problems
393553 FAMILY: Haven't Heard From Dad, And Am Concerned
393496 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Feeling Torn About Ending Our Relationship
393488 FRIENDSHIP: How to Make Friends In Your 30s?
393458 FRIENDSHIP: How can I move on?
393444 FRIENDSHIP: Friendship Since Kindergarten BROKEN!
393431 FRIENDSHIP: Cruel Words From Someone I Thought Was My Friend
393398 CHILDREN: How Hard Is It Being a Single Mom?
393038 SCHOOL: Classmate Is Blackmailing Me
392978 FAMILY: Should I Let Mom Live With Me After Her Rehab?
392973 CAREER: Feeling Stuck In Work I Hate
392935 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Great First Date, Then She Dumped Me
392919 FAMILY: Brother-In-Law Stealing From Me
392797 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Arguing About Every Little Thing
392415 FRIENDSHIP: Grown Apart
392169 FAMILY: Tell Dad That Mom Is Cheating?
392162 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Still In Love With Ex, But Dating Someone Else
392140 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Scared of the Future
391978 FAMILY: Why is my little sister so bratty?!
391906 OTHER: Charity Registry for a Wedding?
391619 CAREER: Go Back to Old Job, Or Keep Trying for New Job?
391607 MARRIAGE: Worried His Explosive Anger Will Turn Into Abuse
391362 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Work Anxiety and Low Self-Esteem
391248 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: In a Break-Up-Make-Up Cycle
391155 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Is Exercise Worth My Time?
390828 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Focus on My Relationship or Myself?
390754 SCHOOL: Community College or University?
390749 OTHER: Should I Keep the Lie Going?
390738 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Boyfriend Keeps Bringing Up My Weight
390619 FRIENDSHIP: Friend Is Involved with Married Woman
390384 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Can't Stop Thinking About Ex
390293 SCHOOL: Coach Is Picking on Me
390167 FRIENDSHIP: Feel Stupid For Staying Friends With Her
390107 SCHOOL: How Can I Make My Classmates More United?
390040 FAMILY: Parents Won't Let Me Talk to My BF
389840 DATING/RELATIONSHIP: Dating 5 Guys At Once Is Stressful
389824 FAMILY: Mother and Sister Don't Approve of My Fiance
389665 OTHER: Grieving A Man I Loved
389229 SCHOOL: Nervous About Public Speaking In Class
389220 FAMILY: Sister-In-Law Is Horrible, Must I Attend Her Funeral?
389190 FAMILY: Religion Is Causing Family Problems
389152 CHILDREN: Losing Our Minds From Two-Year Old Crying
388532 OTHER: Torn Between My Bisexuality and My Christian Faith
388531 FRIENDSHIP: Does my friend care?
388530 CHILDREN: Motherhood in a May/December Marriage?
388482 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: How Can Be Less Quick to Anger?
388477 MARRIAGE: Think I Married the Wrong Guy!
388397 FRIENDSHIP: Worried Friend's Fiance Isn't Good for Him
388355 FAMILY: My Parents Are Homophobic
388236 FAMILY: Family trying to control me
387757 FAMILY: Telling My Family I'm a Lesbian
387743 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: I Keep Reliving the Trauma
387669 FAMILY: Help Me Help My Depressed Brother
387478 FAMILY: My Dysfunctional Family is Ruining my Relationship
387031 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Want to Connect with People Better
384869 CAREER: Should I Distance Myself From Co-workers?
384862 MARRIAGE: Worried Wife Is Not Attracted to Me
384737 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Quitting Bad Eating Habits
384684 FAMILY: Should I Cut Mom Out of My Life?
384658 FRIENDSHIP: Living with a difficult friend
384654 MARRIAGE: Husband Wants a Separation
384198 MARRIAGE: I Don't Think I Love My Husband
384153 FAMILY: Help Mom or Pursue College and Work?
383956 FAMILY: Dating Behind Mom's Back Because She's Anti-Gay
383566 MARRIAGE: She Wants Time Apart
383264 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Have No Idea What I Want to Do With My Life
383253 CAREER: Unsure What Direction to Take
383066 SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Anxiety Is Holding Me Back
382140 MARRIAGE: Attracted to Another Man
380993 MARRIAGE: I Messed Up
379272 FINANCE: Loaning Money to Others Leaves Nothing for Me
378780 FINANCE: Struggling to Save for an Apartment



“ Just to have someone hear me, understand and BE there was priceless.

- "John," Advice Seeker




“ What a lovely, helpful letter which I will read again and again... Your expert help is much appreciated.

- "Gillian," Advice Seeker




“ I feel relieved and better able to do the right thing now... Thank you for providing a gentle sense of direction for me.

- "Deb," Advice Seeker

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