Tag Archives: perfectionism

Do You Feel Like an Underdog?

Underdog

Harry Potter. Katniss Everdeen. The Chicago Cubs.

These are a few of the underdogs many of us have rooted for. (OK, if you’re a Cleveland Indians fan, you weren’t rooting for the Cubs, but millions of people were!) They are people who seem to have the deck stacked against them, but who persevere anyway.

Why do we love underdogs?  One idea is that we believe life should be fair, which leads us to favor the underdog. Underdogs are also perceived to work harder than their rivals. A team or entity that seems likely to lose is not, however, championed as an underdog if it has a lot of money or other resources. (retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2007/12/24/why-do-we-root-for-the-underdog/1699.html) That last statement might have thrown the Cubs’ underdog status in doubt, as they clearly had lots of resources at their disposal. Still, 108 years without a World Series win carried a lot of weight! [I will also say, as a side note, that it seems the statement excludes a certain presidential candidate from underdog status.]

I think another reason we root for the underdog is that we can readily identify with him or her. Of course, there are people who are used to success and expect to win, but many of us don’t. In fact, a person can easily feel like an underdog even when she isn’t one, just because she’s used to that mindset. I think experiences of being “one down,” particularly in childhood when we’re at our most impressionable, translate into a lifelong feeling of being an underdog. There is still a part of us that identifies with the powerless child we once were.

It’s no coincidence that characters like Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen are children fighting adults. This accentuates the seeming futility of their quests. Knowing how these stories go, we expect them to win in the end, but that doesn’t stop us from being afraid that they won’t. In cheering for them, we also cheer for ourselves and our own chances to triumph.

What are some of the challenges that you face? Do you believe that you can prevail, as you believe the novels’ protagonists (or the baseball team) can, or do you feel like you’re not good enough to rise to the challenge?

I’ve written before about Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs. These ANTs tell you that you won’t come out on top. For instance, if you own a business, you question the worthiness of your product or service and wonder why anyone would want to pay you for it. If you aren’t self-employed, you feel “less than” other employees and assume someone else will always get the big project, promotion, etc.  If you’re on an online dating site, you figure that your profile will be overlooked by anyone worth dating.

The thing about ANTs is that they’re usually exaggerated or false; if there is some truth to them, there’s often something that can be done about it.

The next time you find yourself assuming you’re going to be the loser in a situation, step back and look again. Look at yourself as if you’re a friend who’s on the outside looking in. What are the chances that you’re right? Is there any truth at all to your belief? If there is, can you do something to improve your chances?

If you’re a business owner, look at your business history. Unless you’ve just started your business, I’ll assume you have succeeded in finding at least one customer or client, probably many of them. What was it that attracted them to you? Is that point of attraction still there? What can you do to make your product or service even more appealing? There’s nothing more empowering than finding specific actions that will help you to improve your chances of success.

If you’re worried that you won’t be assigned a big project or get a promotion at work, remind yourself of what has happened in the past. Have you been assigned projects or gotten promotions in the past? If so, did you rise to the challenge and do a good job? If you did, chances are good that you will continue to succeed and get noticed by your employer. Success breeds success, right? If, on the other hand, you haven’t been assigned big projects or gotten promotions (and there are projects and/or promotions to be had), or they haven’t gone well, look at what you can do to change that. Can you get more training? Can you speak up more on your own behalf? Can you take some initiative to show what you can do? If it doesn’t feel like you’re getting anywhere in your current job, can you consider looking for another job?

And regarding online dating…as I tell my clients, there are lots of potential partners out there, and you only need to find one. What are the chances that there isn’t even one person with whom you are compatible? (Here come the ANTs again…take a moment to stomp on them. Look at this situation from the perspective of one of your friends. Would he or she say that there’s no one out there for you? Probably not!)

How will you rise to the challenge today (or maybe tomorrow)?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

 

Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel.

family-separated

In my last post, I wrote about the “committee” meeting inside a person’s head; the committee is composed of all of the critical voices that bring us down and make us question ourselves. The committee is at its most powerful when we don’t talk to other people about our negative thoughts. People who grew up in dysfunctional households typically have very strong committees. The committee thrives on the three main rules in a dysfunctional family, which are “Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel.”

First let’s look at “Don’t talk.” Members of a dysfunctional family don’t usually talk about anything important because it feels dangerous. If they talk about things below the surface, they might end up talking about Dad’s alcoholism or Mom’s verbal abuse. If they don’t talk about these things, they might be able to pretend they don’t exist.

Family members don’t talk to others about what’s going on, either, because it’s all a big secret. If it’s too dangerous to talk about things in the family, it’s even more dangerous to share them outside of the family. A dysfunctional family is very invested in making things look perfect on the outside, no matter what’s really going on. This brings us to the second rule.

The second rule that dysfunctional families follow is “Don’t trust.” Let’s say the father is an alcoholic. It’s likely that no one in the family trusts him because his behaviors are erratic, based upon whether he’s been drinking. He, in turn, doesn’t trust anyone else in the family, because they’re probably critical of his drinking, making him feel attacked.

Each member of the family feels some level of responsibility for what’s going wrong, which leads to a deep sense of shame. This shame contributes to the family’s isolation from the rest of the world. Who really wants to talk about something they’re ashamed of? It’s unfortunate that this leads to distrust of others, because people outside of the family can be helpful. They aren’t part of the family dysfunction, so they can offer a different perspective and resources that family members don’t have and probably can’t even imagine.

The third rule is “Don’t feel.” If you grow up in a dysfunctional family, you learn that your feelings usually don’t matter. Sure, you’re allowed to act happy, like nothing’s wrong. But it’s not likely that you’ll be encouraged to express feelings of sadness or fear. Expressing these things might seem to your parents to be indicators of what’s wrong in the family, and they can’t have that! Plus, they’re probably too wrapped up in their own worries to be concerned about yours. It’s also unlikely that you’ll be encouraged to express feelings of anger, particularly towards your parents. And don’t forget that sharing feelings can make you vulnerable to others; this is certainly not a comfortable thing in an environment where it feels like it’s every person for him- or herself.

What happens when you stop expressing your feelings? You lose track of them entirely! I start every session of my “Discovering ‘Normal’” counseling group with a feelings check. After a lifetime of ignoring feelings, it’s hard for group members to identify what they’re feeling, so I give them a chance to practice that in group. Remember that, as uncomfortable as so-called “negative”* feelings are, we need to feel them in order to be able to feel the “positive” feelings. It’s a package deal; you can’t feel one end of the spectrum without also feeling the other.

Did you learn these three rules in childhood? Are you still following them today? If so, what can you do to change that?

 

*I often tell my clients that there are no “positive” or “negative” feelings. There are only feelings that are more or less comfortable. All feelings are needed, even sadness and anger, and all feelings can be put to positive, as well as negative, uses. Think, for instance, of the women whose anger at losing their children to drunk drivers led them to form MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers). They used the energy of their anger in a positive, life affirming, way.

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

Your Mind Is a Dangerous Place

Committee signs

“Your mind is a dangerous place. Don’t go in there alone.”—author unknown

For several years I worked at Chrysalis House, a residential treatment center in Crownsville, MD for women with addictions. Chrysalis House residents who spent significant amounts of time by themselves were regularly warned of the danger of “isolating.” Many of them had a problem with this, as they felt a need for time away from the other 20+ plus residents of the house. How were they to tell the difference between healthy solitude and “isolating?”

The difference, I think, lies in what is going on inside a person’s head when she’s alone. Twelve step groups speak of the “committee” meeting, meaning that a person’s unhealthy thoughts are getting the better of her. The committee causes isolation; solitude alone does not. Isolation, therefore, can happen even when a person is surrounded by other people.

What does the committee tell you? Nothing good! Here are some of the messages you may get from your committee:

“You’re not good enough.”

“You’re going to fail.”

“Nobody likes you.”

“You’re unlovable.”

“You’re on your own.”

“You don’t have the right to exist.”

You’re not [thin, smart, rich…] enough.”

Do any of those sound familiar?

The committee plays a significant role in anxiety and depression. One reason that depression and anxiety tend to persist is that we use our minds to understand our world. If you are dealing with anxiety or depression, your means of perceiving and interacting with the world is filtered through negative thoughts and feelings. This is the committee at work.

A great way to defy the committee is to get an outside perspective, possibly from a family member, a friend, a therapist, or a member of the clergy. He or she will be able to look at your situation more objectively and help you to see the flaws in your internal logic. If you are self-critical, talking to someone who cares about you will help to cut the committee down to size.

The committee uses a variety of techniques, often called cognitive distortions, to make you feel inadequate or just plain wrong. These cognitive distortions can also be called Automatic Negative Thoughts, or ANTs. There are different types of ANTs, including mind reading; fortune telling/catastrophizing; a negative mental filter; maximizing and minimizing; and all or nothing/black and white thinking. For more information on ANTs and how to “stomp” on them, sign up for my free “Don’t Believe Everything You Think” e-course by filling out the form on this page.

Are You For Real?

A Little Girl  In  Women's  High Heel  Shoes

Some of my clients feel like impostors who will be found out at any moment. They feel like they aren’t really as good as other people think they are, and it’s only a matter of time until the illusion is shattered and their lives fall apart. These people are highly competent and are by no means coasting and pretending to be someone they’re not. So why would they feel this way?

The answer comes from childhood. If a child deals with certain kinds of family dysfunction, she is forced to grow up prematurely. Possible sources of this dysfunction include parental alcoholism, drug addiction, chronic mental or physical illness, or narcissism. Having a parent who is absent physically or emotionally can create this dynamic, as well. Having a chronically physically or mentally ill sibling can produce similar results.

So if you’re a kid in a family like this, you realize you’re on your own. Your physical needs for food, clothing, and shelter may be met, but your emotional needs will not. It’s more likely that you’ll find yourself trying to meet a parent’s emotional needs, which is an impossible task.

What does this lead to? It usually leads to a kid who is very mature for her age. She is like an adult in a child’s body. As she grows up, she will probably be seen as someone who has it all together. She will be really good at taking care of problems and of other people; taking care of herself, on the other hand, will feel selfish. And heaven forbid that someone else try to take care of her!

This child grows up physically and takes on more responsibility in the world, but she’s still emotionally a child. Instead of being an adult in a child’s body, she becomes a child in an adult’s body. This is the reason for her feeling like an impostor. While she looks and acts like an adult, she feels like a little kid pretending to be an adult.

If you’re one of these people, the good news is that you’re not actually an impostor. While you are not grown up emotionally, the rest of you is grown up. You actually can do the things that others think you can. What you need to do is to reassure the part of you that is a child (your “inner child”) that you, the adult, are in charge, and she doesn’t need to worry about anything.

It may seem weird to think about a child inside of you, but everyone has an inner child. Treat this inner child like you would an actual physical child. You wouldn’t expect a child to take on adult responsibilities, would you? I hope not! That’s what happened to you when you were growing up, and it wasn’t good for you. You can treat your inner child the way you should have been treated when you were a kid, by making sure she is only responsible for what is reasonable for her. Your adult self can handle the rest.

There are many good books that can teach you more about inner child work, including John Bradshaw’s Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, Charles L. Whitfield, MD’s Healing the Child Within: Discovery and Recovery for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families, and Cathryn L. Taylor’s The Inner Child Workbook: What to Do With Your Past When It Just Won’t Go AwayMy book “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself also includes inner child work.

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

Adult Role Plays

Angry Woman Yelling At Husband

If you think you’ve escaped the role(s) you played growing up in your dysfunctional family, think again! Unless you’ve deliberately worked on escaping these unhealthy patterns, you are no doubt repeating them in adulthood or even taking on new ones.

A quick review from my last post: the roles in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family are the chief enabler (generally a spouse), the family hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, and the mascot. If you haven’t read that post, you may want to look at it so you know what these roles entail.

Many adult children of alcoholics unintentionally marry alcoholics themselves. They unconsciously see something familiar in their prospective partners. They tend not to notice red flags early in the relationship that indicate that they are involved with someone who is probably an alcoholic. They may eventually find themselves falling into the role their mother or father once played, that of the chief enabler. If you’re in this role, you may make excuses for your partner’s drinking, try to control his/her drinking, do your best to make the family look functional to the outside world, and feel resentful about everything you do because of your partner’s problem.

If, while growing up, you were the family hero, you have probably carried perfectionism and high achievement into adulthood. This gets you praise, promotions, and other kudos, but you probably still feel inadequate. It’s likely you think that if people only knew the real you, they wouldn’t admire and like you so much.

If you were the scapegoat, you may have internalized the idea that you were bad and that you were responsible for everything that went wrong. If you continue that role as an adult, you will still identify yourself as a problem. This may show up in different ways; you might be an alcoholic or drug addict, or you may even get in trouble with the law. But being a scapegoat doesn’t have to be this extreme. You may, for instance, marry someone who constantly criticizes you, triggering those familiar feelings from when you were growing up. You may also attract critical attention at work or elsewhere. This serves to reinforce the negative image you already have of yourself.

If you were the lost child, you probably continue to try to be invisible even as an adult. At work, you may not speak up even when you have good ideas. You may marry someone who is domineering, with you disappearing in his shadow. You probably go along to get along, agreeing with friends, family members, and coworkers in order to avoid making waves. You do your best to maintain peace.

If you were the mascot, you may be very outgoing, someone who is well-liked by many because of your charms. You love being the center of attention and make an excellent party host or hostess. You’re happy to share ideas at work and in personal situations, because you are confident that they will be well-received. You are not likely to be willing to acknowledge the bad or difficult aspects of life.

Which of these roles have you played in adulthood? Are they the same or different than the ones you played growing up? What do you like about your role(s), and what would you like to change?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

Role Plays

Father Sits On Sofa With Children Smoking And Drinking

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family such as the ones I described in my last post, you fit one or more of the roles that are characteristic of these families. What role(s) did you play?

The first role, the chief enabler, was probably filled by one of your parents. If, say, your father was an alcoholic, it is likely that your mother covered up for him (calling his job, for instance, and saying he was sick when he was actually hung over). She did her best to make sure everything in the family appeared normal and happy to those outside the family. She also probably nagged your father repeatedly, trying to get him to give up drinking; no doubt she complained to him and to everyone else in the family about what she had to put up with.

Kids in dysfunctional families take on one or more of the other roles: the family hero, the scapegoat, the lost child, and the mascot. The same child may take on more than one role depending upon the situation. Each of these roles distracts from the family dysfunction in some way.

The family hero is the family success story. She is a high achiever who does her best to make her parents proud of her. It’s likely that she not only gets good grades, but also participates in multiple extra-curricular activities. While she gains the admiration of many outside the family, she will feel like she can never be good enough for her parents.

The scapegoat is the child who gets in trouble the most, often for being disrespectful, not doing well in school, possibly skipping school and/or drinking and using drugs. This is the child who seems to be the problem in the family; she is the one whose parents may take her to therapy, asking that the therapist fix her, when the real problem is the whole family system. She will, understandably, probably feel like a disappointment to the family.

The lost child is the one who tries to blend into the woodwork. She does everything she can not to rock the boat. While she craves positive attention, she is afraid of negative attention, so she tries to stay out of the way and be as invisible as possible. The lost child can seem a bit like the family hero if being successful is the best way to avoid unwanted attention from her parents. She may feel like she’s not worthy of existence and doesn’t deserve to take up space.

The mascot is usually the youngest child, often fitting the stereotype of the baby of the family. She tries to take attention away from the family’s dysfunction by being happy and fun, generally trying to make it look as if everything is OK. Later, if her siblings talk about the things that happened to them while they were growing up, she may deny that these things happened; she may even believe that they didn’t.

Which of these roles did you and your siblings take on? How did that affect you as you were growing up? And, just as importantly, how does that affect you now?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

When Facebook Isn’t Your Friend

I have several clients who are considering deleting their Facebook accounts. Shocking, isn’t it?

You know the benefits of Facebook. You can reconnect with friends from the past. (For instance, how many of you, like me, are now connected to people you hadn’t heard from since high school?) You can also keep up with the goings-on of people who are closer to you. And don’t forget all of those cute pictures of children and pets!

If you want to be outraged, there’s usually at least one link to an article about something really bad someone did to someone else. There are article links you may find funny or helpful, as well. There are posts that make statements you agree with, and ones you don’t (which you can critique, of course). There are as many quizzes as you have time for (“Which ‘Big Bang Theory’ character are you?” “What color best represents you?” etc.)

So what’s not to love? One thing is the amount of potentially productive time that is swallowed up by Facebook. You know you’ve done it—spent time on Facebook when you could have been doing something that actually needed to be done, or even something that you wanted to do. Sometimes, if you’re like some of my clients, part of that time is spent “cyber-stalking” old boyfriends or girlfriends, even though the “stalker” knows it’s best to just move on. It’s so tempting, though, and so easy to do…

The main complaint that I have heard from clients, though, is that Facebook doesn’t represent reality. People post their triumphs, their happy photos, and their “Aren’t I silly?” moments. They post things they’re doing that no one would have asked about. Sometimes they post updates about their health or that of their loved ones.

But where are the posts about their failures? How many people have you seen admitting to having wronged someone? How many people say, “I have a drinking problem and I’m afraid I can’t stop” or “I treat my spouse and children badly on a daily basis” or “I’m lost and don’t know what to do with my life”?

We know that Facebook generally isn’t the place for really deep self-revelation. For someone with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or a history of trauma, though, reading Facebook posts can make it seem as though she’s the only one who doesn’t have it all together. Everyone else leads a successful, happy life; she’s the only one who doesn’t get it. What is she doing wrong? Where’s the missing rulebook for life? These thoughts can make a lonely person even lonelier, or a person who feels broken feel even more so.

I’m not saying that you should abandon Facebook, but take some time to think about it and what it represents. Remember that if you base your opinion of others’ lives on their Facebook posts, you will get a very distorted picture. And, as always, remember not to compare your insides to someone else’s outside!

 

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

What’s Your Superpower?

My daughter loves the PBS show “Wild Kratts,” in which the Kratt brothers explore the amazing powers of various creatures in the wild. Often, the brothers point out that humans have so far been unable to replicate those powers. One example is the gecko’s ability to walk on walls and ceilings. (I won’t attempt an explanation of that ability here!)

Does this make you envious of geckos? It is a pretty cool ability, and it might be useful at times, but would it be worth trading all of our uniquely human abilities to get it? Of course not.

You may not envy geckos, but I’ll bet you’ve envied another person at some point in your life. You might be surprised at what or whom they envy, though—it might be you! As they say in 12-step programs, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outside.” In other words, other people, even if they seem self-confident, may have more insecurities than you think.

For instance, consider Suzanne, who was at her daughter’s dance class. She noticed, as she had in the past, a couple of the other mothers who were considerably thinner than she was; she found herself envying them for this. This was put into perspective, though, when their conversation made it obvious that they felt self-conscious about their bodies compared to certain other women they’d seen recently.

I sometimes see other people and wish I had some quality of theirs—physical appearance, athletic ability, cooking or craft-making skills, etc. But then I realize that I wouldn’t want to trade all of who I am for whatever that quality might be. Would I want to give up the job and the family that I love so that I could be that person? Would I want to give up my unique strengths and abilities? No, I wouldn’t.

Take some time to think about the qualities you wish you had. Then take some more time and think about all of the positive qualities and abilities that you already have. You may discover that you have superpowers after all!

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

 

What’s Your Role?

The child hides under a bed. Violence in a family.

Aaron got straight A’s in school and was a star athlete in three different sports. Lots of people at his school, both students and teachers, admired him. His parents were never satisfied, though, so Aaron decided that the things he was good at just weren’t enough.

Joe frequently acted out in class and talked back to his teachers, so he often got in trouble. Every time he had to stay after school for detention he had to walk the three miles home, no matter what the weather, as an extra punishment from his father.

Maryann was the youngest child in her family. She was often the focus of attention, and was frequently babied. She was considered the cute one, the one that everybody liked. All of this supposedly positive attention, though, only made her feel helpless and incompetent; it seemed that she was the only person who didn’t know what she was doing . She felt like she couldn’t take care of herself.

Amanda was afraid of her mother; she never knew, from one moment to the next, what mood her mother would be in. She might be kind and funny, or she might yell at Amanda or hit her, seemingly for no reason. Amanda learned to tiptoe around the house, avoiding her mother whenever possible.

Aaron, Joe, Maryann, and Amanda were acting out roles that can be found in alcoholic and otherwise dysfunctional families. Aaron was the family hero, the overachiever who nevertheless failed to get his parents’ approval. Joe was the scapegoat, the one who acted out and was blamed for all of the family’s problems. Maryann was the mascot, the one who tried to distract people from what was wrong in the family. Amanda was the lost child, who was basically invisible, even though she craved (positive) attention.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions? If so, think about your family. Was someone in the family an alcoholic or addict (including workaholics, gambling addicts, shopping addicts, etc., not just drug addicts), or did someone suffer from a chronic physical or mental illness? If so, it makes sense that you took on one or more of these roles.

The question is, how are you continuing to act out your traditional role(s) today? Are you a perfectionist who never feels like your work is good enough (the family hero)? Do you have a problem with alcohol and/or drugs, or are you constantly in trouble at work, at home, or even with the law (the scapegoat)? Are you the person who acts as if everything is good and happy, and that nothing bad happened in your childhood (the mascot)? Do you find it hard to speak up for yourself and do you, as much as possible, blend into the woodwork (the lost child)?

Growing up physically does not necessarily mean growing up emotionally. We tend to repeat patterns in adulthood that we learned in childhood. What patterns do you have that you might want to unlearn? What can you do to express your true self, independent of the role(s) you were put into while growing up?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.

What’s Wrong With You?

Woman looking through dirty broken glass

Probably a lot less than you think!

If you grew up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional family, there’s a good chance you grew up feeling like you were just plain wrong or unfixably broken.

In your early childhood, when you still believed the world revolved around you, you learned to feel responsible for everything that went on in your family. At that age, you were entirely dependent upon your parents, so you couldn’t risk thinking there was something wrong with them. Instead, you decided there must be something wrong with you. Why else wouldn’t (or couldn’t) they meet your needs, including your need to be seen, loved, and nurtured?

Many people, rather than learning as they grow up that they are not really failures, continue to listen, without realizing it, to that hurt, self-defeating child inside.

This generally leads to a continued negative self-image; you notice your faults, but not your positive qualities. You make a big deal about the times you mess up, but barely notice the times you do something right. Even though you don’t really want to feel this way, it’s comfortable, because it’s what you’re used to.

You can change these negative thinking patterns, although it will take time. I’ve created a free 5-part e-course called “Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Five Simple Ways to Change Your Thinking and Change Your Life” that will help you recognize and change your negative self-talk. You can sign up for it here.

It is actually possible to rewire your brain so you can think differently about yourself. Give it a try—what have you got to lose?

 

Jennifer Beall is a psychotherapist in private practice near Annapolis, Maryland. She is the author of  “Me” Time: Finding the Balance Between Taking Care of Others and Taking Care of Yourself, available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in print editions, and as an e-book for Kindle, Nook, and all other major e-readers.