If you live with depression, you probably know the challenges — and dangers — of negative self-talk all too well. Nobody knows your deepest, darkest secrets or your imperfections the way you do, and it can be easy for you to beat yourself up.
I had a hard time seeing that.
For many years, I was caught up in a terrible cycle of negative self-talk, telling myself that I didn’t deserve to be successful, that my depression was always going to keep me in misery, and that I was a disappointment to the people I love.
It can feel like depression symptoms hold you hostage in this way, by making you believe things about yourself that aren’t true. It can skew the way you see yourself, magnifying your faults, lowering your self-esteem and possibly even making you feel like less than you really are.
How do we counter negative self-talk? Luckily there are a few ways to accomplish it.
One is by having a realistic view of yourself. Nobody is all good or all bad. We all have faults we should work on, and we all have amazing personality qualities that make us unique.
Another way to begin countering negative self-talk is to answer those negative thoughts and feelings back with affirmations about ourselves. Affirmations are positive statements that you can say over and over to yourself to help counteract those negative thoughts.
For instance, when I get worried about being somewhere on time, I can stop and tell myself out loud, “I am organized, well-prepared, and timely” to attack the negative self-talk.
It may seem a bit odd at first but incorporating a few positive affirmations into your daily routine is relatively easy.
Think about the key themes that come up for you and then try to come up with a few phrases to counteract those negative thoughts. Read over your affirmations daily so they will be fresh in your mind to activate when you need them.
Here are some of the affirmations I use when my depression symptoms flare and skew my perception.
For me, I stop answering the phone, even when the caller is someone I enjoy talking to. Use this affirmation to remind yourself that you are worthy of the support that people are willing to give to you, and it’s OK to accept that love and support.
I am a continually improving work in progress
Sometimes depression makes me feel as though I am incorrigible and incapable of improvement. Everybody is growing, and we learn new ways to solve problems and care for ourselves. Use this affirmation to remind yourself that you’re capable of growth.
Perfection is not a requirement; I am at peace with imperfection
We all make mistakes, and when we do, our negative self-talk is there to make sure we don’t forget just how much we messed up.
It can be easy to hold yourself to an impossible standard or call yourself nasty names when you’ve made a mistake. Use this affirmation to remind yourself that everyone slips up sometimes and that no one is perfect, and that’s OK.
My past does not determine my future
Past hurts can stick in our minds even years later, and it can almost make you feel as though you’re bound to those prior events. The best part about the past is that it’s over, and you have the present moment and the future to learn and move on from what happened.
In my experience, a great part of healing is making peace with your past. I like to use this phrase during those times when it feels like the past is coming back to haunt me.
I am worthy of peace, tranquility, and joy
A sense of unrest is common for those of us living with depression.
Depression symptoms can constantly work on your self-esteem and make you feel frustrated with yourself, or like you don’t deserve to be happy Use this affirmation for the days when you feel like you don’t deserve it. You definitely do.
Using affirmations is no fail-safe against depression — and positive thinking isn’t going to cure or prevent it — but a few kind words for yourself are wonderful tools to have in your arsenal.
Nobody knows you the way that you know you, with your secret fears, hopes, and doubts. Instead of using this knowledge as a weapon against yourself, use your words to empower and uplift yourself.
For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
DEPR-US-NP-00061 MAY 2019