Challenge negative self-beliefs: be kind to yourself

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Do you hold a poor opinion of yourself? Do you exaggerate your faults and feel terrible about small lapses? Challenge negative self-beliefs to see if they’re really valid. In the process, be kind and reach a more balanced view of yourself.

Previously we discussed someone who believed they were inconsiderate and unlovable. Their crime? They forgot their partner’s birthday. These beliefs stemmed from a rigid rule they held that said: “I should always make my partner happy.”

However this rule was shown to be unreasonable. No-one can “make” another person happy. A more reasonable rule would be: “I support and encourage my partner’s well-being as often as I can.” 

In this way, you’re contributing to your partner’s happiness. But you’re not taking sole responsibility for them being happy.

So if this rule was unreasonable, what about thinking you’re inconsiderate and unlovable? Does this make these beliefs unreasonable too?

The only way to find out is by challenging these negative self-beliefs. Then you’ll see if there’s any evidence to support them or not. In the process, you’ll learn more about whether you’re responsible for others’ reactions.   

Actions reveal values

So how do you show you’re caring, kind and considerate? You could organise outings, spend quality time together, communicate well, and think of their needs. You could even remember their birthday!

But is it reasonable to be furious at yourself for forgetting their birthday once? Does this really make you inconsiderate and unworthy of love?

Challenge negative self-beliefs

Free yourself from these unhelpful beliefs by challenging them. Don’t accept everything your mind tells you. When you’re feeling down, your brain can exaggerate.

Do a reality check

So are you really an inconsiderate person? Let’s look at the reality of your relationship, and how you relate to your partner. Answer the following honestly, without putting yourself down.

Are you usually thoughtful to your partner?

Do you take an active interest in your partner’s life?

Do you normally remember important dates like birthdays?

How do you show care, e.g. if your partner is upset or worried?

Does your partner see you as usually empathic and loving?

Or do you think they misinterpret your motives?

How often have you been insensitive? Over how many years?

And how minor or serious were these incidents?

Finally, rate your average level of consideration out of 100%.

Be fair to yourself

So is it fair to say you’re completely uncaring and inconsiderate? Remember, no-one’s perfect. No-one will ever get a 100% score. We all forget things or slip up at times.

But is it true you’re inconsiderate 100% of the time? Or only occasionally?

Are you really so bad that you don’t deserve love ever again?

Where’s the evidence?

It may feel strange to challenge negative self-beliefs at first. But it’s very necessary. Too often, we simply accept our negative self-talk without question.

You’re trying to find out what evidence exists to support your belief that you’re such a bad partner. So pinpoint exactly what you’ve done in your relationship that’s so terrible. Or do you just think or feel you’ve done something terrible?

There’s a difference.

Your thoughts aren’t necessarily realistic. And your emotions can be out of touch with reality too.

Evidence from other sources

Perhaps you also need to look for evidence from the outside as well.

(For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you can’t uncover any evidence that anyone thinks you act badly to your partner. If however, others say you do treat your partner badly, please seek help from a relationship or domestic violence counsellor.)

Have you been told your behaviour is terrible by someone with credibility? Not just a boozy mate down the pub.

Do valued friends tell you repeatedly that you’re a terrible partner? Has your partner told you this repeatedly?

Have you been arrested or charged by police for your behaviour in the relationship?

On a lighter note, how does forgetting a birthday compare with mass murder, robbery, or blackmail? Or does it barely register on the scale?

Look over all your answers to the above questions. Are you perhaps overstating the case against yourself?

Don’t exaggerate your “badness”

You made a small mistake. Your partner may or may not be hurt or annoyed by your forgetfulness. However, it’s a minor offence in the total scale of things. Be careful of not making yourself out to be worse than you really are.

This can affect your self-esteem in the long run.

Define your terms

Make sure you use words carefully when describing yourself. Define exactly what you mean. Exactly what does saying someone is “worthy of love” mean? Someone who’s generally kind, considerate and loving?

There’s nothing in this definition about being perfect. Or about never, ever making a mistake.

You’re probably like the vast majority of people. You do the best you can, and you also slip up occasionally.

Keep it in perspective

Keep the incident in perspective. You simply forgot a birthday. You were a little thoughtless, that’s all.

Stop self-criticism

So challenge your negative self-beliefs. Stop demonising yourself. Accept you made a minor slip, and make amends.

Firstly, enter the date in your calendar and don’t forget again! Apologise, buy a nice present and cook dinner, or go out somewhere nice together. Then the incident is over.

Let it go

But perhaps your partner sulks and keeps criticising. They may need to learn to deal with disappointment more effectively. If they’re feeling insecure in the relationship, they need to talk to you about it. 

However, you can stop being mean to yourself. No more saying you’re inconsiderate and unworthy of love. No more telling yourself you’re not worthy of love.

Reframe self-talk; challenge negative self-beliefs

Instead of self-criticism, tell yourself:

You’re an OK person who does their best most of the time.

Be open-minded

It may take time to learn you’re not as terrible as you think. Be open-minded, and be willing to change your view of yourself.

Of course, everyone can improve their behaviour.

Be open to accepting new information about yourself. There may well be aspects of behaviour you need to work on.

You could ask your partner for specific feedback. For example, ask if you do forget important dates a lot. Or if you interrupt a lot, or don’t listen properly. Pick up relationship hints from relationship expert, John Gottman. He’s written plenty of easy-to-read books on the subject.

And who knows? You may realise that you’re not so terrible after all.

You’re actually an OK person worthy of love and care.

A more helpful guideline

So let go of the rule that says you should make your partner happy all the time. Use the more helpful guideline: 

“I support and encourage my partner’s well-being wherever possible.”

Take the time to identify rules you’re living by. Then make sure you’re not judging yourself in unrealistic ways. You may be holding yourself to impossible standards. And then you may believe you’re a bad or inadequate person.

Why cause yourself unnecessary stress and worry? Challenge negative self-beliefs, and think about yourself more realistically. Learn where your responsibility for others’ well-being really lies.

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