It was a dark, cold, December night. The rain blew horizontally across the platform as she waited for the train. It was already twenty minutes late. Her fingers were going numb as she held her briefcase; she didn’t dare put in on the ground, too many puddles.
There was no waiting room in this isolated Fen location and the pathetic ‘shelter’ laughed at her attempts to keep dry. She could see a nearby road. Cars sped by, their drivers warm and dry, no doubt looking forward to getting home soon. Even without delays she knew her journey would take three hours. It was always the same when she worked here for a day – two trains, a tube ride and a twenty minute walk each way. She knew she’d get home exhausted, ratty and wanting nothing more than to get to bed. Not much fun for her husband a kids.
If only she was brave enough to use her GPS, she could have driven here in an hour and half. But she just knew she couldn’t learn to use technology. It always went wrong in her hands; it would probably blow up or something.
Janice is a victim of ‘faulty thinking’. A capable, intelligent woman, she believes that she can’t use technology so she doesn’t try.
What is ‘Faulty Thinking”?
Faulty thinking consists of thoughts that are:
a) not based on fact, but on (often unconscious) beliefs
Should we believe all our thoughts?
Not necessarily, and not if those thoughts are not helpful. Let’s look at just one type of faulty thinking – the tendency to believe all our thoughts.
Thoughts just pop into our head, we don’t ask them to come, sometimes we wish they didn’t come.
Let’s have a look at some common unhelpful thoughts that meet our criteria above: they’re not based on fact, and are unhelpful.
‘I’m a fat cow’
Isn’t this awful? Women, in particular, are often so amazingly critical of themselves that they call themselves unbelievably ugly names. They’d never say this to someone else. Sure, you may be above a healthy body weight, but you are not a cow. You are a unique human being with many fine qualities: your weight does not define who you are.
I’ve never come across a useless person yet. Some people are challenging, others under-motivated, but no-one is useless. Janice is a victim of this thinking, and it affects her confidence to try to learn technology. So she often tells herself she’s useless, when in fact she is super skilled at her job, has many friends and is a kind and loving mother and wife.
‘I couldn’t do that’
It’s perfectly true that we can’t all do everything we want. I’d be taller if I could, but short of major surgery, it’s not going to happen. But almost everyone can do so much more than they believe. Believing negative thoughts about your capability can stop you even trying to do something.
Where do these thoughts come from?
The simple answer is that they come from a variety of sources: from our upbringing, from people we know; from the media, from the world around us. All these influences shape our thoughts, as well as our feelings and behaviour.
The good news is that we don’t have to believe our thoughts! Isn’t that amazing!
Lots of our negative thoughts are untrue; some are even downright lies. We wouldn’t believe them if someone else said them. So don’t be afraid to question those rogue thoughts. Ask yourself:
- is this true?
- is this verifiably true?
- is this thought helpful?
- what would be more helpful to believe?
Going back to the examples above, what would more helpful thoughts be?
‘I’m a fat cow’ can become ‘I need to lose some weight, but I’m still a worthwhile person.’
‘I’m useless’ can become ‘I’m not very good at technical things, but there are plenty of other things I do well.’
‘I couldn’t do that’ can become ‘I could learn how to do that.’
Try these new, empowering thoughts on for size
Remember, you are not responsible for the thoughts that pop into your head, but you can choose what to do with them.
Here’s a great tip. If you catch yourself believing an unhelpful thought, Stop! Relax your body, and ask yourself what you could think instead. Identify a thought that is more positive and empowering.
Now, with your body relaxed, think the new thought in a kindly and compassionate tone. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it yet. Just repeating this new thought to yourself will mean you start to change your brain patterns. This means that eventually you will find the new thought has replaced the old one. After all, this type of thinking is just a habit, and habits can be changed.
Imagine enjoying your life free from those old, hurtful thoughts. Go on, give this technique a try. What have you got to lose?
You can read more about faulty thinking in my book ‘How to be Assertive’. Click on the ad on this page to find it on amazon. You might like to download a sample to see if it’s for you.