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Why Negative Thoughts Hold You Back and How to Move Ahead

A German shepherd dog pulling on a leash symbolizing how negative thoughts can hold you back.

Everyone suffers from negative thoughts. Often it’s that little voice inside your head that tells you, “You’re not good enough!”  We despise that little voice because it’s so damaging to our self-confidence.  Additionally, it prevents us from achieving our goals.  Confidence is the single biggest predictor of success. From finding a life partner to being a good parent to closing a business deal, confidence carries the day. And nothing kills confidence like negative thoughts. So if you want to learn why negative thoughts hold you back and how to move ahead, keep reading.

You are Pre-Wired for Negative Thoughts

Humans are born pre-wired to think negative thoughts. And it’s been that way from the beginning of the species. In the early days of mankind, humans faced extreme physical threats with no modern protections. We faced threats from wild animals, natural disasters, and rival tribes. Early humans were always thinking about the dangers they faced and deciding to fight or flee. Luckily, we have evolved. While we don’t face the same physical threats today, we still face challenges. The brain helps us see dangerous situations, so we avoid them.  And from that same brain come the negative thoughts that hold us back.

How Negativity Leads to Low Self-Esteem

Negative thoughts lead to low self-esteem and depression in many ways.  Here are two of them: 

  1. Blaming yourself when bad things happen, even when it’s not your fault.  This can lead to the pursuit of perfectionism, which usually results in lower self-esteem and depression.
  2. Automatically expecting the worst. If you think negatively, negative things often occur. So, if you expect a relationship will fall apart, it likely will. Self-esteem takes a tumble if you think no one likes you or you’re not worthy of healthy relationships.

Things to do to Boost Self-Esteem and Confidence

According to lifehack.com, here are some things you can do right now to help shut down negative thoughts and build self-esteem.

A note on a mirror listing accomplishments.
  1. Be more mindful.  Recognize negative thoughts when they happen, put them into perspective, and replace them with something encouraging.  Just make sure it’s accurate.
  2. Post a list of your strengths and accomplishments on the bathroom mirror. Read it every day. When that little voice inside your head tells you that you’re are not enough, think about your strengths and everything you’ve accomplished so far.  Soon that little voice will just go away.
  3. Learn simple new skills.  Whether it’s mastering how to grill a steak, iron a dress shirt, or a new feature of Google Docs, picking up new skills will give you the confidence to take new and bigger projects.
  4. Stop judging others.  Judging others often involves negative thinking. Stop giving negative thoughts power and reinforcing negative thinking patterns. 
  5. Reduce time on social media.  It’s easy to compare your real life to someone else’s social media life. When you do this, it’s easy to feel inferior and get down on yourself.  A 2018 study called “No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression” found that the less time people spent using social media, the less depressed and lonely they felt. 

Accomplishing Goals Just Got Easier

Once you eliminate negative thinking, you open your mind to possibilities.  You can focus on doing the work needed to accomplish your goals, build self-confidence, and set yourself up for bigger challenges.  And accomplishing bigger challenges means a brighter future. 

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