richard carlson on negative self defeating thoughts

Argue for Your Limitations, and They’re Yours

Many people spend a great deal of energy arguing for their own limitations; “I can’t do that,”
“I can’t help it, I’ve always been that way,”

“I’ll never have a loving relationship,” and thousands of other negative and self-defeating statements.

Our minds are powerful instruments. When we decide that something is true or beyond our reach, it’s very difficult to pierce through this self-created hurdle. When we argue for our position, it’s nearly impossible. Suppose, for example, you tell yourself, “I can’t write.” You’ll look for examples to prove your position. You’ll remember your poor essays in high school, or recall how awkward you felt the last time you sat down to write a letter. You’ll fill your head with limitations that will frighten you from trying. In order to become a writer or anything else, the first step is to silence your greatest critic – you.

I had a client who told me, “I’ll never have a good relationship. I always screw them up.” Sure enough, she was right. Whenever she met someone, she would, without even knowing it, look for reasons for her new partner to leave her. If she were late for a date, she would tell him, “I’m always late.” If they had a disagreement, she would say, “I’m always getting into arguments.” Sooner or later, she would convince him that she wasn’t worthy of his love. Then she would say to herself,
“See, it happens every time. I’ll never have a good relationship.”

She had to learn to stop expecting things to go wrong. She needed to “catch herself” in the act of arguing for her own limitations. When she started to say, “I always do that,” she needed instead to say, “That’s ridiculous. I don’t always do anything.” She had to see that arguing for her limitations was just a negative habit that could easily be replaced with a more positive habit. Today, she’s doing much better. When she reverts to her old habit, she usually laughs at herself.

I have learned that when I argue for my own limitations, very seldom do I disappoint myself. I suspect the same is true for you.

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