Why Mindfulness is a must-have mental skill.

“The mind is everything. What you think you become” – Buddha

Each one of us wants to achieve our cherished goals or those which we think are within our reach. We are always in a constant chase in order to achieve them and other things which we think will make us happier. As a result, we either get into stress or discontentment with our present state of existence depending on what we can and cannot. We end up spending lot of time mulling over past mistakes and negative thoughts and want to get rid of anything that limits us.

Negative thinking is one of the reasons for underachievement. When you choose to engage in negative thinking you are deciding to believe in your inability rather than your possibility. How you think manifests in your actions. If your mind is always filled with jumbled, chaotic thoughts, that’s what your output will be. When you’re clear on what is important to you and on the type of person you want to be, it becomes easier to block out distracting mental noise so that you can focus on your goals and objectives. When we face overwhelm, self-doubt and various other unhelpful habits of mind, learning to pause them in their tracks puts you back in the productive state.

Mindfulness; key to being a productive self

We as humans are evolutionarily hard-wired to operate by a negatively biased mindset. In our daily life, be it personal or professional endeavours, there are emotional and mental challenges we experience as our work load keep changing as per work demands. Stressful conditions give rise to doubtful critical voice that makes us feel incapable of handling such situations. Having no intervention to keep such negative thoughts in check can result in cognitive and emotional derailment. However, mindfulness provides for a non-confrontational intervention where you can choose to pivot your thinking and stop the broken record of unhelpful thought looping on repeat.

Mindfulness meditation is not only a way to gain insight into your own mind; it also serves as one of the primary ways to become aware of the negative thoughts and emotions that are blocking you from focusing on your goals. In meditation, content from your subconscious that you hide from the world and from your own awareness reveals itself. When negative thoughts rise up to the surface of awareness, you can choose to respond rather than recoil or react to them impulsively. Allowing yourself to observe your present moment reduces stress and increases your wellbeing and productivity.

So, what is mindfulness meditation?

In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness. When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement. When we practice mindfulness, we can learn how to recognize when our minds are doing their normal everyday acrobatics, and maybe take a pause from that for just a little while so we can choose what we’d like to focus on.

Mindfulness meditation improves the quality of your thoughts and thus helpful for gaining more focus on what you want rather than past or future. No longer will you constantly be at the whim of your racing thoughts. Instead, you can focus on the people and goals that matter most. there are two main functions our brains perform during mindful meditation:

• The generation of thoughts, feelings and emotions — these are transient and can change from one moment to the next;

• The observation of information, data and feedback without judgment, evaluation or criticism, or without even trying to make sense of it.

We learn to listen to and accept the thoughts and feelings that arise within us. We practice being able first to notice that we are having these unfavorable thoughts, labels, criticisms, judgments and feelings, and then we pause them in their tracks by choosing to observe them: 

Even though the idea behind mindfulness meditation seems simple – it requires patience and commitment to stay fully aware of the present moment because our mind quickly gets caught up in other tasks. And also sometimes, the present moment becomes unacceptable and unpleasant. Because of this many of us experience a kind of resistance during the meditation process. This resistance is born out of our inability to accept the moment as it is. A state of well-being cannot be achieved by suppressing all thoughts and emotions. It can be achieved only by becoming mindful of everything that arises in your awareness and by observing and accepting thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise without judgment or expectation. This process helps you to step out of your resistance patterns.

How to practice mindful meditation

To begin the process of mindfulness meditation, get comfortable and prepare to sit still for a few minutes and simply focus on your own natural inhaling and exhaling of breath. Focus on your breath. Try to observe where you feel your breath most, In your belly? In your nose? and try to keep your attention on your inhale and exhale. Follow your breath for two minutes. Notice How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Did notice how busy your mind was even without your consciously directing it to think about anything in particular? Did you notice yourself getting caught up in thoughts before you came back to your breath? We often have little narratives running in our minds that we didn’t choose to put there or tasks that we want to get to. We all experience these sorts of distractions. Here are some insights that you can include in your meditation practice to overcome such distractions.

Set firm intentions

Meditating with right intentions develops focus, determination, patience, and perseverance. Intentions are agreements you make with yourself and then express through your actions in your daily activities. If you don’t set firm intentions, you will eventually find yourself wandering and might lose sight of the reason you are meditating. Intentions set can be small or large. Aim is to discover your genuine intentions or goals and objectives that you want to focus on and affirm those with certainty in your meditation practice. Express each intention in small phrases in present tense as if it is true. This enables your subconscious mind to register them as actualities. Resolutely follow and affirm your intentions for they enable you to overcome negative emotions, and thoughts.

Tap into the feeling of being

Everyday distractions keeps you away from experiencing the joy of simply being. Practice meditation not to become whole, but to connect to your existing wholeness. Realise that wholeness is your birth right and you are more than a limited individual. Just being is a familiar feeling that you have always known, although you may have ignored it until now. Notice how, when you are simply being, you are perfect just as you are. Affirm your intention to experience the feeling of being. With a regular practice, you can learn to connect to your existing wholeness amidst your daily life. During the practice, simply experience the presence and aliveness of being. Staying focused on the sensation of being slows your thinking and eventually turns off negative thoughts.

Connect to something bigger

Meditation helps us to get in touch with universal life force that connects us all. Learn to align with this force through mindful meditation. This connection with bigger force results in a state of well-being. With an expansive mind, you are not narrowly focused on how things should be and on other small desires, but will be able to see those as part of bigger picture. Connecting to and experiencing the universal life force enhances concentration and your present opens up to infinite possibilities. This enables you to interact and respond rather than contract and react. The expansiveness of mind gives a meaning and purpose to your life and sets up positive emotions to go after your goals.

Practice mindful breathing

Taking hold of your breath builds concentration. Meditating on your breathing is a natural and extremely effective tool to prevent dispersion and enables you to release obsessive thinking. Observing and following breath exhalations and inhalations enhances your ability to sense and respond to the information your body is sending. Awareness of your breathing patterns allows you to make changes where required to maintain equilibrium. You can continue to do so while walking, sitting or when you are outdoors. You can also practice to count your number of inhalations and exhalations to develop focused attention and concentration. When you recognise you are distracted, gently bring back your attention back to your breath. Breath-counting helps you to maintain a single- pointed focus.

Accept your thoughts and emotions

Meditating on your feelings and thoughts makes you stay calm, grounded, and healthy. There can be many disharmonious, negative, and disturbing thoughts that arise during the process. Meditate focusing on them. When such strong feelings arise, refusing to accept and labelling them as enemies will only make them come back more strongly as if they are here to convey important information. You need to welcome and experience emotions both negative and positive. Know that they are not your enemies but are just seeking your attention. Learn to observe and respond instead of reacting. By focusing on every thought and its opposite, anxiety, fear, and  self- judgements no longer control your life. You can no longer remain a hostage to your negative emotions.

Welcome feelings of joy

Joy is an essential emotion which is already within us, waiting to be experienced no matter what the outside circumstances may be. But many of us believe that it only comes by material possessions or achieving a particular outcome. We keep searching for it outside in objects, relationships, and other experiences. When you deny the feelings of joy which is a natural phenomenon, you lose life’s meaning and its purpose.

During meditation, welcoming the feelings of joy also brings with them its opposite. Experiencing both joy and its opposite makes you realise how stressful the opposite is and how it affects your body and mind. When it feels right, release the stressful thought and let joy radiate through you. This can unearth unchanging feelings of joy irrespective of the circumstances thereby reducing the perceptions of pain, anxiety, and depression.

Contemplate on interdependence

Meditating on the interdependent nature the universe makes you realise that everything is a part of an interconnected wholeness. We normally see reality in compartments and make boundaries around ourselves. Because of this we are unable to see the interdependent nature of the world we live in. We are connected and not separate  in our suffering and in our desire to be happy. When you live the sufferings and joy of others, you start to realise the impermanence of the universe and can strengthen the positive emotions of gratitude and compassion. Experience yourself as a unique expression of life, interconnected with the Universe.

Finally, If you have a long-standing habit of negative thinking, the first step of managing your negative thoughts is simply knowing that they exist. If they are to grow out of control, they might cause lot of despair. Focus on your most troubling thoughts in mindfulness meditation even if you feel uncomfortable. This is where the core of your distress lies. Our deepest beliefs and personal truths will be at the base of all our thoughts. These thoughts fixate in negative outcomes. To untangle from these destructive thinking patterns, you have to be aware of how they work. When you recognise the negative thought patterns, counter them with alternative messages that are positive and optimistic based on truth and not fear. How and what you think can determine relative happiness of your life.

To conclude,

Do not take meditation as some process that magically wipes your mind clear of the countless and endless thoughts that erupt and ping constantly in your brain. Just practice bringing your attention to your breath, and then back to the breath when you notice your attention has wandered. Include the above insights as individually or apply them all together. Insightful meditation not only helps to bring your attention back to your breath but also gives you a focus to keep your thoughts meaningful and positive. And allows you to see each thought as a messenger with information on how to respond in a way that helps you feel in harmony with yourself and world around you. Your negative notions start to fade, instead of chasing you and wearing you down. While meditation isn’t a cure-all, it can certainly provide you some much-needed space to make better choices and focus needed to achieve your goals.

Nourish your intention of making meditation a daily practice. Invest in making this skill an essential feature of your mental toolkit. You’ll not only leap leagues ahead of your competition, but you’ll also move faster and further toward your chosen goals. The noise in your head will quieten and your feelings of overwhelm will lessen even though the workload and increased responsibilities remain. Be patient with yourself and perseverant and you will be able to notice small changes right away.

Practice being non-judgmental

“You May judge others only according to your knowledge of yourself.”- Kahlil Gibran

We all have a natural innate tendency to be drawn to those similar to us and judge or criticise those who are different. Whenever we come across people who have different values, lifestyles or preferences, we tend to categorise them in a negative way or either criticise or think that they are wrong. Compartmentalizing, better known as judging, aids us in defining who and what we are. Sometimes, we judge a whole group of people by the action of one individual and make assumptions about their behaviour based on single person’s actions. Many of us are aware that prejudice or being judgmental is wrong, but get trapped eventually into biased thought patterns. In order to become non-judgmental and to be aware of our preconceived notions about others, we need to change our view of others and how we ourselves.

What is being judgmental?

Being judgmental is the tendency to criticise or form an opinion or to come to a conclusion about something too quickly without totally being aware of the person or the situation involved. To infer, think or hold as an opinion, or assess or conclude without knowing all the facts leads to assumptions. These assumptions can be on a person’s behaviour, morals, actions or beliefs. Assumptions often lead to inaccurate judgment. Even if your opinions are justified, criticising others ususally makes them wary and defensive of their faults or mistakes.

Jumping to conclusions rather easily, making up your mind before you hear all the facts, or not even keen on listening to what others are saying, all these traits indicate that you are being judgmental. While no one necessarily likes to admit that they evaluate and label others, sometimes it happens so subconsciously that we don’t even realize we’re judfing. Because judgments are ingrained so deeply that it can be hard to break the habit of labeling others or generalizing a person or situation.

“Judging a person does not define who they are. It defines who you are.”– Wayne Dyer

Why do we judge others?

We all like judging others and pass our judgments of others very publicly. It feels harmless to pass our judgment of others as it can give you an instant high and create a temporary sense of power and make you feel good. But, there’s a downside to us being judgmental. It causes unhappiness, guilt, and negativity. We almost become opinionated about many things and people. Due to increased access to one another, we develop a judgmental attitude on just about everything and everyone, from choices, tastes, habits, views and beliefs.

The main reason we become judgmental is because of our own perception of ourselves in comparison to others and could also be a sign of deeper negativity. Here are some reasons why we judge others. We judge

  • When we are ignorant of what the other person is going through.
  • When we don’t understand the situation.
  • When we have unrealistic expectations of people.
  • When we are being superior to others.
  • Being self-centered and not being grateful or curious.

Being judgmental of people and situations only signifies your discontentment and the more you judge, the more you fear being judged. This undermines your self-esteem and makes you turn to your inner-critic giving rise to fallacies and biases. According to a research, the more positively someone described the other person, the more likely they were to be happy, kind-hearted, and emotionally stable themselves. Those who are judgmental were harsh and more likely to be narcissistic and unstable.

Why you should stop being judgmental

Being prejudiced can be bad for your well-being. You sabotage your confidence and potential by being too judgmental of yourself and others. Here is why you should stop being judgmental

  • Being prejudiced, you may stop yourself from trying something new because you already come to conclusions that either you wouldn’t like to do or may not be worth doing a particular task. These conclusions may or may not be true. Instead, by being non-judgmental, you can open yourself to new experiences and try doing something new which you may eventually find it exciting.
  • You cannot build better relations if you are always judgmental as others feel hesitant to share everything about them because you either ridicule them or judge them. However, by being non-judgmental, you create a safe environment to share and they can trust you to do so and can build better relationships with others.
  • Being judgmental leads to non-acceptance of things as they are and makes you resistant to change or adopt yourself to new and different environments and beliefs.  Being non-judgmental leads to acceptance of things as they are and you can develop more resilience to other people’s judgment of you.  This way, you don’t get weigh down by trying to figure out the opinions of others.
  • By frequently forming conclusions or judgments of others, you end up creating lot of negativity in yourself and in those around you. You cannot attain freedom of being your true self and also cannot see others inherent true self. You cannot find your inner-peace as it makes you frustrated and unhappy.

How do you become non-judgmental?

If we realize how habitually we come judgmental, we can try and unlearn that behavior. We cannot solve a problem or help any situation form place of judgment. One of the best changes you can make to help yourself be happier is by learning to let go of your judgment of others.  Here are few ways to let go of your prejudice and become non-judgmental.

Develop awareness of others before you get judgmental about them. Sometimes we grow unhappy with the things we notice in our friends or kids or co-workers because we judge them for what they are doing. It may be their unhealthy habits, or behavior and so on. we start labeling them without understanding what they are going through. We are all human. We must remind ourselves that we all have our own weaknesses; we all make wrong decisions.There might be other reasons behind their such behavior, maybe it is their health problem, either they are feeling stuck, or scared. Focus on their positives to try and understand the reason behind and get curious in knowing what they are going through.

Be aware of your judgmental thoughts. Explore how being judgmental about others makes you feel. If you feel angry or dismissive of someone, if you’re complaining of someone, commenting or gossiping about them, these are the signs that you are judging. Pay attention to such thoughts and instead of coming to conclusions, ask yourself, “why are you judging?”, “What unrealistic expectations you have about others or yourself?’, “what can you appreciate in other person?”, “what would you do if you were going through similar situation?”, “Where is this thought coming from?”, ‘Is this thought fair?’ or ‘Are you making any assumptions?’. Once you understand the irrational nature of your judgmental thoughts, you will be able to actively challenge your assumptions and can see your prejudice irrational.

Figure out the roots of your judgmental thoughts. Look for some past beliefs you have that are influencing your preconceived opinions. Past prejudiced beliefs which you may have learned overtime may be the reason behind you being judgmental. Your true self is a combination of natural tendencies, experiences you have had and the choices you have made. When you have deep-seated beliefs about a group of people or a person, you begin to see those beliefs reflected in being judgmental towards others. Checking whether your beliefs are really true can help you to handle situations that are against your beliefs. This way, you can still respect the person who holds different views and beliefs than yours.

Be mindful of thoughts that are coming to your mind and words that you speak. it is okay to disagree with the thoughts or opinions expressed by other people. But it doesnt give you the right to judge them just because you dont agree with them. You must be mindful of how you respond, represent, and react to others. When you feel the urge to judge or speak in an unloving way,  practice to pause for a moment, and rephrase your internal thoughts before you communicate it to them. Dont deem someone’s actions as bad or good and avoid using words that are overtly negative or condescending.  The communication must be positive or at the very least not ill-spirited.

Consider others perspective before judging. Everyone has their personality that affects their behaviour. Before leaping to judgment or evaluating someone else’s actions or personality, place yourself in their shoes and understand where they are coming from and their perspective. Everyone makes choices according to their life circumstances. Not everyone has same experiences you have had. You must accept the fact that everyone has a free will to decide what they want to do and how they want to live. It is all relative to their story, values, and beliefs.  Be empathetic and look for basic goodness in everyone. By developing a helpful outlook to others, you can practice being non-judgmental towards them.

Finally, exposing yourself to different places, cultures, and people, you can begin to break your prejudiced thought patterns and you can adopt alternative ways of thinking. Sometimes what we consider normal in one place or culture may be different in other. The more you are able to accept the differences, the more you can practice being non-judgmental.

Conclusion

Judging is rooted deep within all of us. We pass unrighteous judgment on others based on our observations and interactions which creates the tone for why we place people into categories. But it is always possible to avoid our judgment of others if we practice being non-judgmental in our day to day behaviours and interpretations. Next time when you find yourself judging others, question yourself “am I judging them” and if you are, remind yourself of above mentioned strategies to break the cycle of judging.

“Be curious, not judgmental.” – Walt Whitman

Tame your intrusive thoughts

“The stream of thinking has enormous momentum that can easily drag you along with it. Every thought pretends that it matters so much. It wants to draw your attention in completely.” – E.Tolle

Thoughts are those subjective pictures, sounds and words — and the beliefs, associations, interpretations, opinions and meanings that pass through our mind or hold our attention. Thoughts arise of their own accord and everyday we experience thousands of thoughts and they are the background noise of our inner mental landscape. Whether positive or negative these thoughts clutter your minds, just like your house gets cluttered when you have too many possessions. Unfortunately clearing your mental clutter isn’t as simple as eliminating a possession. You cant throw away a thought. Your thoughts have a way of popping back up as you turn them down especially the disturbing ones.

When unwanted thoughts get your conscious attention, they manifest as moods, emotions, desires, impulses and influence your behaviour. Most of them are unhelpful that are intrusive, involuntary and negative in nature. Such random and problematic intrusive thoughts interfere with your clear thinking, distort your reality, control your moods or limit your potential self.

Being controlled by unpleasant or intrusive thoughts which pop into your mind can result in thought disturbances that are hard to manage. According to a research, most people are mind wavering 47% of their day. Mind wavering can be largely attributed to thought disturbances. However, struggling with, arguing with, trying to drown out or push away such unhelpful thoughts only amplifies them and you may find it difficult to get past such thoughts.

Why are some thoughts intrusive?

Some of our thoughts take the form of fear of the future, or negative memories of the past, or inappropriate that are unhelpful and unpleasant. They seem to appear out of almost no where and cause a great deal of anxiety. Intrusive thoughts are reinforced when you get entangled with them creating doubts about your decisions or your identity or safety. If not managed well, they can cause much distress and they may even lead to certain obsessive behaviours and can negatively impact your well-being.

Are intrusive thoughts normal?

You cannot will yourself not to think any such thoughts or to keep them out of your mind. Eventually thoughts like that drift back into your mind and rise to the surface. Having such thoughts is absolutely normal and many experience unwanted thoughts on a daily basis, but fixating or believing in them or getting controlled by them leads to problems and may cause unhealthy or dysfunctional behaviours. Because of the content of such thoughts is mostly alien or unacceptable and is at odds with who you are, they make you anxious. One of the common myth is that having such thoughts mean that you unconsciously want to do the things that come into your mind. This is not true and in fact trying to fight or avoiding them only ends up in reinforcing them. Knowing how to deal with invasive thoughts can be the key to prevent them from negatively impacting your normal functioning.

How to tame your intrusive thoughts…

Do you ever worry with your thoughts of such intrusive or obsessive nature? You would have noticed that the harder you try to suppress or to distract or substitute such thoughts, the more you tend to get caught up in them. Learning to deal with them effectively can reduce your fearful and negative reaction towards them but also reduces your over sensitivity towards such thoughts. Here is how you can tame your intrusive thoughts.

Accept your intrusive thoughts

Many of us avoid them because we are afraid of negative, fearful, unpleasant, disgusting thoughts; afraid of mental impulses. We tend to avoid intrusive thoughts because we don’t know how to deal with them. An emotional reaction to how you think just keeps them alive. This means that they will appear over and over until you do actually deal with them. Treating them real or avoiding them or trying to change your behaviour based on such thoughts only leads to a compulsive behaviour. You should learn the fact that sometimes the content of such thoughts is meaningless and irrelevant.

Instead of reacting to them as though they are real, Accept them and tell yourself the truth that they have no intrinsic reality and you aren’t purposefully thinking the thought and it doesn’t represent you. Accepting them stops you to react negatively to intrusive thoughts.

Practice ‘cognitive diffusion’

You have a choice in how you choose to respond to intrusive thoughts. This is possible when you are able to identify intrusive thought patterns that end up creating negative emotions or feelings. Here are certain patterns to help you recognise your unhelpful thoughts.

• Thoughts of imagined future or expecting bad things lead you to what-if scenarios causing fear, anxiety and worry.

• Focusing on your weaknesses or perceived flaws results in thoughts of not being good enough. Such patterns often increase your negative self-talk and self-criticism.

• Dwelling on your bad choices and wrong actions leads to thoughts of worthlessness and ruminating over your past mistakes creates thoughts of shame and guilt.

• Habit of lamenting in your sorrows and problems makes you fixate in thoughts based on what’s wrong rather than what’s right. This leads to frustration and wishing things were different.

Stepping back from your repetitive and unhelpful intrusive thoughts, by recognising and identifying them is the process of cognitive diffusion. When you are fused with your thoughts, you tend to believe and take them seriously as you buy into them, obey them and play them out. But by learning to see the thoughts simply as they are — as thoughts and not reality, you can step back into cognitive diffusion. You can hold on to them lightly and do not take your thoughts seriously. You only listen to them if you find them helpful or valuable. Being aware of unhelpful thought patterns when they arise will help you to not to get entangled in and they lose their power to generate unpleasant emotions.

Label your intrusive thoughts

In order not to get stuck in some of your negative thought patterns, it is important to name your thought. When an unhelpful thought pattern arises, simply labelling it mentally can reduce your reaction.

Intrusive thoughts are mostly repetitive and involve certain story lines. When an unhelpful thought comes up with a story line, try to label and let it go without giving much attention to it. It’s just a thought and not reality. Try and open your awareness to yourself and world around. As soon as you name your thought, you step back from being caught up in it and you stop being drawn into the negativity it creates. When you are mentally labelling your thoughts as ‘anxious’ or ‘fearful’ or ‘worrisome’, make sure you do so with compassion and not with aggression or frustration. This helps you to reflect on them with a positive perspective and respond to them peacefully.

Develop present moment awareness

Another effective way to deal with your intrusive thoughts is to bring back your awareness to the present moment. Paying attention to your present moment can get you out of your excessive unhelpful thinking and can ease you out of the internal noise so created. Bringing all your attention to your senses can calm your mind and grounds you in the present moment. In this way, little to no room is left in your attention for all that unwanted and unhelpful thoughts that are intrusive in nature. Being mindful of the present moment brings you back from mind wandering when you get lost in your old habits, beliefs, and negative reaction patterns. Through mindfulness, you build your capacity to change the contents of your thoughts to ‘present’ rather than about a remembered past or anticipated future.

Question your intrusive thoughts

As human beings, we have an inherent negativity bias, with our mental chatter being skewed more towards the negative rather than positive. So despite everything, certain intrusive thoughts can continue to have grip on you. In such cases, you can test reality of your thoughts by asking some helpful questions like ‘Am I creating negative interpretations?’ ‘Is my thought helpful?’ ‘What is the evidence for and against my thinking?’ ‘What is the best part of this situation or person?’ ‘Am I filtering out the positive and dwelling on the negative?’ This way, you can focus on constructive thoughts or actions and can try and find a positive. Doing a goal-directed thinking can also help you see things in a different perspective.

Conclusion

We cannot consistently think only positive thoughts because you cannot control your thoughts but only your response to them. In fact, despite all the efforts, intrusive thoughts float through your mind and rise to the surface. It is absolutely normal for you to experience unhelpful, or unpleasant thoughts from time to time. Even though they make you anxious and uncomfortable, there is no quick fix method to control or quite your thoughts in any lasting way. But by practicing above mentioned strategies, you can, however, tame them and redirect your attention towards positive by not letting them control or giving into them. With a little practice and persistence, you can untangle yourself from unhelpful intrusive thought patterns and can change your focus to more meaningful.

“You don’t have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop letting them control you.”

Develop a positive self-perception

“A strong positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success” – Dr. Joyce brothers

No matter how intelligent, attractive, or talented you may be — to the degree you doubt your worthiness you tend to sabotage your efforts in achieving your goals. Your sense of self-worth is related to your perception of yourself. Your self-perception depends on knowing who you are, what you are like, and what you are capable of. Self-perception goes beyond positive self-esteem, and also involves your shortcomings, problem areas and shapes your life by creating tendencies. Like for instance, If you feel worthy and deserving, you tend to make productive choices and if you feel unworthy and undeserving, you tend to make destructive or limiting choices. When you do your self-assessment with your perceived worth, you have self-perception problems because your emotions or misconceptions lead you to false choices and sometimes to wrong conclusions. Adjusting your self-perception can improve your circumstances by changing the choices you make and the actions you take.

Self-perception problems takes many forms, such as engaging in self discriminating behaviour or undermining your health, success, or lowering your self-esteem. The moment we recognise the degree to which our problems are self-imposed, we begin to solve these problems by taking responsibility for the choices and actions that caused it. One of the most important measure you can take is to become aware of how your self-perception or self-image has shaped your existence and how you can transcend it. We each have the ability to achieve greatness. But sometimes this requires reframing your self-messaging to recognise your potential.

“You must have a positive self perception in order to transcend anything.” – Steve Maraboli

What is self-perception?

Self-perception is the personal view, or mental picture that we have of ourselves. It describes the characteristics of self, including how we think and feel, based on our physical appearance, intelligence, talents and performance. These characteristics form an internal dictionary of our strengths and weaknesses. Based on these, we tend to assign labels to our personal self and form conclusions about our image like for instance, I am intelligent…therefore I am…, or I am a failure.. therefore I believe I cannot…It is through these conclusions, our self-perception becomes either positive or negative.

How is self-perception developed?

Self-perception is mostly a product of our experiences. Factors like religion,culture, environment, friends and peers have a major influence on our self-perception. Our experience with others and world around add to our perception. Relationships and family influence what we think and feel about ourselves. The perception of our self may be a real or distorted view of who we really are. Based on this view, we develop either positive or negative self-perception. We continually take into and evaluate ourselves based on our appearance, relationship, and performance.

We all begin our life with a complete, natural sense of worth, but as we grow, we serve as our own judge, or get heavily influenced by others’ opinions and start to validate or negate how we perceive ourselves. As a result, we constantly strive to live up to societal expectations and compare ourselves to others. When we fail to measure up, we give rise to doubt, pessimism thereby eventually discouraging ourselves and end up in self-sabotaging our own efforts and talents. If your self-perception depends on external factors, it results in negative self-worth.

On the other hand, if your self-perception is based on your personal perspective, and not on societal expectations, you will have a more positive self-perception.

Importance of self-perception

Self-perception is important because how we perceive ourselves affects how we feel and think about ourselves and how we interact with others and the world around us. A positive self-perception boosts our physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. On the other hand, having wrong self-perception leads to low self-worth and you end up focusing more on your faults, weaknesses, failure and imperfections. This results in constant self-criticism and your imperfections blown out of proportion. With a positive perception, you recognise your strengths and full potential while being realistic about your limitations.

How can you develop an accurate perception of yourself

Self-perception is not permanent and keeps changing according to our experiences. Our perceptions of ourselves will never be that perfect. However many times, we fail to perceive ourselves accurately and as a result we fail at reaching our full potential and decreases our satisfaction and ability to function in certain areas of our life. If you don’t think you can go after your dreams, passions, or you’re worried you can’t change your negative behaviour, or simply you lack confidence, the problem might not be your situation, but just your perception of yourself. You can learn to develop a more positive and accurate view of yourself by challenging the distortions of your thinking. Here is how you can develop a more positive perception of yourself.

Rely on your self-awareness

First step in fixing your perception of yourself is to identify how you see yourself. Develop an awareness of who you are and your strengths and weaknesses. Answering certain questions like what defines your true self and how you see yourself will reveal a realistic perspective and you can get to know your strengths and also gives you an opportunity to work on your weaknesses. Acceptance of your weaknesses or flaws is an important step to work on them over time. Relying on your own awareness and not being influenced by others’ opinion not only gives you a greater sense of control over yourself but also a realistic view of your abilities.

Confront your thinking distortions

Your perception of yourself is primarily based on your personal feelings, emotions, and perspectives. To get an understanding of your thinking distortion’s, notice your critical voice, unhelpful thoughts and limiting beliefs. Notice your inner dialogue. Are your thoughts mostly critical or encouraging?Are your thoughts helpful or unhelpful when things go wrong? How do your thoughts tends to distort your reality? How do you label yourself? Are your labels helpful or unhelpful in achieving your goals? Are your thoughts rational? What assumptions do you tend to make about yourself? Working through these will help you confront your unhelpful, distorted thoughts, beliefs and incorrect assumptions. If you notice that you are overly critical of yourself and your thoughts are unhelpful and negative, then it’s important to work through these areas in order to overcome your negative self-perception.

Focus on positive attitudes

You don’t need to be perfect, in fact if you can learn from your mistakes and failures, and view them as learning experience, you can shift your perception from negative to positive. If you can stop judging your mistakes so harshly, you can stop yourself from falling into self-defeating cycles and from negatively engaging in negative behaviours. By focusing on your strengths, you can review your mistakes and embrace challenges to perceive yourself as more able and competent.

Don’t Rely on external validation

Allowing others to define you will allow others to shape your attitudes, perception and opinions. If you depend on external validation, you are always comparing and trying to live up to expectations of others. You alone can change your self-perception to positive based on your own representation of yourself and not on others definition of you. This can happen by accepting who you are and taking responsibility of your thoughts and choices. This enables you to have an optimistic outlook and more confidence in yourself and in your own ability.

Stop self-criticism

The desire to be perfect creates anxiety and sometimes leads to self-criticism. When you indulge in self-criticism, your inner-critic takes over thereby creating a negative perception of yourself. However constructive criticism can be helpful providing optimism and motivation. But if your self-talk is making you feel helpless and hurting your confidence, then instead of criticising yourself, choose to give yourself a honest feedback that will provide you an opportunity to improve and will help you build a positive self-image.

Follow your passions

Finally, define your personal goals and objectives. What are your strengths? What goals are you passionate about achieving? How can you live with more meaning and purpose? Following your passions and purpose will replace the negative beliefs you carry about yourself. You can add all the positive layers to form a definite and a positive image of yourself. Take credit for your accomplishments and strengthen your worthiness despite others opinion.

Conclusion

By perceiving yourself valuable, you can create your own definition of who you are. A positive self-perception is all about how you see yourself without external influences and embracing your true self. Overcoming negative self-perception requires conscious effort and consistency. Follow the above mentioned suggestions to develop a positive and a more accurate view of yourself. Acknowledge your strengths and live with innate self-worth.

What we perceive about ourselves is greatly a reflection of how we will end up living our lives.” – Stephen Richards

Related Links

https://sscascades.org/2018/08/10/harness-the-power-of-what-is/

https://sscascades.org/2018/05/23/practice-self-appreciation/