I’m Good Because I’ve Turned Negative Self-Talk into Positive Thought Patterns

Tony Koo - Im Good

Tony Koo – NAMI API (Asian Pacific Islander) Peer Support Coordinator

I’m good because as far as I can remember, I’ve had horrible re-occurring negative thoughts about myself.
“You don’t belong here!”, “You’re worthless!”, “You’re useless!”, “You’re not good enough!”, “You don’t fit in!”, “You suck!”, “You’re a failure!”, “You’re a loser!”, “You’re a reject!”, “You’re stupid!”, “You’re incapable!”
I think I got those from my family, as I always remembered being very negative and critical. Also, I used to think that by being critical, my performance would improve because of fear of my own punishing thoughts. I used to get these thoughts all the time, and they were painful and even crippling to experience, especially when I was going through really bad times. I’d experience them when I felt different from members of my family, when I took tests and got report cards, when I compared myself to the perfect people on TV, movies and magazines, and whenever I felt awkward and excluded from social circles during childhood and in my adult years.
Over the course of my life, I had these negative thoughts thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions of times in my mind, and I came to realize that such thoughts grew to have a life of their own. These habitual thoughts started to get triggered more and more easily and happened more and more frequently. They were like muscles that had gotten so much use that they were so big, strong and powerful that they triggered themselves easily, almost like a boxer’s reflex.
So, one day, after decades of psychological and emotional torture, in a desperate attempt to find relief, I decided to try to retrain my habitual thought patterns. Why not? What do I have to lose? I thought of it like “going to the gym for my brain”, so to speak.
So instead of “You don’t fit in here”, I trained myself to repeat “You belong here!”, hundreds, thousands and even tens of thousands of times. Instead of “You’re worthless”, I repeated “You’re valuable!”. Instead of “You’re incapable”, I repeated “You’re capable!”. Instead of “You’re a failure/loser”, I repeated “You’re a good person!”. Instead of “You’re an idiot”, I repeated “You’re intelligent!”. Instead of “You’re a coward”, I repeated “You’re courageous!”. Instead of “You’re so irresponsible”, I repeated “You’re responsible!”, and in order to calm my overactive anxiety, I repeated “You’re going to be OK” and in order to prevent myself from being proud, arrogant and egotistical, I repeated “Thank you, Lord!” (I am Christian) so that I would be thankful for everything I’ve been blessed with, rather than take things for granted or feel entitled and dismissive of my blessings.
I started repeating these new thoughts, and at first, I had a hard time believing them because I was already so used to believing the old negative thoughts, but I reminded myself of all the times in my life where I showed the traits I wanted to believe (belonging, being valuable, being capable, being a good person, being intelligent, being courageous, being responsible, and being humble) to back up these beliefs. Then I repeated these thoughts literally hundreds of thousands of times, even millions of times (I had a tally counter app on my phone to keep track), and eventually, I noticed that my habitual thought patterns started to change. I started to become more positive, more calm, and more happy, as I started to get positive automatic thoughts rather than negative ones.
The positive thoughts started to get triggered easily throughout the day, and rather than be my own oppressive/tyrant/worst enemy, I started to become my own coach/best friend. The positive thoughts started to become embedded in my subconscious and became automatic (much like everything else we learn to do repeatedly, such as driving a car). And now, I’m happier and more relaxed than I ever have been, but it’s taken a lot of work, and a lot of practice to repeat such positive thoughts, thousands of times in my mind, every day for months and years. But I have to say that it’s far better to repeat these thoughts, than allow my mind to repeat the negative thoughts that used to literally cripple me.

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