For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with low self-esteem. “I am not enough” is like a banner that I whip out and wave whenever I feel fear or when I tried and failed at something. The thought holds me back from all the things I really want in life. Over the years, I have read thousand of books, listen to hundreds of lectures, wrote love letters to myself until my pen ran out of ink. It was all “good stuff” but I still had that old childhood tape playing in my head….”You are not enough.”
Over the last two years, I became enamored with life coaching and the tools discussed in Martha Beck’s books and articles. After taking her 9-month coaching program, I finally had the answer on how to unravel my pervasive “ball of string” of thoughts which all centered around the core belief that “I am not enough.” There are many techniques to changing your thoughts to relieve your suffering. One method is called ACT (Acceptance & Commitment Therapy). It is simple, straight-forward; and, it makes me laugh. All the more reason why I use this method frequently.
- Slow down and notice what you are thinking. Write down all the thoughts that are banging around in your head. Pick one thought that is painful to think. Writing down your thoughts can help you delineate your active “monkey mind” to find one thought that is currently causing you the most suffering. Writing down your thoughts also makes those thoughts tangible; they are not longer banging around in your head. How is your body feeling? Your body will feel “shackled” when you believe thoughts that are not true. For me, it is always about how my “gut” feels. Slow down and notice the sensations in your own body.
- Now, say “I am having the thought that” and add your thought. “I’m having the thought that…(in my case) I am not enough.” This step allows you to put some room around that thought. It helps you to see that you are not your thoughts. Do you notice any changes in how your body feels? For me, it is all about my gut. It still feel tight but not quite as compressed.
- Now, say “I notice I am having the thought….” This separates your even more from your painful thought. “I notice that I am having the thought that I am not enough.” Notice how your body feels when you say this statement a few times. For me, my gut becomes slowly unclenched and free.
- For the fun part of the program, now sing your painful thought to tune of “Happy Birthday:”
I am not enough
Oh, I am not enough, Oh I am not enough
Oh, I am not enough.
Talk about separating yourself from your painful thoughts! I always laugh out loud when I do this step and that is magical because it separates me from the pain of believing my thought. My body/gut feels free. My thought sounds so ridiculous when I sing it. It truly shows me how my thoughts are just thoughts; nothing more and nothing less. I do not have to believe them and, in fact, I can choose to not believe them. I do not have to feel pain by believing that thought. I can even prove it to myself, by writing out all the evidence I have in my life that demonstrates that I am indeed ENOUGH. Do that task for extra credit. List out all the evidence you have for why your thought is false.
There are many other tools on how to change your thoughts. This is one of my favorites because it is so simple. If you want to learn more, I recommend you pick up, “Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life” by Steven C, Hayes, PHD. It is a great self-help workbook on ACT.
Have some fun with this and let me know how it goes! What painful thought are you going to unshackle yourself from? Comment here or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org