The following exercise is a variation of Benjamin Franklin’s T-Chart (where he’d take a sheet of paper, divide it into two columns, and use one column to list out all the ‘pros’ of an upcoming decision and the other column to list out all the ‘cons’).
In our case, though, rather than starting with a decision to be made, let’s use a decidedly negative conclusion you’ve reached about yourself.
Maybe something like, “I can’t accomplish ANYTHING – I’m a total loser,” or “I just can’t follow rules.”
The idea is that, regardless of how ‘true’ it may FEEL to you, such a statement is NOT a fact — it’s just a conclusion. And not a particularly helpful conclusion, at that.
But it IS often helpful to state our negative self-beliefs out loud. Why?
- Because we’re already thinking them
- So we can re-frame them in decidedly more positive and supportive ways
The key is to do it in a self-supporting way.
Step 1 – Start with the Negative
Pick a piece of negative self-talk that is all-too-familiar to you. Write it down. (As illustration, let’s use, “I can’t accomplish ANYTHING – I’m a total loser” as our working example.)
Step 2 – Capture its Reason
Think about what caused you to reach that negative conclusion for our first example. . For example, maybe you’re thinking:
- “I’ve failed at so many other things so many times before”
- “I just never know what to do”
- “I always feel I’m in over my head”
The point here is not to make yourself feel bad, but to better understand what led you to your conclusion in the first place.
(I suggest you limit the number of reasons items to 3 – at least to start – as this helps minimize any ‘awfulization’ that might creep in when first trying this exercise. Besides, we’ll only need 1 so no need to go overboard!)
Step 3 – ‘Stem’ the Tide
Use the following sentence stems to create an alternative positive and self-affirming explanation for the Negative Conclusion from Step 1 and the Reasons provided by Step 2.
I sometimes feel … [insert your Negative Conclusion from Step 1] … and that’s probably because… [insert your Reason from Step 2] … which highlights one of my STRENGTHS, in that … [insert your Restatement from Step 3].
I sometimes feel … “I can’t accomplish ANYTHING – I’m a total loser” … and that’s probably because… I’ve failed at so many things so many times before … which highlights one of my STRENGTHS, in that … I’m unafraid to take on new challenges.
See what we’ve done? We’ve re-framed your self-talk from being about failure, to being about fearlessness.
I sometimes feel … “I just can’t follow rules ” … and that’s probably because … I can always see why exceptions are in order … which highlights one of my STRENGTHS, in that … I am sincere, caring, and truly customer-focused,even when it’s inconvenient.
See what we did? We turned your so-called weakness into a customer-service value-added.
Moving (Positively) Forward
The way to leverage this exercise, moving forward, is by using it to help you recognize that just because you’ve reached a Negative Conclusion about yourself does not have to mean that it’s a fully accurate conclusion about yourself. And with that, you now also know how to quickly and easily replace that negative self-talk with something decidedly more positive, constructive, and self-affirming.