To rid ourselves of pessimistic moments we need to have an effective, internal dialogue that not only neutralizes the negative, but also fills us with positive thoughts that renew our self-confidence and belief we can meet the day-to-day or even more difficult long term challenges of life.
Sometimes as we sit facing the hour, day, week, or month we feel a significant tinge of pessimism, some uneasiness, worry and general anxiety. When this happens to me: I ask myself, "Can an optimist feel pessimistic?" I answer with a resounding “Yes!” Optimists are human and thus have up and down moments.
- I remind myself it is not about feeling optimistic or pessimistic in any given moment, but it is about recognizing how I am feeling in that moment and managing myself back towards optimism and a positive attitude with speed and agility.
But, some pessimistic moments last longer than others, and some are downright “sticky,” like trying to get gum off the bottom of your shoe.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THE PESSIMISM FEELS LIKE GUM ON YOUR SHOE?
Perhaps YOU are worried about upcoming deadlines or events; a report is due, a job interview has finally been scheduled, you are giving a speech to a hundred persons tomorrow, parent teacher conferences are scheduled for this evening. If you find yourself catastrophizing about anyone one of these, you need to replace that negative, “sky-is-falling-thought” with, “no matter what, I will have to take what the day God gives me and move on from there to face the next challenge.”
SOME GUM REMAINS
Sometimes that “just-take-the-day-as-it-comes” thought just doesn’t work, even though it has in the past. We might be looking forward to an upcoming trip, a birthday or dinner party, or starting a new job after being unemployed. All of these should provide joy and a positive outlook. But instead we find ourselves worrying about the expenses of the trip, who will attend the party, and whether or not you could get laid off again.
DARN GUM IS STILL THERE
Sometimes, before our minds can pick the gum off the bottom of the shoe and put that gum into our mental trash can, we get lost in thought about a past, but similar life event. We remember the “trip-from-hell”, the party that flopped, or a friend who got laid off two days after he started the new job. When we go “back-to-the-negative-future,” the gum is indeed difficult to get off.
So here are some suggestions to make the GUM GONE!
Ten “Optimism-Now” TIPS to rid yourself of “STICKY PESSIMISM”
1. DO NOT DENY THAT YOU HAVE GUM ON YOUR SHOE! Admit to yourself you are having some pessimism. Better to feel it, embrace it for a moment, explore it, and talk to it than to push it away and say, “Oh, I’m supposed to be optimistic, I can’t allow myself to feel down and out.”
2. CAPTURE YOUR WORRISOME THOUGHTS. Once acknowledged, try to capture possible worrisome thoughts, ones that create a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.
3. USE YOUR INTERNAL SELF-TALK dialogue to explore this negative thinking. Ask yourself: “What triggered this thought.” “Is it something from the past that is resolved? If so can I just put it out of my mind right now?” If not, “Can I think about it later when I have time to work on a resolution.”
4. REPLACE THE NEGATIVE THOUGHT WITH A POSITIVE ONE. Think of an upcoming positive event, or of something from the past that made you smile. Think about your gifts from God: your ability to breathe, your pet, children, grandchildren, the garden you tend or see all around, the rain and the blue sky.
5. EXPLORE the interplay of the positive and negative. Remember as Pollyanna taught us, there is always something that could have been or be worse. Every negative has a silver lining. The first place to look for a silver lining is in the “opportunity for learning.”
6. RECOGNIZE and accept that some pessimism is darn “sticky.” But don’t be overwhelmed or give in: keep up the self-management tool of the internal dialogue.
7. ALLOW for a little catharsis, some teary moments. Then wipe the tears away and move on.
8. FOLLOW the advice of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale from The Power of Positive Thinking. He says: “No other idea is so powerful in developing self-confidence than to simply affirm “God is with me; God is helping me; God is guiding me.” He suggests spending several minutes each day visualizing God’s presence.
9. DR. PEALE also gives this very simple advice: “Feelings of confidence depend upon the type of thoughts that habitually occupy your mind. Think defeat and you are bound to feel defeated.” Usually that gum on your shoe has a label that reads “DEFEATED.” Practice thinking confident and positive thoughts throughout the day. You will find it easier to practice these thoughts when you are in a positive state of mind, rather than when you are feeling down and out.
10. DR. PEALE TELLS US: “Ten times a day repeat these dynamic words, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). For more Optimism Now, repeat these words slowly and confidently over and over 10 times. While saying them to yourself or out loud, visualize God standing next to you as you start working on a problem or dealing with some negative circumstance of life. See the problem become small in the face of God’s presence.