Treating Yourself Badly–Is It Habitual?

Withdrawal SymptomsTreating yourself badly is habitual for many people. Typically, it begins in early family life when children are exposed to abusive or neglectful parenting. Children may be directly told bad things about themselves, or may simply come to believe bad things because of others’ behaviors, or the adverse life situations they experience.

Core Negative Beliefs

Habitually regarding yourself in negative ways and being unkind to yourself is a pattern based on core negative beliefs about yourself. These tend to operate unconsciously but are powerful enough to make us feel we have no control over their negative consequences. However, with the right information and help, we can change them. First, they have to be identified, and then we have to practice substituting healthier beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. Here are some common core negative beliefs that can cause you to habitually treat yourself unkindly:

  • I am less than others.
  • I am a failure.
  • Others don’t like me, love me, or approve of me.
  • I am ashamed of myself, my life, my family.
  • I have nothing to offer.
  • I mess up everything I do.
  • I feel guilty for the things I’ve done.
  • I feel guilty for the things I haven’t done.
  • I feel responsible for other people’s unhappiness.
  • I have let others down; people are disappointed in me…

Overcoming Core Negative Beliefs

It can take some time and much work to overcome core negative beliefs. Therapy is helpful and can accelerate your ability to identify the negative beliefs that are at work in your life. It can also help you find ways to replace them with more helpful thoughts and beliefs. As a result of replacing thoughts and beliefs, you will find that your behavior also becomes healthier. Below are some tips for overcoming core negative beliefs, but note that there are many, many more.

Some strategies for overcoming negative core beliefs are:

  • Challenge them. Do writing exercises in which you write out negative beliefs and then explore healthier alternatives. For example: if your negative belief is I have let others down, explore replacements such as I am responsible for myself and my life. I have followed my own path and that is everyone’s right to do. ‘
  • Strive to find a balance of self-acceptance and learning from mistakes. Instead of spending time beating yourself up, view your mistakes, failures, and losses as lessons. Find the ‘research data’ in anything that didn’t go well and that you feel badly about. This way you stay focused on positive self-improvement rather than nurturing negativity.