"Ask people to list 10 things they like about themselves and they can't get past three," says New York based psychologist Heide Banks. "What they don't like? The list is endless." Maybe it's time to do a thought inventory and get rid of those old, worn out ideas that could be preventing you from achieving physical and emotional health.
How do you do that?
To start, consider reining in what you expect out of life.
"We live in a society where we are programmed to think we are losers if we are not millionaires or on the cover of a magazine," says Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist Dr. Angela Wilder.
Unrealistic goals lead to disappointment. And even if you do set high goals and reach them, happiness isn't assured.
Toxic Thought #1: I'm a Loser.
Feeling inadequate or unworthy impairs your ability to function at home and at work, and to forge satisfying relationships with family, friends and colleagues.
Don't feel that by telling yourself that you're no good that you can "shame" yourself into doing better. It just doesn't work that way, the experts say.
"To have a healthy emotional life, you have to change this limiting belief," says Kelley Kosow, a Miami-based life coach.
Toxic Thought #2: Someone Else Should Take Care of Me
Forget this Disney-esque fantasy. In reality, the only one who is going to save you is you, says Miami-based life coach Kelley Kosow. Be your own Prince Charming, and take responsibility for all of the different areas of your life, including your health and happiness.
Toxic Thought #3: I Need To Stay Safe.
People are often more committed to being safe than being happy. That's why many people stay in a bad marriage or unfulfilling job. "It's comfortable - people instinctively resist change," says Miami-based life coach Kelley Kosow.
What's the takeaway? If you want to increase your happiness, you can't always play it safe. "Without change, there can't be growth," she says.
Toxic Thought #4: I Know I Am Right.
People who insist on always being right tend to be people who are afraid of something, says life coach Kelley Kosow. The result is stagnation.
How to get unstuck?
The first step is admitting that you're stuck. Then look at what the underlying fear is and deal with that.
"When I work with people, I explain that these thoughts, however crazy they may sound, all have a purpose that served them at one time," says therapist Heide Banks, who works in New York and Los Angeles. "It then becomes our job to turn that thought around."
Toxic Thought #5: I'll Never Get What I Want
Whether you're talking about a healthy body, a strong relationship, or harmonious relationships, this is a passive position that gives you an excuse to not take responsibility for your own life.
Furthermore, how do you know if you really want what you think you want?
"This hurts so many of us is because we don't know what we really want, says Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Angela Wilder, who says she encourages people to give serious thought to what they hope to achieve, independent of what others say.
The only exception Wilder would make is when it comes to physical health advice from a professional.
"If your doctor says you need to exercise or lose weight, you need to lose weight," she says. "Why would I call a plumber and tell him how to do his job?"
Toxic Thought #6: I'll Start Tomorrow
Mom was right about procrastinating. It's often an excuse for not taking responsibility.
How to change? Life coach Kelley Kosow recommends asking yourself, "Am I more committed to short-term gratification or long-term health and fulfillment?"
Toxic Thought #7: I Will Be Happy When . . .
This "someday fantasy" keeps you from enjoying life. Instead of living in the present, you're waiting for something that will "allow" you to make changes, says life coach Kelley Kosow. People who live in the past or fantasize about some future event tend to be less happy than those who live in the present, she adds.
Toxic Thought #8: It's All Their Fault
Playing the victim may make you feel better for a split second, but ultimately you are passing the buck on your own emotional health.
So what to do if you catch yourself blaming your spouse if, for example, you break your diet?
"Shift the focus," says Dr. Debbie Magids, a psychologist in New York City. "Hold the mirror up to yourself and take responsibility." It may sound harsh, but what will happen, she says, is that instead of feeling helpless, you will feel empowered to change.
Toxic Thought #9: I'll Try
There's a saying, "trying is lying." When you say you will "try," you are not really committing to serious action. You're giving yourself a way out, says life coach Kelley Kosow.
What should you tell yourself instead? Easy. Just banish the word "try" from your vocabulary, says Kosow. That way, when you say you will do something you are energetically committing to do so.
Think you need a therapist to work through all these negative thoughts? Think again. "You don't necessarily need a Ph.D. to help you - you can look in your community and find a role model," says Dr. Angela Wilder, INFO TK. She suggests looking to the friends and associates - anyone who appears to have achieved the sorts of health and lifestyle goals you seek. "It takes guts," she says, but you might be surprised at the results.
Toxic Thought #10: Making a Mistake Will Ruin My Life
"People spend way too much time agonizing over decisions," says Dr. Debbie Magids, a clinical psychologist in New York City. "It can be debilitating." On top of that, she says, agonizing over the "right" course can lead to procrastination.
So what do you do?
"People have to 'self talk' and shift their thoughts," she says. "They have to tell themselves that if this choice ends up to be a choice that doesn't get the desired result, they can always make a new choice. The world will not end, they will not die, there is always another chance."