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I could never do that – Talking yourself out of success

Posted Nov 11 2012 11:36am

When we talk to ourselves our brain believes us

Ever wondered how someone achieves something great despite overwhelming obstacles? The secret to those high achievers is that they believe in themselves.

Tell yourself that you can’t do something and the chances are you won’t be able to do it. Tell yourself that you can be successful and the chances you will become successful increase dramatically. Tell yourself you “are a failure” and you will become one.

Tell yourself often enough that you can’t accomplish anything in your life- that you don’t deserve success and your brain will start believing you. It will make sure to pull back just as you get close to your goal.

Your brain can actually begin to protect you from success. It knows you “can’t do this” and it makes sure you can’t. Since you have trained your brain to serve you it is hard for it to disagree with the “fail” instruction.

The salesman who goes to work thinking he will make a big sale that day has a better chance of making a sale. It may not be the big sale he expected but it is something.

The salesman who expects to fail will probably fail to make a sale most of the time. More than once in my life I have gone to a store expecting to buy something and left without making a purchase because the person who was supposed to be helping me was so negative about everything they deflated my desire to buy.

Negativity can be contagious. So can positivity.

One way to improve your chances of success is to begin to believe that you can do it. You also need to believe that your deserve it. We all deserve to have a happy life. The important thing is to define what that success, that happy life, would look like for each of us individually.

When we don’t feel worthy, that this last success was an undeserved fluke, we can stop trying, not expecting anything to go our way again. We can also self-sabotage because we don’t feel that we deserve this benefit.

Many of us learned these negative “fail” messages early in life. We were told we were “stupid” or “worthless” and we began to believe these messages. We repeated them over and over and eventually our brains stored them away as a way to explain life. We avoided trying because we expected to fail.

Sometimes people break out of this trap of negativity and self-doubt because someone else believes in them. One teacher or counselor who believes in a child can make a world of difference.

Other times people find they have to become our own cheerleaders. They begin by telling themselves positive things each day. We call those thoughts positive affirmations. Giving the brain the same message over and over will cause it to believe that message.

Repeatedly I have seen older students who didn’t believe they were that smart, return to school out of desperation. They needed to get a degree that would lead to a job, any job. Along the way to that degree they discover that they are a lot smarter and a lot more capable than they ever thought.

They had stopped telling themselves they couldn’t and started telling the brain they had to and the brain came through for them. They did succeed.

Every therapist could tell you stories of clients who came to therapy defeated and discouraged. They believed they couldn’t. Over the course of therapy the clients perception changed first to maybe I could and then to I think I can.

As a result of that change of thinking people have gone on to achieve great things. They have finished school and gotten a degree, found jobs or established and improved relationships all while staying clean and sober and out of their depression.

All these things happen when you begin to believe in yourself.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page . For information about my other writing work beyond this blog there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com . Thanks to all who read this blog.

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