4 Ways to Strengthen Your Sense of Self in Order to Reduce Negative Thoughts

by Gideon
March 4, 2022

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In this post, we’ll look at four ways to improve your sense of self in order to reduce negative thoughts that may be affecting your life.

To begin with, no one is immune to negative thoughts, no matter who they are.

However, by striving to be a well-rounded individual with a reasonably balanced life, you can reduce your chances of having negative thoughts on a regular basis.

Having strong relationships, for example, doing your part to make the world a better place, and developing a sense of self are all components of being a well-rounded individual.

reduce negative thoughts

And having each of these elements in place can help you reduce some of the negativity in your life.

Examples of negative thoughts in depression include things like:

  • I’m a terrible person.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • I can’t do anything right.
  • I’m ugly.
  • I’m fat.
  • I’m worthless.
  • I’m a failure.

These thoughts are toxic and very detrimental to your well-being and happiness in life and learning how to overcome negative thoughts and depression is paramount for a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Additionally, psychologists have been studying the concept of “meaning” in life, and there is a strong link between having a sense of meaning and purpose in life and experiencing higher levels of well-being.

Being a well-rounded person with healthy components such as strong relationships or a meaningful job can go a long way towards giving an individual a sense of meaning, which will translate into more optimism and happiness.

So, in this post, we’ll look at four steps you can take to get started on this path.

First, consider the relationship between your sense of self, your thoughts, and how you feel as a result.

The Relationship Between Your Sense of Self, Thoughts and Emotions

To begin, it is critical to recognise that there appears to be a link between your sense of self, your thoughts or how you think, and your emotions, i.e. how you frequently feel.

My sense of self is the sum total of all my beliefs, ideas and perceptions. My thoughts, feelings and actions are all affected by my sense of self.

Your personality traits, likes and dislikes, moral code, and belief system all play a role in forming your unique identity, or self, as do your likes and dislikes.

Furthermore, a person with a strong sense of self finds it easier to understand and communicate the various aspects that comprise their identity and personality.

People who have difficulty understanding or expressing these characteristics, on the other hand, tend to have a more hazy sense of their own identity or self.

Of course, this can have a variety of consequences, such as a person feeling lost and confused in life.

Another consequence could be that the person feels insecure and uncertain about themselves, which will, of course, have a variety of other consequences for that person.

For example, the behavioural consequences of an insecure person can include being withdrawn and shy, while others may become more aggressive or competitive.

Furthermore, a person with a vague sense of their own identity may struggle to make decisions and set goals because they do not know who they are.

Finally, such a person may feel isolated and alone, unsure of where they fit in the world, which can lead to a variety of behavioural consequences.

reduce negative thoughts

The point I’m trying to make here is that regardless of whether you know yourself well or not, and whether or not you’ve given it much thought at all, your sense of self has an impact on you.

So, let’s talk a little bit more about the importance of having a strong sense of self.

The Importance of a Strong Sense of Self

As previously stated, a strong sense of self is essential because it allows people to confidently navigate life in a meaningful way.

People with a strong sense of self are aware of who they are and what they stand for, which gives them the confidence to pursue their goals and adhere to their values, all of which leads to greater fulfilment and happiness.

A strong sense of self can also help people form meaningful relationships because it allows them to better understand and communicate their own needs and desires to others.

When we are unsure about our own needs and desires, let alone being able to communicate them effectively to our partners, it is extremely difficult to develop any type of meaningful and fulfilling relationship.

When this does not occur in a relationship, the consequences are usually swift and severe.

Anytime we feel that our needs in a relationship aren’t being met by our significant other(s), no matter who is at fault (or not), we become irritated and angry.

We feel let down and begin to criticise or threaten our partner(s), and we become overly defensive.

reduce negative thoughts

Of course, none of this will lead to a healthy, happy, or intimate relationship.

More importantly, as previously stated, a strong sense of self can provide people with a sense of stability and purpose, both of which are critical for our mental health and healthy behaviour.

Following on from that, having a strong sense of self can help people develop mental toughness.

Mental toughness is defined as “the ability to succeed in the face of failures and obstacles.”

Mental toughness is almost a different kind of mental well-being altogether.

A person with a strong sense of self can push themselves to develop mental toughness because they can remain confident in their abilities regardless of what is going on around them.

People who lack a strong sense of self, on the other hand, are more likely to develop mental health issues.

People who lack a strong sense of self are more likely to doubt themselves and question their own abilities, making them hesitant to take on challenges or try new things, all of which can contribute to a variety of mental health problems.

The third advantage of having a strong sense of self is that it can assist people in dealing with rejection.

This is especially true when a person sets out to achieve new goals or outcomes in their life.

When we are afraid of rejection or disappointment, we tend to behave reluctantly or with hesitancy, which can be a real impediment to trying new things in life.

A person with a strong sense of self, on the other hand, can deal with negative feedback more easily because they don’t take themselves too seriously and are okay with failing because they know they can always get back up and try again.

Many people who lack a strong sense of self are easily absorbed and overwhelmed by the concept of “failure” or “rejection” because they tend to catastrophize or overgeneralize what that means.

reduce negative thoughts

To put it another way, negative thoughts begin to control their thinking, which of course leads to a slew of unhelpful emotions and subsequent behaviours that lead to even worse outcomes, which is then used as additional “proof” that they were “right” all along.

So finding ways to reduce negative thoughts is an important part of regaining control of your life because negative thinking produces nothing good.

It’s simply not helpful.

When we talk about positive thinking, we don’t mean positive delusion or self-deception.

We’re not talking about ignoring current problems or negative realities.

These must be addressed as soon as possible because many unattended problems can escalate into much larger disasters.

Here, we’re talking about how to maintain balance in your life and deal with the inevitable obstacles.

Finding ways to reduce negative thoughts plus exercises to stop negative thinking and replacing them with more helpful and constructive thinking is a part of that process.

That is what we will explore next.

4 Ways to Reduce Negative Thoughts

There are numerous strategies for reducing negative thoughts; however, in this section, we’ll only briefly discuss four strategies for reducing negative thoughts by clarifying your sense of self, which are described below.

1. State or describe the nature of your values in detail.

Values are the foundation of a person’s identity.

Some people see their values as a set of universal principles that apply to everyone.

Values, on the other hand, are more personal.

A person’s values are influenced by their family and beliefs.

They may also be influenced by their living environment, religious beliefs, and cultural influences.

A person can also have multiple sets of values at the same time.

The goal of describing your value system in detail in order to reduce negative thoughts is to reconnect with your true self.

When people reconnect with their value system, they can often quickly identify the areas in their lives where they are straying from what they truly believe to be important and what is consuming their time and energy.

reduce negative thoughts

“Gaps” between what we think is important and what we spend most of our time on are often places where we lose touch with our true selves.

As a natural result, we often experience an upsurge of negative thoughts because we know, on some level, that we are not living the life we believe we are supposed to be living.

The first step is to state or describe in detail the essence of your values.

2. Determine to make your choices, not those of others.

This follows on from the previous one.

Your decisions should primarily benefit you and your well-being.

Of course, if you have a spouse or children, their needs must be considered as well.

But that doesn’t mean you should neglect yourself in order to care for others.

So many people fall into this trap and end up “supporting” others while running “on empty.”

As a result, it’s critical to set aside time to focus solely on yourself.

This will allow you to reconnect with yourself and refuel as needed.

Choose activities that you enjoy and that are consistent with your values (step #1).

Now, if your life is currently being controlled by someone else, this step is even more important.

You can read a recent article I wrote about having a narcissistic spouse here.

Begin by thoroughly identifying your values, and then choose to make your own decisions rather than those of others.

Again, this does not mean that you will neglect your loved ones or those around you, but it does mean that you will have to prioritise yourself more.

It is time to take charge of your life.

3. Set healthy boundaries.

When other people have grown accustomed to us always being available or at their beck and call, there is a real risk of friction or pushback when we decide to prioritise ourselves more.

But this is where healthy boundaries come into play.

Boundaries, in essence, limit the things that require your energy.

They also aid in time management.

Time and energy are limited resources that do not last forever.

As a result, it is critical to establish and maintain your boundaries because you are the only one who can safeguard your sense of self.

However, this may necessitate an honest evaluation of how you spend your time and energy.

A person who establishes healthy boundaries usually values themselves.

It makes them respect themselves more and feel better about themselves.

Healthy boundaries also aid in the understanding or identification of a person’s wants and desires, and this self-awareness frequently leads to increased self-confidence.

When a person achieves this, they are less likely to allow others to control their lives, which is why healthy boundaries are so important.

Lastly,

4. Use affirmations and practice positive self-talk.

Affirmations are positive statements that you repeat to yourself several times throughout the day, such as “I am confident and capable.”

The overarching goal is to become more positive, which may lead to a stronger sense of self.

A stronger sense of self will also assist you in reducing negative thoughts.

Again, practising positive self-talk does not imply deception.

Obviously, if something is an impediment or a problem that must be resolved as quickly as possible.

Positive self-talk, on the other hand, is just another way of programming yourself to have a positive disposition, which will most likely result in you not only having more resilience but also dealing with problems more effectively.

To put it another way, rather than seeing difficulties as problems, see them as paths that can lead you to know yourself.

And only by getting to know ourselves well can we discover our true strengths as well as our weaknesses.

Knowing our strengths allows us to capitalise on them more, and knowing our weaknesses allows us to put measures in place to either change or limit them.

Take Away

Find out who you really are.

Get in touch with your true self and develop a strong sense of self-awareness.

As long as you’re willing to work at it, you’ll gain a better understanding of who you are and how you want to live your life.

About the author 

Gideon

Gideon is the founder of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a top-50 relationship blog (2021) and top-100 marriage blog (2021) which focuses on providing healthy relationship advice about love and life. He earned a Master's degree in theological studies before training as a professional counsellor and hypnotherapist (DipProfCouns., DipMSHT.) almost 10 years ago. He completed a graduate diploma in Psychology and is currently pursuing postgraduate Psychology studies at Massey University. He has been married to his wife for over sixteen years and is the father of two children. His articles have been published on Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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