Now that we understand some of the negative thinking styles that can cause negativity in our inner voice we need to start to consider where does the negativity come from. We all have a history we all have reasons we draw certain conclusions, whether they are rational or not. What in our past has shaped our negativity and how can we overcome that.
Our negative inner voice generally comes from early life experiences that have shaped how we think about ourselves. For instance, I to this day, remember being in elementary school, I was asked a question and I answered wrong. A boy in the class laughed at me. I remember exactly what boy it was, which shows you I’ve held a grudge, first and foremost. Secondly, I found it hard to every trust my own knowledge all the way through college. I would not voluntarily answer a question. Why? Because I could be wrong. This was often my thought process even when I logically knew I was correct. But I could be wrong and if I was wrong I’d be humiliated.
What is negativity bias?
Generally, we remember negative experiences. We do remember positive as well but it’s often that negative experiences are more clear and vivid. This predilection is written in our genes due to earlier times when danger was much more prevalent.
Timothy J. Bono, Ph.D. said “We inherited the genes that predispose us to give special attention to those negative aspects of our environments that could be harmful for us.” This leads us worried about negative experiences, people, etc. that may be harmful.
This negativity bias explains why it can be hard to forget negative first impressions whether it be to a person or situation. Although the negativity bias is supposed to be a biological and evolutionary way for us to protect ourselves often times we overdo it. The cognitive biases in earlier posts, black and white thinking, overgeneralization, personalization, catastrophizing, and fortune telling are all ways we take the negativity bias to an extreme. Often harming ourselves.
How do we overcome the negativity bias?
Look back at good experiences
It can be hard because we do not remember good experiences the same way and with the same intensity as negative. Remembering the positive experiences, however, can help us see the good in specific situations.
For instance, I finally was able to recover from avoiding answering questions when I was in art history classes in college. I was a huge art history buff. I knew what I was talking about and I even TA’d and Tutored. Doing so helped me gain confidence in my own abilities and knowledge.
Savor positive experiences
When you’re having a good time savor every moment. Consciously try to remember the fun your having. Remember the people you’re getting along with. What’s good about them? What about your experience makes it positive for you? How do you feel? Remembering these things can help you understand what is necessary for you to feel those again. It can also help you gain confidence in your own ability to enjoy people and situations that arise.
Remember others have the same negativity bias
Pay attention to your own actions and follow up any negative with positive. If you have to tell off an employee follow it up with positive reinforcement. If you have to discipline your child, follow it up with positive reinforcement and just plain fun. Remember others will remember the negative experiences they go through. Try to give them positive experiences of you as well.
This will also help your own confidence and self-esteem. When we fear others hate us we tend to take that negative thought and internalize it. I know I stew all too often on other opinions of myself.
Celebrate Small Wins
Taking time to celebrate any small wins helps us build our own confidence and self-esteem. These wins can be as easy as you got dressed this morning if you’re depressed. Perhaps you caught up on house cleaning, you applied for the job, you gained a new client, or you checked one thing off your to do list. Appreciate the little things.
So, ending on that, what small win have you done recently? Have you celebrated? How could you?