FRIDAY, FRIDAY, FRIDAY!!! The fight of the year! Negative Nancy vs Logical Linda!!!
You’ve been there, we’ve all been there, faced with a situation that truly could go any which way yet our brain immediately imagines the worst and off we go into the depths of despair. Now, how often has this situation ended up in that worst case scenario you imagined then brooded on for hours, maybe even days? Very rarely.
I know I’m guilty of letting my internal Negative Nancy take the wheel while Logical Linda and Positive Paula are pushed to the backseat (sometimes even locked in the trunk, that Nancy can be wicked). These negative thought patterns usually happen when a supervisor asks to speak with me (always at a LATER time. . . why???) or my partner is constantly texting someone else while we’re together one afternoon (it HAS to be another woman, it simply can’t be that they’re coordinating something with their family), or even when someone just compliments my new hair color (do they REALLY like it black, did they HATE it brown, or what are they really after here?). My Negative Nancy’s current internal monologue: I won’t be able to find another job, I’m under-qualified for the jobs I really want, over-qualified for the ones that I can get just to pay my mortgage, I won’t be able to “sell” myself as a valuable employee, SWEET BABY MOSES I WILL BE UNEMPLOYED FOREVER!!!
It’s toxic. It’s pointless. It’s a little embarrassing to be honest.
Let’s not dwell on that though (you shush it, Nancy, I’m busy channeling the good vibes right now), let’s get to work changing our mindset so we can deal with these thoughts productively. The next time you find yourself spiraling into a negative thought pattern try asking yourself these 10 questions to redirect your inner Negative Nancy and let logic (maybe even positivity!) have a go at the wheel.
10 Questions to Challenge Your Inner Negative Nancy
1. What am I saying to myself?
How am I evaluating the current situation? What story am I telling myself? Am I seeing it from all sides?
2.What unhelpful behaviors am I engaging in?
Recognize the actual behaviors. Are you doubting yourself, expressing low self esteem, worrying, acting differently in your personal relationships as a result of these thoughts?
3. What is the evidence FOR my evaluation?
Be sure to consider if the evidence is an actual fact, or opinion? If you’re making this a written exercise draw out two columns, one for the FOR and one for the AGAINST. Only include facts if you can. If you’re like me, however, I feel better after writing EVERYTHING out so be sure if you write out opinions you clearly mark them as such. You might even end up with a nice visual of 10 opinions in this column to 2 facts. . .
4. What is the evidence AGAINST my evaluation?
Just like your “Evidence For” column, be sure differentiate between facts and opinions. Don’t favor your Negative Nancy just because she’s your loudest voice right now, try to give Logical Linda some room to talk.
5. How much do I believe my evaluation of the situation (0-100%)?
Spend some time and really think about this one and assign a hard number. If you think you’re getting fired, what is the exact percentage of that likelihood? How did you come up with it? Do you think your beau is being unfaithful? Is that 75% likely or 95% likely? What makes the 20 point difference? Write it out in a sentence. If writing out “I am 95% certain that my partner is cheating” seems like a ridiculous thing to do, perhaps you aren’t 95% certain that thought is valid.
6. How is it helpful for me to think this way?
What is your current thought process gaining you? Where is it getting you? How is it helping the situation?
7. How else could I view the situation? What other perspectives are there?
Think of all the different ways that you could interpret what’s going on. The boss wants to talk this afternoon. . . Maybe you’re getting a raise, you’re getting fired, the company is merging, you’re being given the opportunity to move up, the boss just wants to check in with you, you’re being given more responsibilities, the boss is leaving the company, you’re being reprimanded for never making more coffee, you’re hard work is being acknowledged. . . The list could go on. Whatever your situation, I’m guessing your list could be infinitely creative as well. Think about it and let your mind wander to possibilities on all sides of the + / – scale.
8. What advice would I give to a friend in the same situation?
This one is my favorite. I am constantly giving people advice, even when they don’t ask for it. So if my best friend came to me and said she thought her husband was cheating because he was texting a lot, or spending time away, I know a MILLION potential reasons why that might be because I know them both and I know her husband’s a good guy and she’s likely having a moment of doubt for an underlying reason. Now, if I was doubting my partner, wouldn’t it be easy to do the same after thinking like that? It’s easy to see the positive paths in other peoples’ lives when ours can be cloudy. Practice getting outside of your own head for a minute then reflect that back on your own thoughts.
9. What are healthier thoughts/behaviors I can respond with?
Be honest. Call yourself out on the negative thought patterns and then “treat yo self” by replacing those with healthier thought patterns. If you’ve been acting out because of perceived slights against you, think about how you can rectify that and move on with healthier behaviors. If the situation is with someone you’re close with, talk to them and bring them in to the solution stage for helpful input if you’re comfortable with it.
10. A healthier evaluation of the situation is:
And now we bring it full circle. Considering the previous 9 questions, what is a healthier thought pattern to follow in this situation? What is the most probable reality of the situation and how best should you react to it? Even if the “most probably reality” is a perceived negative one, like a massive company-wide lay off that’s been looming for months, the best reaction is probably not to fret over it for weeks and lose focus at work. Think and respond with a healthy dose of logic and positivity – if you’re facing a potential lay off you can clean up your resume, keep up the good work on the clock (having those references is important!), save up some money, and/or consider possible new career moves. Don’t just spend your time worrying, drinking, showing up late to work, neglecting to prepare for the worst case scenario – that will bite you in the butt.
Asking yourself these 10 questions when under the duress of a stressful situation can seem like a big ask, but if you practice and have patience with yourself you’ll find it gets easier and you can eventually learn to replace your instinctively negative thought patterns with more constructive ones. I’m not saying Positive Paula is going to take over and make you some giant ball of sunshine or anything, I’m just saying that training yourself to take the time to reflect is an invaluable skill that will save your (and probably your loved ones’) sanity!
*The infographic has my new (and not even remotely developed) website listed instead of this one. Jessiedoeslife will move into a more personal blog and Offbeat Endeavors will be my new foray into coaching! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!