Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Strategy for Fighting Negative Self-Talk

“You’re too fat”, “You aren’t smart enough”, “She’s disappointed in you”, “You are so ugly”, these are just a few examples of things that I have said to myself every day for years. I constantly reminded myself that I was not good enough, that I was not deserving. I was trapped in these thoughts. My negative self-talk started to dictate what I did with my life. I isolated myself and kept all of these dark feelings inside myself.  

After years of this, I finally got help. After several weeks of therapy my condition was still not improving. Then my therapist introduced a new strategy for fighting these thoughts, called Cognitive behavioral therapy, CBT for short. This sounds like a super fancy, abstract concept, but when you break it down it is very practical to implement in your life. It improved my mental health immensely, and I hope it can do the same for anyone else who is struggling with their mental health.

The goal of CBT is to challenge the distressing and negative thoughts that plague our minds and distort our reality. CBT has been known to be a helpful coping strategy for people with depression, anxiety, dissatisfaction with life, and other psychological disorders.

 

Here is how it is done:

Step 1: Identify your current emotional state, whether that be anxious, depressed, or even a positive feeling like contentment.

Example: I am feeling anxious today

 

Step 2: Think about why you are feeling like this.

Example: My roommate was very dismissive with me this morning and it caused me to overanalyze everything I have done today.

 

Step 3: Accept these feelings and refute them by drawing on positive affirmations.

Example: I do not need to compare myself to her or get her affirmation for my actions. I am my own person, and I am happy with myself. (Even if you do not believe yourself at first, it is important to replace these negative thoughts with positive ones).

 

My reaction to this negative experience with my roommate was to get down on myself, but when I take a step back, breathe, and rethink the situation. I have nothing to feel anxious about because I am enough, and I do not need to explain my actions to anyone but myself.

CBT helps you learn to change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help you feel better. CBT is not an immediate fix. It took me several weeks before I felt its full effectiveness. No matter what feelings you are experiencing, it is extremely important to take a moment to breathe and think about why you are feeling like this. This will reinforce happy feelings, and hopefully aid in the reversal of distressing thoughts.

In my personal experience, I was able to fight my feelings of anxiety and depression with CBT. I first started using CBT the week before I went on a family vacation. My anxiety made me never want to leave the house; the idea was daunting.

The idea of wearing a swimsuit was also unwelcome in my mind because my body had changed a lot over the past several months. The first day there, I put on my swimsuit, and examined myself in the mirror. Immediately I thought, you’re too fat to be wearing this, your stomach is bulging, how many calories have you eaten this morning? The anxiety started, but I took a deep breath and identified these thought as destructive and hurtful. Why was I feeling like this?

I realized I had spent the last 18 years of my life comparing myself with women whose bodies were airbrushed and physically unrealistic. I affirmed myself by telling myself that I am beautiful, and this is what I am supposed to look like today. I did that every day for a week, and I was so much happier. I still struggle with negative self-talk on almost a daily basis, and sometimes my demons do win. But CBT has been a powerful tool for me to reaffirm my worth and fight my negative self-talk.