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One aspect of anxiety that plagued me for years was the negative self-talk that played non-stop in my head. Almost anything could trigger a memory of a past failure or embarrassment and the incriminating tapes would begin to play in my head. “That was stupid.” “I can’t believe I am so dumb!” “What an idiot!” Or, the voice of the one I longed to please the most saying, “What did you want to go and do something stupid like that for?” Ouch!
It takes some work, but you can have victory over negative self-talk. Here are a few steps that have helped me tremendously in overcoming this toxic habit. I hope they can help you, too.
1. At the first negative thought, Stop! Recognize these thoughts as poisonous and reject them from your mind. God tells us that He takes our sins and buries them in the deepest sea, Micah 7:19. He never brings them up again to taunt us. These negative thoughts are not from God. One of my favorite Corrie Ten Boom quotes is, “God takes our sins and buries them in the deepest sea. Then He puts up a sign, “No Fishing Allowed”.
2. Remind yourself that no one else remembers your mistakes from the past. Thoughts of an embarrassing mistake I made in the fifth grade used to torment me. It sounds silly now, but this memory would pop into my head and I would feel such shame over it even all these years later. I thought everyone who was there at the time must remember it, too. I mistakenly thought this was a sign of low self-esteem. Finally one day I heard someone explain how prideful it was of me to think that other people spent so much time thinking about me. I am just not that important! What a relief to be able to let go of those past failures. That knowledge really set me free.
3. Replace the negative thoughts with God’s Word. Read God’s Word and find out what He has to say about you. God is always thinking good thoughts toward us. Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Reading and memorizing God’s Word is the best way to change your thought patterns. Study and meditate on the Word of God each day. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
4. Remember, God’s grace covers all our sins. We don’t have to carry them around with us anymore. Let it go.
“I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” John Newton, Amazing Grace.