How I addressed negative thoughts

As a five year old, I often struggled with negative thoughts like, “Everybody is so ‘cool’ and I’m so ‘weird.’” I upheld a preconceived and false notion that all of my classmates were “cooler” than me, even though there was no reason to believe such a thing. Throughout elementary school, this overarching idea that I was somehow “weird” permeated my brain. How was I weird? In what way? I couldn’t tell you. Although I did not realize it at the time, the start of the thought that I was “weird” was the birth of a monster—one that I would continue to deal with many years later.

For years, I would say negative things about myself. Whether it was a tennis match, a test, or my ability to make friends, I would put myself down, despite there being no clear reason to do so. When going into a test that I was well-prepared for, I would say, “I’m gonna fail this test. I’m gonna fail.” With these thoughts, I programmed my brain to always assume the worst, even in situations in which the odds were in my favor. This proved to be a significantly destructive mindset, especially as I went through puberty and began to care about my appearance more. Many times, I would think that I was simply exaggerating: I didn’t realize that this generalization of negative self-talk as a “joke” was the insidious monster doing dirty work in my brain.

My negative self-talk peaked during my freshman year of high school. I reached a point where I was degrading myself in relation to others, stripping myself of confidence with every negative comment. “You probably somehow forgot to answer one of the questions. You failed. It doesn’t matter that you overstudied,” the voice would bellow. I would make those unlikely scenarios come to life. In the days before any assessment was graded, I would restlessly quiver in anxiety, believing that I somehow failed. One of my teachers expressed concern after I beseeched her to quickly grade an important assessment because I thought I had somehow forgotten to answer a question and failed.

When COVID-19 abruptly placed my educational world in front of a computer screen, I realized that my negative self-talk was not sustainable. I made the firm decision to transform my mental state during online school. At first, I encountered an enormous, furious monster. As I looked closely, however, I realized something—I was the monster. Realizing that years of negative self-talk solidified in my brain like sediment solidifies to rock, I knew I would not conquer my monster in one day. Therefore, I made a plan. Every day, I would bring a light of positivity into my world, using a phrase my teacher taught me: “I am smart. I am blessed. I can do anything.” Every morning, I would repeat this phrase to myself. I would look at myself in the mirror and smile at myself. Although the process of reprogramming my brain took several months, I realized that I was no longer prematurely seeing the worst in situations. I became confident in my abilities to tackle different problems. This proved beneficial for my social life: I began to show myself respect, becoming more extroverted due to my higher self esteem. I had closed a black hole full of negativity, opening myself up to a positive world full of light.

When I was five, I opened the door to a world of negativity. At fifteen years of age, I slammed it shut and never looked back.