Confessions of a Bikini Competitor

I have neglected this blog for way too long. So first let me apologize. I plan to be more consistent. Now let me explain why I “fell off the bandwagon”.

For the last 5 or 6 years I have been a “fitness nut”. Since I began I would say I have consistently averaged 5-6 days a week in the gym and have had a healthy diet. It started out as a means to save money from eating out. Quickly working out became my sanity and it saved me from the stress and emotional upset of my full time therapy job. About 3 years ago working out became my part-time job when I started teaching group fitness classes. It was during this time that working out became not just a hobby but a passion of mine. Working out and eating well was fun for me. Over the course of time I found I wanted to challenge myself in the sport of bodybuilding.

I was always happy with the way I looked and felt very comfortable and confident with my body but I wanted to see how my body could change with discipline and focus. So in March 2014 I started prepping for my first bikini bodybuilding competition. With my excellent coach and my motivation to be successful I walked on stage July 5th, 2014 and placed 6th. I felt very proud of what I accomplished. The road to the stage was fun. It is exciting to watch your body become lean and vascular. My body really became a fat burning, muscle building machine. I am a competitor at heart and can honestly say I feel accomplished with my performance in my first competition. I believe that others found inspiration in my progress and dedication, and my accomplishment really does show that with hard-work and discipline anything is possible.

However over time I stopped enjoying eating well and working out because these things were now a chore. Most days I dreaded going to the gym but went because “I had too”. When I wasn’t in the gym I was obsessing about working out. I literally laid in bed at night and visioned myself doing the next days workout and cardio. Images of food and meal prepping consumed my every thought. The food I ate no longer tasted enjoyable because it was solely fuel. When I wasn’t eating, I was starving and literally counting down until I could eat again. I was exhausted mentally and emotionally.

As my contest drew closer I hired and worked with a posing coach (one of the best in my opinion). So every Saturday after my workout, rather than spend time with family and friends I drove close to 2 hours (one way) to practice my posing. I spent money I could have been saving for a retirement or starting a new business for me and my husband on supplements. I thought my food bill would decrease as I just ate the same thing daily, but our grocery bill doubled and I was spending over $200 a month on supplements. The food is not only expensive but it is also costly to compete. There is a fee to join the Federation, there is a fee for each contest, tanning costs about $300 dollars, there is the cost of hair and makeup, plus the cost of a hotel stay and travel. Alas, the bikinis the girls in the bikini division wear are gorgeous. They are also very expensive. Yet I choose to once again spend HUNDREDS of dollars on a bikini instead of saving, investing, or bettering my families future.

Sure my waist and my body fat decreased but so did my wallet and my self-esteem. Suddenly it became about being a certain standard and fitting into a mold. I prefer to stand out, be different, and quite enjoy not always fitting in. Yet consuming myself with working out and competing I found I wanted to be like other competitors and fitness professionals. On contest day I saw myself with my tan, my hair and make up done, my beautiful bikini, and did not recognize myself. I was no longer Stephanie, but rather some obsessed meat head.

I spent the weeks following my show thinking about my next show. I was now obsessed with not “getting fat” (whatever that means). So I continued to obsess about going to the gym and counting calories and macros. Still working out and eating well was not fun. As I began to gain normal fat back I felt self-conscious and disgusting. This is about the time I stopped writing and stopped trying to help, motivate, and encourage others. I was so over working out that I stopped teaching at my gym, and this was something I love to do. Was I depressed? Not clinically but I think I was in a dark place. I had become something and someone I did not want to be.

You see, I had found balance in my life. Working out and eating well was fun because it did not control my life. I made it fit my lifestyle. I took it to the extreme of restricting calories, food, and WINE! I was working out to an extreme. When all you can talk about, think about, and dream about is working out and eating vegetables and lean protein you can be sure you are off balance. I remember a few meals following my show I literally had anxiety about eating. I ruined a surprise my husband had planned for me because I was so anxious and worried about what the meal would entail. Because I had become so obsessed with working out, eating, gaining fat, and staying lean, I was no longer able to enjoy friends and time with family. I felt embarrassed and insure to be at the gym. The gym was once a place where I felt confident and in control. But after my show it was as if I was a beginner again just walking into a gym for the first time. I was lost. I even kept my coach and had a plan but found I was not able to follow through. I withdrew from family and friends and wanted to spend my free time doing nothing and resting rather than being active and outgoing. I became lazy! I stopped feeling motivated to work on my career. I gained weight and body fat back but my confidence was destroyed. I felt I did not deserve to teach others. I felt I was not good enough to inspire and motivate.

I had to find balance again. I wanted so badly to enjoy working out and eating well and not worry about my body if I did not do things 100%. I am not sure when things started to come back together for me. I can say it did take about 6 months to feel like myself again. I am enjoying working out again. I can eat well but I can also not eat well and not freak out. I can eat out with friends and family and not binge. (A cheat meal used to contain well over 3600 calories). I am teaching again and I love it! And I am finally feeling motivated and passionate about writing again and finding ways to help others live well lives.

So many fitness professionals preach balance. But I caution you and warn you, they are professionals. Their living is spent in the gym working out. It is their job to stay lean and we only see their professional self. We do not see the other parts of their life that involves family, friends, and fun. Your job is not to be a workout professional. (I don’t think this is a bad profession, it is a needed and valuable profession, but not one that everyone should seek). Your job is to live a healthy, fit, and happy lifestyle. Life should never include obsessing about what to eat, when to eat it, and when to get to the gym. I do think life is about making healthy eating and working out a priority. When we make time for what is important we find health, fitness, and happiness.
I saw this quote and thought it perfectly expressed what happens when we compete or take diet and exercise to the extreme.

“You begin to change your food, your friendships, your sleep habits… you change what you talk about, the stuff you buy, and what you think about… and it all happens without effort – like it was meant to happen. You just find yourself consumed. Then, after awhile, you grow perspective. Regular life comes back and you enter the maturity stage, where all the fitness and training stuff still interests you, but just doesn’t engulf your mind”.

Let fitness and health fit into your life rather than trying to fit into a life of fitness. Fitness is something you do, not who you are. I eventually noticed that many competitors are so consumed with competing and looking and staying lean it becomes what defines them. Seeking to obtain a certain physique is an accomplishment and should be a source of pride. However it should not be something that is sought forever. Yes I obtained about 10% body fat, yes I had abs, I was vascular in my legs and arms, but those things did not make me happier or more fulfilled.

When we all die and face Judgement we will not be judged on our weight, body fat, abs, hamstrings, or glutes. We will be judged by what we do and how we positively benefit the lives of others. Fitness can do that. Fitness truly does save lives. Eating well and working out gives us the energy to do good deeds and live meaningful lives. Many fitness professionals help so many people find health and even balance, but so many also comply with the stereotypes and cause insecurities and doubt. Don’t let a picture of legs, butts, or abs on social media be your motivation. That is a false world and the consequences of that world can be worse than what is described above. Let us be fulfilled by spending time with family and friends, traveling, and trying new things. Find what makes you happy, find what makes you fulfilled. That is what determines your worth. Not how you look in a mirror or how you look to others.

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Slow Your Role

We spend so much of our time being BUSY. We have work responsibilities, family obligations, social commitments, and leisure activities that compete for our time and attention.  Lately I have been focused on the future and all the things I need to do to complete my to-do list. I spend so much time making to do lists, setting goals, and planning my days that I have been forgetful to deal with my present moment. 

I am not the only one with lots to do. I am not the only one with goals, dreams, and aspirations. And although I believe we can do anything I worry we spend too much time looking forward. Recently I am working on being content and being in the present moment. 

Rather than worry about all I need to do later I want to be Ok with what I am doing right now. I want to strive to improve and strive to be a better version of myself.  I want to learn to be OK with who am I right now. I am trying to remember “I am enough”.  

 

Lately the above Scripture has been floating around in my head. Perhaps it is my soul telling me to slow down and be in the moment. I have all that I need right now.  I am fully equipped with the strength and emotional ability to manage whatever task I am working on right now. This verse reminds me to slow my role and be OK because who I am today is exactly who I am to be. This verse helps me slow down and reflect that I am truly blessed with so much love, respect, support, hope, and resources. All of those things will help me accomplish goals today and in the future. I can relax and be current with myself and others.

Psychologists refer to this as mindfulness. Psychology Today defines mindfulness as a state of active, open attention on the present. Mindfulness requires being ok with thoughts, feelings, and surroundings right now in the present moment. Mindfulness does not mean you enjoy being in a state of upset or distress but, rather acknowledging that and then accepting the upset so that steps can be taken right now to make the moment better. 

Focusing on the future or focusing on issues beyond our control keeps us from solving problems now. In order to be better problem solvers and more relaxed and focused we need to “slow our role”, accept the situation, and proceed. Here is why practicing mindfulness is in your (and my) best interest. 

  • Researchers found that individuals that practiced mindfulness had less worrisome thoughts and decreased depression.
  • Mindfulness reduces stress.
  • Studies found that mindfulness improved focus, attention, ability to ignore distractions, and improved ability to recall information. 
  • People that were more mindful became less emotionally upset and were better at self-reflection and self-awareness. 
  • Research studies support that mindfulness can improve the quality of relationships (Davis & Hayes, 2012). 
  • Mindfulness has demonstrated a strong ability to improve health as evidenced by improved immune systems. 
  • Mindfulness improves happiness. 
  • Mindfulness helped people remain practical and rational during a stressful situation (2011). 
Being aware in the present moment and achieving mindfulness requires some skill. However anyone can master it. You do not need to be a master at meditation or spend hours doing yoga or prayer to achieve mindfulness. Anyone can start practicing mindfulness at any time. The more mindfulness is practiced the easier it becomes. 
 
  • Observe your current moment and sense the current environment. This requires just looking at the current environment. 
  • Look at where you are, smell where you are, experience the sounds and feelings of where you are, and identify any feelings you are having.  Try describing the current environment and situation as if you wanted someone to read it and be able to see and understand your situation as well. 
  • Remember the “to-do” list will never be blank. We will always have something to do, unless we are dead. Rather than rush to clear a list that will never clear, slow down and take it one thing at a time. 
  • Ask yourself “what do I need to do right now”?
The key is to not label the situation and any feelings or people as good or bad. Mindfulness requires you to be an objective observer of the “now”. Once you are in the “here and now” you will relax, think better, and be able to focus. This will help you make a decision that will benefit you right now as well as in the future. For example over the weekend I had the difficult task of working to understand and efficiently communicate a very difficult statistical procedure. I was frustrated because it is a statistical method that is foreign to me and I was not sure how to proceed. To make matters worse I feel like I have been working on my dissertation for a very long time and I just want to be finished. I was focused on completing the tasks and finishing my dissertation. However that only frustrated me more. I realized that would not help me address the issue in the current moment. I chose to accept my frustration and let that motivate me to figure out the solution. I chose to stop thinking about the future and completing the task and I chose to think about what responsibility I had now.  Once I was more accepting I felt more calm and I was able to focus and solve my problem.  
 
Staying in the moment will keep us from missing opportunities. We will be better spouses, siblings, employees, coworkers, friends, parents, and ultimately a better self. I vow to work on being current, present, and aware. I vow to take one thing at a time and enjoy the time that I have right now. I know being present and mindful now will make me a better me in the future. Can you commit to be more mindful with me?
 
References: 
 
Davis, D., & Hayes, J.  (2012). What are benefits of mindfulness? Monitor on Psychology, 43(7), p 64. 
 
Doing and being: Mindfulness, health, and quiet ego characteristics among Buddhist practitioners. Journal,of Happiness Studies, 12(4), 575-589. 

Don’t Be Discouraged! You Are More Successful Than You Think You Are.

First of all I apologize this post is so late.  I realize that today is Saturday and that a FitFriday post was missed.  Yesterday I took a much needed day off to spend the day with my hubby.  I did not work out (I ate well and according to plan), had a cheat meal, and I did not worry about work or my “To-Do List”.  Thank you for understanding.  

Recently I have talked with a few people I have been coaching and they expressed disappointment in their progress.  It is very easy to become discouraged when so much effort is focused on working hard in the gym and on eating well.  A problem with the health and fitness industry is so much attention is paid to looks and the body.  People are now desperate to achieve fitness, health, and weight loss.  In their desperation people will go to extreme measures to achieve their goals or people will abandon their goals because they feel like a failure.

Let’s stop!  Take a moment and look at where we have come.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, upset, frustrated, and like you are not making progress, stopping and assessing your progress can be helpful.  You ARE better than you were yesterday.  Isn’t that success?

Perhaps looking back is what frustrates and overwhelms you because you do not like where you are now and your past progress was the example of a better you.  Life happens.  We get busy.  Priorities change.  Responsibilities change.  However look back, you are a different person today then you were then.  You know more.  You have experienced more.  Isn’t that success?

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I have written a lot of blogs on here about what you think, you are!  The same is true for how you analyze your success.  You have a set of expectations in your mind, based on what you see from others.  For example you see the a girl or guy in the gym and think that in 6 weeks you will have their physique.  Your brain is using that external example to set success expectations.  Then when the 6 weeks is up, you judge yourself to that external measure, and see you did not meet expectations.  Your brain will start to blame YOU for this lack of progress.  You see, it is easier for the brain to conclude that you are the problem. 

Americans, in particular, are very ego-centric.  This means we are self involved.  I hate to say that, but it isn’t necessarily bad.  It just means that you will internalize the events, experiences, perceptions, and view of the world to yourself.  There is psychological research to demonstrate this.  Check out this Psychology Today blog.  What this means is that when you evaluate your progress and use your set of expectations developed from those external sources you will not compare, and you will self-evalute.  This self-evaluation concludes you did not meet your expectations; thus you become frustrated, discouraged, and overwhelmed.  However this self-evaluation is flawed.  It is based on a limited set of information and is not considering all the available data.  It is like deciding to never eat meat again because you read 1 article about meat causing weight gain (this is an example and not an article I have found).  This article could be inaccurate, it could be faulty or flawed research, it could be biased, and it does not include all the information about how meat helps with weight loss.  You see to make an accurate assessment of your success you need to consider more than your list of expectations.  

Success doesn’t work like that.  Success is not “all or nothing”.  Success does not come overnight. Daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly progress leads to success.  I ask you “what is success?”  Have you even defined what that means?  What is your measure of success?

If you want to feel successful I encourage you to try these things:

  1. Go out and do what you want to do.  Put one foot in front of the other.  Take the first step and say “yes I will”.  
  2. Make a “To-Do” List.  Start marking the items off that list.
  3. Change your thinking.  Positive Psychology asserts that the “Happiness Advantage” is key to finding success.  Research claims that changing your thinking to be more positive will increase your productivity and improve your level of success.  Rather than say “I failed” or “I am incapable of this”, say “I succeed when I make the healthy choice” or say “I am able to do this”.  
  4. Strengthen your mindset.  Your mind is stronger.  Your will is greater.  Saying these positive statements will strengthen your mindset.  Rather then focusing on the external progress, focus on your mindset, your will, and your determination.  This will help you make your dreams come true!  Train your brain to see the positive.  No matter how big or how small, see the positive and this will lead to more positive thinking overall.  Positive thinkers are more successful.  Again research finds this to be the case.  
  5. Take the actions necessary to achieve success.  Donald Trump did not become a successful businessman by sitting around wishing to be successful.  He worked for it.  He made choices everyday and took action daily to reach his level of success today.  
  6. See success, even in failure.  Donald Trump made mistakes.  He lost money.  But he didn’t stop.  Use failure and frustration to push you forward.  Learn from your mistakes, make changes, and keep going.  
  7. Do not focus on the overall goal!  Instead focus on your daily small goals.  Did you run 1 mile today?  That is success!  Keep going and you will be able to run 10 miles.  Positive psychologists suggest that focusing on smaller tasks makes success easier to obtain.  By focusing on the small progress it is easier to remove smaller barriers.  Removing a small barrier is success and will lead to greater success!
  8. Remember you are unique.  You cannot measure your success on someone else’s.  That person did not grow up the way you did, they did not have your experiences, and they are not living your life.  Your situation is unique, not impossible.

Don’t be discouraged!  You are more powerful than yesterday.  You are smarter today.  You are more successful than you think you are.  It starts with action.  I encourage you to go and live your dreams, starting today!

Liebster Award!!!

Wow! Just Wow!  I started this blog in January.  I really had no idea what writing a blog was all about.  I have spent 8+ years in graduate studies and I have written countless papers.  I started this blog as a way to make my writing fun and spread information I have learned over the years.  I never really thought or expected anyone to read this.  Turns out people are reading it, and it turns out that some people like what I have to say.

I found out today, that a reader and fellow blogger has nominated my blog for the Liebster Blog Award!  I feel so honored.  I feel excited that people want to read what I have to write.  What I blog about is important to me so I am thankful that others are finding ways to make wellness a part of their life.  Thank you Jojo for the sweet nod.

The term Liebster is German for dearest, sweetest, kindest.  This Award is awarded by fellow bloggers.  Once nominated you get to answer fun questions provided by the person that nominates you.  Then if you choose to accept the award you provide questions and as you find blogs that uphold the values of the Liebster Award you nominate them.  The new nominee tags the person that nominates them and answers the questions provided by the person that nominates them.  The new Liebster Award nominee continues to “pay it forward” by creating their own list of questions and nominating other for the Award.

So with this exciting honor I have been asked to answer some questions.  I am about to tell you all a little bit about me.

1.  Who is my favorite Disney character?

This is an easy one.  Ariel the Little Mermaid.  She is pretty.  But she is not the traditional blonde haired, blue eyed princess.  No, she had wild red hair.  Ariel is rebellious, and that is something I can totally relate too.  You see I struggle with boundaries and limitations.  I am not trying to be a serial killer and violate others, but I want to experience life, people, things, and the world and so I do not like when I am told I cannot do something.  Like Ariel, I have gotten into some trouble in attempts to experience the world.  But like Ariel I know there is something more out there for me, and I willing to sacrifice things to get it!

2.  What do you look for in a person?

I love creativity and people that are spiritually connected.  My husband is an artist, videographer, photographer, and musician.  He is spiritually and emotionally connected.  He knows there is more to this world than just ourselves.  I am drawn to people that have a story and have overcome adversity.  I want friends and people near me that can teach me something and can offer a new way to look at things.

3.  What do you want to be when you grow up? And if you have found your career, what do you enjoy about it?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a psychologist.  I did not always know what that meant.  In fact the role of psychologist is still being defined for me.  I love that I get to help people.  I have worked with children that were sexually, emotionally, and physically abused for years.  I hate that this position is needed.  However I became a better person working with these amazingly strong children.  I got to witness children and families face something so traumatic and find strength inside to learn to love themselves, their bodies, and find hope for their futures.  I was only there to provide a safe place and an encouraging environment to do so.  Although I loved doing that, I have found that I can use my passion for fitness and health to help people find wellness.  I want to help people know they can love, self-esteem, and achieve their goals by improving their mental health, their emotional health, their spiritual health, and their physical health.

4.  What do you look forward to about being old?

I don’t.  Honestly being old is scary for me.  I really struggled when I turned 30.  However, if I really think about life and the journey of life I know I will only get better with age.  In my 20s I was a Hot Mess.  I was clueless and honestly an idiot.  I turned 30 and I no longer cared about what others thought of me.  I started to learn to love myself and I started to have the esteem and the motivation to work toward my goals and passions.  I am just getting started living my dreams, so I know the older I get the bigger my dreams will get.  The older I get the more tools, experience, resources, and support I will have to fulfill my dreams.

5.  What would you do if you have only ten hours to live?

I do not fear death.  I do not take chances with my life, but I am not afraid because I have a belief in Heaven and a better place.  If I knew in 10 hours I would be going to this place, I would have a party!  I would invite my friends and loved ones over and we would celebrate.  I would hug them all, kiss them all, and we would laugh, eat, and be merry.

6.  If someone came up to you and slapped you for no reason, what would you do to them?

Although I hate physical violence, I am Italian and hot tempered.  I am strong, strong-willed, and proud.  I would use my tongue and assault them verbally and cannot promise that I would not slap them back.  A slap to a face is disrespectful and I do not tolerate disrespect toward others.

7.  How old do you want to be when you die?

Going along with #5, I hope to live a long and fulfilling life.  I see that people can be fit, active, fun, and flourishing well into their 90s.  If that is me then I hope I to live as long as possible.  However I do not want to be ill, weak, limited, or disabled.   So as long as I can kick, run, stretch, and party then the party of life shall go on.

8.  f you had a limit of 24 words to say to someone, what would you say? And whom to?

My husband.  He saved me.  He took me from party, wild girl to a wife.  He taught me that I am lovable, beautiful, and unique.  When I thought I was not deserving of love he taught me I was.  I love him more than I can ever express in words.  (oops that is more than 24 words…I have the gift of gab, so I find I say more than less).

9.  How would you react if your biggest fear came true?

I would freak out.  I would scream, cry, yell, get angry, get frustrated, and lie on the floor and just weep.  Then I would pray.  In my weakest moments all I can do is pray and know that my God will be there to save me, lift me, and protect me.

10. If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?

A leopard.  They are beautiful, smart, strong, and powerful.  They are majestic, mysterious, and rare.  I hope to be these things and when I die I hope this is part of my legacy.

Wow! Those were some powerful questions.  I love self-reflection.  If you read this, I ask you to answer these questions for yourself.  Now as a nominee of the Liebster Blog Award I will pay it forward.  If I nominate you for this awesome award, I ask you to answer the following questions.

1.  If you could live anywhere, where would you live and why?

2. What is the first thing you think about when you wake up?

3. If you had a whole day with no plans how would you spend your day?

4. What makes you beautiful?

5. Do you believe in a Higher Power? If so, what does your Higher Power mean to you?

6. If you had only 1 day to live, what would you do?

7.  If you won the lottery what would you do with the winnings?

8.  What is your favorite season and why?

9.  What is your favorite childhood memory?

10.  If you had a super power what would it be and why?

Please let me know when you answer your questions.  I would love to hear about you!

What you See is Not Always What you Should Believe. How Your Brain Can Trick you, Guide you and Motivate you. Part 2.

When we feel down, angry, or frustrated other people may respond by saying, “Get over it,” “move on,” or “pull yourself up by the boot straps”. Although these statements may be there to help encourage strength, I have learned these statements can only increase hurt feelings. Feelings are not so easy to get over. However feelings can be controlled and they can be overcome. 

I have had hundreds of clients tell me they just “can’t help” the way they feel. They feel their emotions run and control their lives. They feel like they are victim to their feelings. Feelings are quite powerful. I have learned that feelings are not wrong or bad. Rather they are adaptive, necessary, and even helpful. 

  • Feelings warn something is wrong. The emotional reaction is the body’s way of alerting you to attention; to tell you “hey look out”. This cues you to evaluate your situation and respond. 
  • Feelings are helpful. The emotional reaction is the clue to what is going on. For example, if you feel mad perhaps you were wronged or betrayed. If you feel sad perhaps you were disappointed or had your feelings hurt. 
  • Feelings are natural. The emotion you feel is your body’s physical response to the situation. You are on alert to evaluate your situation because your body has physically alerted you. The University of Matyland Medical Center explains that stress causes the body to respond by tensing muscles, elevating heart rate, increasing breathing, and focusing vision and thinking. This is so the body can “go” and either get away or deal with the stressor. This is why when people feel stressed they experience headaches, soreness, fatigue, and complain of heart complications. 
Feelings are a natural, biological reaction. Therefore it is hard to control the emotion. But it is easier to control the mind. The brain is the control center for all things. As last weeks post discussed the brain views everything that comes into perception (sight, sound, touch, taste, hearing) and makes a decision. This decision is not always accurate because the brain can be confused, misguided, and tricked. Dr. Adrian Furnham with Psychology Today suggests the factor that tricks the mind most of the time is you own thinking. 
 
When you encounter a situation, a person, or an experience you have thoughts about that. This is your self-talk. Self-talk is that voice in your head that narrates for you. Sometimes your self-talk is skewed. Let’s say you once encountered a small dog that you perceived as cute and friendly. You pet the dog but the dog attacks you and leaves you shocked, scared, and injured. Your brain stores this experience away. Next time your brain perceives a cute and small dog it is reminded of your last encounter. You start to think this dog will hurt you, you think the dog is scary, and you think you are in an unsafe situation. Then you start to feel scared and you want to do whatever you can to avoid the dog. 
 
Cognitive psychologists refer to this process as the Cognitive Triangle. Essentially researchers found that what we think determines how we feel and how we behave and how we behave and feel affects our thoughts about that situation. 
 
 
Let’s take the example of the cute, little dog from above. You see the dog and think, “this dog will hurt me,” “this dog may look cute but it could really hurt me”. This will cause feelings of fear and anxiety. You feel fear and start to think, “this is a dangerous situation, I need to get out of here”. So that causes you to behave by running away or finding a way to avoid crossing paths with the dog. 
 
This thinking keeps us safe in a potentially dangerous situation. But the cognitive triangle will harm us by holding us back. Perhaps at some point in your life someone scared you. Someone harmed you emotionally and physically. Whatever they did to you caused you to develop thoughts about yourself that you are less than you truly are. Their words to you were implanted in your brain. Even though you try to ignore this hurt you encounter situations and these thoughts creep up on you. Often they are subtle. In fact most people are not paying attention to the thoughts that are driving their behavior or influencing their emotions. All you know is that you feel upset and uncomfortable. This harms you in the following ways: 
 
  • You miss out on opportunities for love, growth, and fun!
  • You have self-doubt and do not believe you are capable of doing things. 
  • You have decreased confidence and self-esteem because you think you are not good enough. 
  • You think you deserve hurt, pain, and failure. 

All of these harmful thoughts (plus many more) are lies!  Even though you believe it for various reasons they simply are not true!  You can take control of your life by controlling your thoughts. I understand this sounds difficult but it really is as simple as reminding yourself your negative harmful thoughts are lies and convincing your brain to think another way. 

 
What you think determines how you live and experience life. You can take control of your mind!
  1. Identify what you are feeling. Just name it. 
  2. Note how you wish to respond to that feeling. This will help you discover what you thinking
  3. Now think about the thoughts you have. Get some paper and a pen. Think about the situation and write down all thoughts, even fleeting ones, you have on the paper. Don’t fret if you cannot write down all the thoughts. A lot of times when we feel upset we have flooding thoughts, this means a lot of thoughts at one time. Just write down the ones you can.  
  4. Determine which thoughts are helpful and which are hurtful. Keep the helpful ones. Write them down. Say them aloud. 
  5. Challenge the negative thoughts. (This is the hard part).  Simply write the exact opposite of the hurtful thought. 
  • For example: if you are thinking “I am not strong enough”. Write down, “I am strong” then think of a time you were strong. 
  • Or if you are thinking, “I am too overweight for that, I cannot do it”. Write down, “I can control my weight and I am doing things to improve my physical health and I can do all things”. 

These thoughts will feel unnatural, so writing them down and saying them aloud every time you think this way will help you feel better. Self-affirmations are helpful to overcome negative and harmful thinking. Daily self-affirmations will improve harmful and negative thinking. You can change your feelings and your behavior if you change how you think. The good news is the brain is 100% ready to change, adapt, and learn. It’s all about how you talk to yourself. 

*For more on affirmations see: 

http://expertenough.com/2420/self-confidence

http://www.self-help-and-self-development.com/self-esteem-affirmations.html

http://spiritteaching.com/affirmations.html

The Only 100 Positive Affirmations You Will Ever Need

*As a licensed professional counselor I have helped hundreds learn to take control of their mind and learn to think and feel more positively. Please contact me if you need help and want to feel better about yourself, your relationships, and your life.