changing the tapes we hear in our heads

This post isn't in response to any particular post, but rather a reply to several different posts and conversations I've heard around Twitter and the blogosphere about self-worth (or the lack thereof), both as an author and a person. The conversations have reminded me about a particular therapy session I once attended.

Therapy--for those of you who have never attended a session--is usually about changing behavior. In order to modify destructive behavior, we must first recognize our thought processes, discover what is wrong, and then move in a proactive manner toward correcting our behavior by changing the way we think about ourselves and the people around us. This is accomplished by exercises designed to teach us about ourselves.

I had an excellent therapist, who knew a lot of neat tricks. In one exercise, she gave us five minutes to write down ten negative things about ourselves. Our pencils whirled and most of us finished long before the five minutes were up. Then, the therapist asked us to write down ten GOOD things about ourselves.

Everyone just stared at her.

It would have been comical if it wasn't so pathetic. Eight broken people staring at one therapist as if they were all gutshot. She took one look around the room and prompted us with things like:

I'm a good cook; I'm a good driver; I'm an understanding person; etc.

Pencils moved, but at a much slower rate. Some of us, myself included, were proud to have managed five good things about ourselves. Once we completed that portion of the exercise, she then told us that we needed to write the good things about ourselves on index cards and post them on the mirrors in our bathroom where we would see the message every morning.

Needless to say, all of us thought that was stupid. However, she justified the exercise by explaining that when children grow up, they hear certain messages that become the tapes we play in our heads as we become adults.

I'm stupid; I'm not good enough; I'm unloved; etc.

Our jobs were to change those self-destructive tapes into positive messages about the kind of people we really were, or more importantly, the kind of people we wanted to become. Fortunately, I was so emotional beaten at the this point, I was willing to try anything to feel better.

So I took my positive messages, taped them to my mirror, and read them to myself every morning. And, lo and behold, in spite of years of conditioning, I managed to gradually change the destructive tapes in my head to positive messages about myself.

Like any broken record, my brain sometimes reverts to those old tapes, but when that happens, I can change the record. I have that power.

And so do you.

Change the destructive tapes in your head into positive messages. Become the person you want to be--take it one day, one hour, at a time. It isn't an easy task, but nothing worthwhile ever is, so don't be in a hurry.

Great works of art are cultivated and shaped over long periods of time, and you are worth the effort.