Taking control of your thoughts is easier said than done. The frame of mind we develop as adults stems mostly from learned mentalities and behaviors we’ve been subject to in our childhoods.
I first realized I had a toxic mentality when I left my parents’ home and had to face the world on my own in a whole new country. When things didn’t go my way I would run to the first person that would coddle and shelter me. I needed them to confirm how infinitely unfair life was and that everyone was wrong, except me.
“Sometimes there are things in life that aren’t meant to stay. Sometimes change may not be what we want. Sometimes change is what we need.”
Don Bolena Jr.
I got a harsh reality check when the real world expected me to suck it up and deliver no matter how cruel it may seem.
I was forced to grow up and change my mentality at record speed. It took me a while but I finally realized that I had developed this toxic mentality a long time ago. I knew it wouldn’t change overnight, but something had to be done.
Analysis through observation
I was determined to change this toxic mentality and in turn, change my circumstances. Slowly I started to understand that the way I saw things, shaped my reality. If I saw the glass as half empty, then that’s exactly what I’d get……..a half-empty glass.
So I examined my thoughts and behaviors through observation. Every time I wanted to curl into my familiar fetal position when things didn’t go my way, I’d have to stop and think:
- Am I blaming someone else for my circumstances, or is this my own doing?
- Do I have unrealistic expectations of others, when I’m behaving badly?
- Is it someone else’s fault that I’ve failed, or can I do something to better myself?
- Am doubting my capabilities because others see my pursuits as taboo or unachievable?
- Am I trying to prove something to others, or am I trying to achieve something of value?
- If others criticize me, will it cause me to disintegrate, or try even harder?
These are only a few examples of how I would challenge my own mentality, but with a slow and steady creek, my mental wheels started turning. So much so that my entire demeanor changed.
I chose my battles carefully, weighed my options, disciplined my emotions, and finally, I started to see the world spin in the right direction.
Things didn’t seem as hard as they used to be. It no longer felt like everyone was against me. But instead, I learned several lessons from my own failures and those of others. I even observed how NOT to behave if I wanted to be respected and favored.
How did I do this?…………….
Let’s examine 5 steps I took to change my toxic mentality and make them your own.
1. Become aware of toxic thought patterns
You cannot change something if you’re not even aware it exists. The first step to changing a toxic mentality is to recognize and admit that you have one.
Observe how you feel when things don’t go your way. Do you respond, react, or delve head first into self pity?
It’s human nature to turn to negative thinking when things get tough. The difference between toxicity and proactivity is how we respond to it.
There’s a certain strength that develops through simple recognition. Getting to the root of the problem makes the solution more lucid and attainable.
2. Be patient with yourself
Authentic, long-term change doesn’t happen overnight, particularly if it’s developed over a long period of time.
It’s also human nature to be one’s own worst critic. Ease yourself into self-compassion, knowing that you are doing indispensable work. Anything of true value comes with practice and in good time.
Observe the changes in how you respond to negative people and circumstances, and celebrate your small achievements.
Soon you will see a change in your circumstances too. Yet in reality, nothing has changed, but your thought patterns.
3. Set yourself an objective
Through observation, I learned that my toxic thought patterns stem from the validation I needed from others.
I never had the confidence to pursue something that challenged the status quo. I always needed the familiar shelter of those who would corroborate my toxicity.
Every decision I made, every endeavor I pursued, was shaped by society’s perception of what is right. What’s right for one, may not be so for another.
My objective was that the next decision I made, would be my own. No matter what the outcome, no matter the judgment I would undoubtedly receive from others, and no matter how many times I’d have to try and fail to achieve my goal, I would do it with my head held high.
The fear was palpable.
But when I finally got myself to do it, I learned a whole new set of lessons, that not only shaped my new reality but also led me to become the leader of my own actions and decisions.
It gave me a natural high, to say the least!
4. Surround yourself with the right type of people
When you’re challenging the status quo, you’re pretty much up against a brick wall…….UNLESS……you surround yourself with those who have the mentality that you’re trying to achieve.
If you want to start a business, but everyone around you scoffs at the idea, stop telling them about it and find a group of entrepreneurs who can show you how to do it. Who share your belief in yourself.
If you want to get fit and healthy but you’re surrounded by people with unhealthy habits, find a group of people who are training for an event and join in!
These groups are easily found on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Joining some of these groups gave me the chutzpah I needed to jump right in without a second thought. Their sheer humility, understanding, and support are what made me feel like I can do what I set my mind to. I have the backup of those who already have the mentality that I’m trying to achieve. A mentality of success and forward-thinking.
And I thought to myself…….You’ve got this!
5. Quit caring what others think
Have you ever noticed that those in glass houses are always inclined to throw the first stone?
Usually, life’s biggest hypocrites criticize and judge the most. That’s because they are vulnerable to criticism and judgment themselves, and loathe those who demonstrate the strength they wish they had.
When someone judges and criticized you, remember that it comes from their own insecurities.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of toxicity and try to defend yourself against the naysayers. Know that there’s no need for that when you’re in a place of strength. Do NOT fall for it. It will only thrust you several steps back.
Change your mentality, change your life
Changing a toxic mentality is a marathon, not a sprint. There will be days when you regress. You are human after all, it’s natural. Some days will be harder than others, unforeseen circumstances will arise, and negative thought patterns will undoubtedly return. The trick is not to give up. You can change your mentality. You can change your life.