We can be so hard on ourselves – our biggest critics, or our own worst enemies. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to lie in bed and scrutinize our part in an exchange from earlier in the day – picking apart someone’s response to us and assigning it a meaning that is negative toward ourselves. We over analyze their response or nonverbal cues and turn these responses over and over in our head and make them something much bigger, uglier, or upsetting than it was. While likely, the person on the other end of this conversation is sleeping peacefully and never gave your comment a second thought, or attributed anything negative to it. Sound familiar? This is called rumination.

We need to be able to let go and focus on living in the present. It is very possible that the comment or event you’re turning over and over – no one remembers or interpreted your behavior in the way you are worried about. Sometimes, being in control of ourselves means letting these things go and not letting these thoughts or worries consume us. Guided imagery can at times be useful for this. An example: Imagining taking these thoughts and putting them in a box, taping that box up in duct tape, tying it to a balloon, and sending it off.

Sometimes, rightfully, we do find ourselves a little embarrassed or guilty about our response to a situation or something we said, which is appropriate, but holding on to these things and agonizing over this is not appropriate. If you really believe yourself to be in the wrong, talk to the other person about it and listen. If their response is something similar to, “oh no! I didn’t think that at all,” trust them! If they share they were upset/hurt, ask for forgiveness and make a mental note for future exchanges. But can we really accept forgiveness from someone if we can’t forgive ourselves? Holding on to hurt doesn’t help, but learning from it does. Likewise, when someone comes to us seeking forgiveness and we give it to them, that means letting go of it, not keeping a tally of their wrongdoings toward us, to throw back at them the next time they hurt us.

So often we fight to control how people perceive us. Sometimes that means appearing confident or being boisterous/outgoing, because if we put ourselves out there assertively, then we help control their narrative. For others, it may mean being quiet, mysterious, or guarded because it feels safer, as if people can’t judge or dismiss you if you don’t put yourself out there. Every so often how people perceive us isn’t even related to who we are or what we say/do, but rather a person from their past we remind them of. The more we love our own decisions, the less we need others to love them.

A strategy to combat rumination or negative self-talk is called reality testing. In short, when we have a negative thought or belief, ask yourself: What is the evidence for this belief? That is, evidence – facts and information beyond your own perception. Click here to read an article at for more on the concept of reality testing.

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