Let's be honest, not everyone is a glass half full kind of thinker, especially when it comes to dating and relationships. Are you wasting your precious mental energy, consumed by negative thoughts about love, fears around vulnerability, or struggling with low confidence and self-worth?
These pessimistic thoughts can sneak up on you and make you feel badly about yourself. You know, thoughts such as:
- If I really fall for this person, I’ll get my heart broken again
- I won’t find anyone who I like more than my ex
- I can’t trust anyone because everyone hurts me
- I will be alone forever
- No one will be attracted to me
- I feel awkward meeting someone I don’t know
- What’s the point of going out, I never meet anyone good
- I’m so boring, no wonder why people don’t approach me
- He won’t love me if he knows the real me
- I'm going to mess this relationship up like I always do
Many people’s worst enemy in dating and relationships isn’t their partner, or the lack of “good guys” out there, but rather their own mindset.
Sometimes these automatic thoughts race through your mind so quickly that you aren’t even consciously engaging in them, but somehow they take a toll on your mood and damage your self-esteem.
If you want to learn how to have more positive thoughts about your love life, you need to realize that you have control and power over them.
Newsflash: The biggest mistake you could be making is treating your thoughts as facts.
That’s because these automatic thoughts impact your mood and behaviors. You assume that because you think it, it must be true.
But where’s the proof? Do you have evidence, or is there a different way to look at the situation? Having more positive thoughts begins by stepping back and realizing you don't have to agree with yourself!
For example, the thought “No one is attracted to me,” leads to the emotions of feeling down, sad, and lacking confidence. The resulting behavior is to sit at home feeling insecure instead of excitedly accepting social invitations or putting yourself out there.
Buying into your initial automatic thought that no one is attracted to you can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your action is to remain at home alone, perpetuating the thought that no is attracted to you since you haven’t met anyone lately. You haven't met anyone lately since you haven't put yourself out there because you feel like no one is attracted to you, which started with the thought that no one is attracted to you.
Can you see how this string of thoughts>feelings>behaviors can lead into a dangerous downward spiral? Before you know it, you’re thinking, “I’m doomed to be alone forever!”
So how can you get out of your head and feel more positively about yourself and your love life?
The answer is by challenging these types of thoughts, and learning to let them go without dwelling or giving them too much attention.
Changing your negative self-talk begins with mindfulness and being aware of these damaging thoughts by catching them as they occur, rather than mindlessly engaging in them or ruminating.
Since many thoughts are automatic and your brain is on autopilot, at first it may be easier to notice your mood or behaviors, which are clues that you can trace back to a specific thought.
For instance, perhaps you’re feeling really sad and notice that you’re missing your ex, and even contemplating contacting him. Identifying your emotions in this moment is the first step. Next, rather than acting impulsively and texting your ex, ask yourself what led to this craving.
You trace these thoughts back to a half an hour ago when you walked by the restaurant where you went on your first date with your ex. Aha! In a string of racing thoughts you bounced from thinking of your ex, to telling yourself you’re sick of going out with dating duds, to feeling lonely, and worrying that you’ll never find anyone as good as him.
Now go ahead and challenge the irrational thoughts that are bringing you down. For example, “I’ll never find anyone as good as him” becomes “There are many good men out there, I just haven’t met the right one yet,” or, “I’m putting my ex on a pedestal, but really there were a lot of things that made me dissatisfied in the relationship and now is my opportunity to go find someone who makes me happy.”
Here are a few ways to challenge the example “No one is attracted to me:"
- “I can recall being told that I'm beautiful multiple times over my life, I was just never mutually attracted to the other person, so it didn’t go anywhere, but this is proof that other people find me attractive”
- “I wouldn’t know if anyone is attracted to me because I haven’t put myself out there in awhile, maybe I need to collect some more dating data before I criticize myself”
- “The times I’ve felt the most attractive are when I’m feeling confident. Things that make me feel confident are going for a run, laughing a lot, and wearing my favorite outfit. I should put these in place first before I worry about how other people view me.”
As you begin to practice this new mindful technique, follow these steps for more positive thinking:
1. Become aware of negative thoughts by using feelings and behaviors as clues to work backwards to identify the triggering thought. With practice you’ll be able to recognize the invasive thought in the present moment as it is occurring. Practicing a short daily meditation, even a few minutes of deep breathing, will be helpful in increasing mindfulness.
2. Challenge the thought by looking for contrary evidence, ask yourself about specific incidents that disprove this thought, remind yourself it’s just a thought and not a fact, and ask yourself if the thought is helpful or hurtful.
3. Make a conscious decision to let go and refocus your attention on something more positive, or a distraction.
Without this mindful approach, you buy into your negative thoughts without stopping to think that there’s another way to live your life, and it’s with more compassion, self-kindness, and positivity.
Since you are used to mentally beating yourself up, it may be difficult to reframe your thoughts. A helpful trick is to pretend you’re talking to your friend. Would you blame your friend and berate her, or would you help her look on the bright side?
In my work with clients, I have them participate in an exercise in which I ask them to identify their biggest dating and relationship fears. We label these negative thoughts as “lies,” and mentally reframe them as “truths.” Here are responses from my 44-year-old single, female client:
Lie: “I will always fall for a guy that won’t commit”
Truth: “There is someone out there who will have a connection with me and will want to marry me”
Lie: “I’ll be interested in him, but he won’t be interested in me”
Truth: “I can focus only on the people who put in effort to date me and make me a priority
Lie: “I’m too old and he won’t be physically attracted to me”
Truth: “I am beautiful and there are lots of men who find me attractive”
Lie: “Sex for the first time will be bad or awkward”
Truth: “First time sex with a new guy can be fun!”
Practicing this mindful approach by tackling your negative self-talk will decrease your pessimistic and catastrophic thinking, and allow you to get out of your own way and embrace a healthier, more positive mentality when it comes to dating, relationship, and life in general!
Now it's time to apply the same steps discussed in this article to your own love life! Sign up below to receive the FREE worksheet REFRAMING MY NEGATIVE THOUGHTS ABOUT LOVE!