How to Stop Negative Self-Thoughts

Oui, We Contributor: Rebecca Nguyen

That trip of a lifetime? I just took it. I want more of these! 

Was it everything I hoped for? Yes. 

Did I almost ruin it? Yes, several times. 

That voice in your head...what does it sound like? Does it sound like your harshest critic or your best friend? Your self-thoughts are your inner monologue. These are the messages that have been programmed in you from a very early age, often from your parents, environment, socio-economic conditions. These are factors you had no control of. They are automatic thoughts, just like reflexes. They happen without you knowing it.

It’s a complicated relationship. 

Untitled, 1998-1999 by Marcel Dzama

Last week, I returned from the farthest I had ever been away from home.  27,009 miles (or 43,466 kilometers) to be exact. I spent eleven days in Australia (more specifically, Brisbane and Cairns) and three days in Singapore. What I love about  solo travel is that it exposes my weaknesses, my ignorances, my deficiencies. It affirms just as much as it negates. 

I had the benefit of staying with a friend in Australia. Along with the obvious financial upside, I was able to rely on his recommendations for what to eat/see/do. Ever the consummate planner, I alarmed even myself by putting myself completely in his hands. I wanted to give my mind a break. I adapted the airy attitude of my temporary home, and it suited me just fine. 

Bondi Beach, Australia, Solo Travel

The remainder of my trip was spent in Singapore. It was all I hoped it would be, a compliment to my devil-may-care times in Australia.  I luxuriated in novel flavors, smells and textures. I ate and drank my way through the streets of Singapore, at every moment marveling at how much freedom I had...at how easy it was to travel to a foreign country...to freakin not die. 

As much luck as I’d with the minimal amount of planning (optimal weather, reasonable layovers), my luck was running out. Due to my recent capriciousness, I missed two flights.

Two. flights.

The reason: I did not check my departure date. Yes, I missed these flights by more than a day each! 

Suddenly, I am so homesick.

Who could I call to help me fix this? My friends? I would never hear the end of it. My mom? The shame would be too much. So what did I do? CRY. For thirty minutes. Sitting on the hard-ass floor at Changi airport. Weeping. Internally, my thoughts recyled like so:  “You are so stupid.” “I can’t believe you did this!””You are so careless, just like they think.”

My old boss’s voice replayed in my head, “You know, I’ve never missed a single flight in my life.”  I was afraid to ask for help. I paced. MY TRIP WAS RUINED. 

I had to get it together, I had no other choice. I was by myself. Then I remembered that I am not the helpless little girl anymore. I am 36. This is where healthy Rebecca kicked in.

I have several phrases I use when I am struggling.

I start saying aloud “you can do this” and “take your time, girl.”

and

“you’ve had a small setback, but it’s not the end of the world.”

Been in a similar moment? Insert your own soothing thought here.

Here are some other things that might help you in low movement, when you feel your mind start to spiral:

  1. Imagine a red stop sign. Or anything else that will stop you dead in your tracks. Visualize it in your mind, focus on filling out every detail...the font, the color, the exact Pantone shade. 

  2. Cut off those thoughts by “swooping” your hands over your field of vision. Imagine yourself cutting ties with those parasitic thoughts. They are not serving you.

  3.  Cry or scream your way through it. Just make sure you are not upsetting those around you. Give yourself 15 minutes to really FEEL those intense feelings. Let them wash in and out of you. They will help energize you into action. 

  4.  Change your environment. Go outside if you can. Take yourself out of the triggering environment. Take this moment to practice those breathing exercises. 

  5. Ask yourself: Am I showing myself the same grace I give to others? Give yourself a little space for mistakes. Imagine you are talking to a younger version of yourself. 

Remember that it is a complicated relationship you have with yourself. Just like many things in your life, you have the control (even if it may not feel like it). Observe that inner monologue and work patiently and kindly on revising the script. You’ll thank yourself over and over for it. 


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Rebecca Nguyen is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has been practicing since 2011. She got her Master’s of Arts from Our Lady of Holy Cross College and her Bachelor’s of Arts from Loyola University. She has a unique perspective of the human condition from her extensive experience with mental health and endless curiosity.  She proudly hails from New Orleans, Louisiana AKA the most magical place in the universe.  

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Andi Eaton

Andi Eaton is a creative director, author, entrepreneur, and cultural influencer in a variety of media. She produces Oui We (ouiwegirl.com) the modern bohemian's guide to everything from travel and style to beauty and holistic wellness. Andi and her projects have been featured on Domino, Glitter Guide, A Beautiful Mess, Southern Living, SELF, Hello Giggles, Refinery 29, WWD, Elle Canada and more; in 2017 she wrapped a year of road tripping throughout the U.S. photographing and documenting travel, style and culture stories available in her new book: "Wanderful: The Modern Bohemian's Guide to Traveling in Style".