Positive thinking

The challenge

How we think, feel and act is influenced by the world around us. When we are born we are a blank canvas, we start to learn who we are by how people respond to us. If people respond positively, we might think we are a good person, and if people respond negatively, we might think we are a bad person. If you have experienced difficult things in your life, like adjusting to living with a mark, scar or condition which affects your appearance, you are likely to have had many tough challenges. Sometimes, if you have experienced a lot of negativity, this can mean you might start to feel like bad things will always happen to you.

When we frequently think in a negative way, it can start to affect how we feel and how we act. It can spiral, and before we know it, we can find it very difficult to have good thoughts – the bad thoughts can become the ‘default’.

The power of positive thinking

You might have heard about the power of positive thinking, and having a positive attitude. Now, you might hear that and think, “That’s easier said than done.” or “I’ve had so many bad things happen to me, how can I be positive?” These are valid thoughts, but actually positive thinking is more than that. It is recognising our negative thoughts, and then trying to think in a more balanced way, that also takes into account the good things that have happened as well. Sounds tricky, right? Here are some ways that you can try and challenge your negative thinking and have a more positive and or balanced attitude.

“Remaining positive is the best path to take”: “I have found remaining positive challenging at times, but can honestly say it is the best path to take. My disfigurement has made me feel inferior, unloved, inadequate at times and it is difficult to replace these feelings with positive ones particularly if you’ve had negative experiences. Over the years I have also learnt that my disfigurement is a small physical part of me so I make sure that when I go out I take care with the rest of my appearance. I make sure my hair looks nice, that my clothes are presentable and I wear accessories. I find a pretty scarf or a chunky necklace distracts attention from my face.”


Acknowledging the challenges and your achievements

Living with a visible difference can be very challenging for lots of reasons. Don’t discount the challenges you have faced and dealt with in your life – it is good to acknowledge how well you are doing.

Think about the challenges you have overcome and write these down below. This might be recovering from surgery and returning to work, or going to a party even when you felt nervous about going – but you did it!

Write down a challenge you have overcome:

Eg: I went to my friends birthday party even though I was worried about people staring at me.

Write down what made you proud about facing this challenge

Eg: That I managed to go, even though I felt really anxious! That my friend was really touched that I went and I had a nice time..

You might like to try writing down some other challenges and what made you proud to refer back to later. You can do this over a period of time, as they occur to you.

Acknowledge your positives

When we feel low it’s easy to think about all the things we are unhappy with. Try something different. Think about the things you do well. Make a list of all the things you are good at and your positive qualities.

What am I good at?

Eg: I am great at speaking French

What are my best qualities?

Eg: I am funny and make my friends laugh

Next time you feel down on yourself, take a look at these lists to remind yourself of the things in your life that are more positive to help you to challenge the negative thoughts. Perhaps put them up somewhere that you can see them to remind yourself or put them in a pinned note on your phone.

Clear out negative social media

Social media is a way of connecting to people; however, you might see lots of negative things on social media, or you might find yourself making unhelpful comparisons with others. One way of helping yourself to think more positively is to have a spring clean. If you find using social media can make you feel low, try and take a break or change who you follow. You might also decide to follow body positive social media which gives a much more realistic picture of what people really look like!

Use positive self-talk

We are all guilty of criticising ourselves at times. Let’s change that inner voice and tame our inner critic. Let’s hear something different. It might take some doing – especially if you are challenging many years of hearing from the same ‘negative inner critic’  It will take time, practice and perseverance. Eventually, though, you will get used to hearing positive statements about yourself, and it will become easier to bring these to mind automatically. Try and come up with some positive statements – a motto or a mantra – to say to yourself on a daily basis.You might want to write these on a mirror or a post it note where you will see them, or put them in your phone.

Some examples are:

  • I am strong
  • I am capable
  • I am loving
  • I am kind
  • I am intelligent
  • I can do this
  • I got this

Or you might want to say a longer phrase:

  • I am much more than how I look
  • People are interested in me for who I am
  • I am a strong and capable person who can achieve my goals
  • I am a worthy person with a place in the world

Having a more positive attitude can make a huge difference. On the whole, we all respond well to positive people and working at focussing on the positive things will make you feel better in many ways. This may sound over-simplistic. However, spending a little time each day working on this could make a big difference to your overall thinking eventually – and in time, you will find it becomes easier and more natural to you.

The 3-2-1 Go tool


Feel good tool


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