An image of a smiling woman, overlaid with the words "think positive" and drawings of lightbulbs, is used to illustrate the concept of positive motivation.

Everyone has that little voice in their head that always wants to start trouble.

It whispers things like, “I am not sure I am going to get this job”; “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” or “That does not seem like it is going to work.”

It is natural to have this little voice questioning things we do, or ruminating, because it drives us to access a situation and see if there is a better way to approach it. In essence, the voice in our head is a motivator — usually a negative one — but a motivator none the less.

The key is to train that little voice to be a positive motivator rather than a negative one.

It is easier for us to focus on negative things, biologically speaking. They register more deeply in our brains and form a deeper channel in our memories.

This can be traced back to the early days when we would be hunting animals and had to remember things like where dangerous areas where and how to deal with them. It is defense mechanism. Except today, the biggest dangers we face are our own thoughts. And we all know that can be a scary place.

How to Stop Ruminating

By understanding how our mind works in this fashion, we can learn how to be an overcomer and build our self-confidence. When your self-confidence is high, you are able to see situations more clearly. You are able to face challenging situations with more knowledge and less emotional responses so that you can get to a positive result. Basically, you will be able to overcome the fear of failure.

The fear of failure is something I often discus with athletes in my coaching practice. They are constantly being pushed to perform at a high level every day, and sometimes they are not able to. When this happens, many athletes feel like they are going to be judged harshly or put on the bench. So, they perform under less than ideal conditions and push through whatever has been holding them back, be it a physical injury, an emotional injury or a mental roadblock.

Many times, their performance suffers and they feel like they are failing themselves, their coach or their team. Sound familiar?

Any human being might not acknowledge when things are not quite right and instead push through, even though their performance is being affected. And then, all of a sudden, they are in a screaming match with a colleague over a simple problem that has now escalated in their minds. This is one way the fear of failure can manifest and disrupt your life.

Let’s look at ways we can work through these issues to become stronger and more confident.

Make a List

Self-confidence is the way you feel your abilities and how competent you feel your abilities are. It is not cocky to be self-confident. Being self-confident in your abilities shows that you understand your strengths and weaknesses and are realistic in your ability to perform whatever task you are doing. And self-confidence all starts in your head.

Let’s do a simple exercise with pen and paper. Think about what the things you feel you are good at. These can be anything. Write these things down. Take your time and don’t discredit anything as trivial. Once you have the list, now think of things you are bad at, not the things you do wrong, just simply the things you just cannot seem to do.

Again, don’t discredit anything as trivial. Having things written down gives us something tangible to work with and gives us a reality check.

Now, look at your list/s. Circle the things that are important to you. Are there more circles in the good category or the bad category?

If there are more circles in the good category, then you have just a little bit of work to do on your self-confidence. If there are more in the bad category, that’s OK too; you’ll just need to address some things.

These lists are going to be your motivators for changing that little voice from negative messages to positive reinforcers. Every time you start having negative thoughts of not being able to do something, look at your list/s and see all that is on the good side. This will help jar your thoughts out of a downward spiral and help you to be more mindful of when negative thoughts are rushing in.

For those of you who had more negative stuff you want to work on, I would suggest using a journal of some sort. Whatever size and shape that you like but make sure it one that you can carry with you. This is a little more work, but it will pay off.

Being mindful of our thoughts helps us understand them and what triggers them so that we are able to acknowledge them and then reformat them for more positive results.

Change Your Mindset

So, whenever you feel like you are spiraling into negative-thought land, write it down. That’s it. This is the start to changing your mindset, first you acknowledge and accept it, and then you learn to change it into more positive results.

Keep track of those spirals. Once you feel you are in control of those moments, then take it a step further and start refocusing on the positive things on your lists from earlier.

By understanding what triggers your negative spirals and refocusing them on more positive aspects of your life, you are taking the steps needed to increase your self-confidence. (I told you it was all in our minds.)

By retraining that little voice to reinforce the positive aspects of your personality and abilities, you increase your self-confidence and be able to face any situation with a clear head and confident attitude.

As writer Samiha Totanji said, “The voices in my head are never meant to be silenced, they are always meant to be listened to, embraced and turned into something so fascinating such as poetry.” 

Take your time — and be present on your journey toward being mindful of your thoughts.

About the Author

At the time of writing this article, Hope Cate offered athletic and non-athletic coaching, life consulting and mindfulness coaching through her tele-counseling practice. She was an applied sport psychologist who helped people find ways to better performance and better lives.