Creating Healthy Thoughts. Channeling Your Nikki Swango.
All Hail Nikki Swango! The third season of Fargo on Netflix won me right over before I even finished the first episode. And that’s because of this amazing female bridge-paying parolee named Nikki Swango. Swango is such a cool character, just unexpectedly hopeful about life, even though she comes from a darker past. She’s the one with the most hope and looks at her future as being this big, bright, wonderful thing. Nikki is a real strategist and is always thinking in terms of how she’s going to win in any given scenario. She’s optimistic, gutsy, full of spirit and deals with any situation like a boss. She’s a great blend of good and bad, darkness and light and appeals to the survivor in every woman. So yesterday, after I watched the entire season and see her emerge as the true hero, I decided that the first thing to do was to fire my current inner coach and hire Swango!
In last week’s blog, I discussed unhealthy thoughts – cognitive distortions - what they were and how we can identify them. This week, I want to go a step further and shine the spotlight on finding an inner coach to help you cultivate healthy thoughts. Before I talk about more about your inner coach or healthy thinking styles I want to touch on a concept called self-love. I’m sure you’ve heard this statement so many times –“You have to love yourself first.” For years I wondered what that even meant. I didn’t feel a lot of this love for myself and the whole concept sounded like a bizarre puzzle. I even thought - isn’t it so weird to be in love with myself, wouldn’t that be totally narcissistic? Of course, it didn’t help that I was going though serious rough patches personally and professionally and all I could hear were unkind words. How would self-love even land when the words of my huge inner critic was so loud?
As my journey towards self-growth and development progressed I realised that love is not necessarily a feeling but love is a choice – one that prioritises the wellbeing of other people including myself. We are all perfectly capable of love and know what its like to love others – our children, our friends and our pets, but somehow when it comes to being kind to ourselves, we pretend not to know how. A healthy, happy person should be able to have a genuine loving relationship with oneself. This means treating ourselves with the same kind of compassion and devotion that we offer other people.
One of the best ways to cultivate this habit of self-love and healthy thoughts is to look inside and find our inner coach, captain or leader. Our inner coach is a wiser, supportive, motivating voice that exists within all of us. If you are thinking and going, hold on, no, I haven’t heard this voice, then I ask you my friends to go deep in and listen. You’ll find that your inner coach is the one who speaks to you kindly yet firmly, compassionately and wisely. Your inner coach can be male or female - someone who inspires you and wants the best from you - a parent, a friend, your dog, an aunt, a teacher, a character from a book or as in my case Nikki Swango! The inner coach offers guidance, reassurance and emotional support rather than criticising or being negative. The coach sets firm limits that support our health and wellbeing. Once you really listen and look, the distinction between your inner coach and your inner critic will become very clear to you.
So here’s my take – finding your inner coach is the first step toward self-love and cultivating healthy thoughts. Your inner coach will teach you how to have a good relationship with yourself. That means swapping the unhealthy, irrational thoughts – “I’m not good enough. I’m such a loser. Why can’t I get anything right” to healthy ones that genuinely help you grow and reach your potential.
Once you find your inner coach, he/she can work with you on shifting your unhealthy thinking styles to healthy ones. Here are a few:
Rational Thinking – This is a very powerful healthy thinking style. Its creating thoughts based on evidence and facts. For example - “Just because I made a typo in my presentation, doesn’t mean I’ll get a poor review. I can’t tell the future.”
Compassion – A style of thought that has empathy for the context, thoughts and feelings of yourself or others. “Given today’s circumstances, I’m doing the best I can. I’m going to be kind to myself.”
Gratitude – Noticing and appreciating what’s good and right in every situation. “I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to learn from this problem.”
Optimism – Thoughts based on identifying the best-case scenario. “Yes, I’m on a budget and can’t stay in a fancy place. I can still have the most amazing holiday and create those incredible memories.”
Growth Mindset- This is a thinking style that shows us that imperfection is a sign of growth, learning and development and that effort counts. “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m getting so much better. If I work harder, I’m sure I’ll improve tremendously.”
Grey is Good – This is the opposite of Black or White/All or Nothing Thinking. The Grey thinking style is when can see both sides of a situation. “I didn’t get invited to her Birthday party. We are not as close as we used to be, but that doesn’t mean she hates me.”
Flexible – Letting go of rules/should/musts and cultivating preferences. “I prefer to have my coffee first thing in the morning but if that doesn’t happen its OK.”
If you want to do some deeper work on self-love, connect to your inner coach or work on shifting unhealthy thoughts to healthy ones, I highly encourage you to work with a change work professional who can hold the space and help you through this amazing process.
So my friends, it’s Valentine’s Day this week – no better time than now to practice self-love and channel your inner coach. I’ll leave you with this quote I love. “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.” The Buddha