I promise, this post is nowhere near as angry as the title makes it seem and I’m not having a no wire hangers moment!
Have you heard the idea that if you have a behavior that’s not serving you, you wear a rubber band around your wrist and snap it when you engage in this behavior? One of my very first coaches recommended this trick as a way to overcome negative thinking. In the past week alone, I’ve heard two people recommend it for various infractions. Even a therapist has suggested it!
I will rarely have the confidence to voice my opinion against so-called experts, but I’m going out on a limb with this one and say it’s one of the worst ideas ever. I’m going to call myself an expert of experience on this one (even if that means I have to admit that I’ve tried it).
Let’s use negative self-talk as an example. Sometimes we beat ourselves up, saying that we’re not smart enough, we’re lazy, or just not good enough in general. (I’m not even going to begin to discuss what this negative self-talk does to a person; that’s a whole different blog post.) You’re sitting at your desk and have your rubber band around your wrist, primed and ready to snap. You’re typing away, and you hear that familiar voice say, I’m never going to finish this blog post because I’m stupid and have nothing to say. Why would anyone want to read what I write? So you snap your rubber band, hoping the sharp, stinging pain will make you never say those things again.
Step back and take a look at what just happened here. You were suffering from a moment of fear, doubt, or insecurity, and at the suggestion of an “expert” decided to answer that by causing physical pain. Why in the world should we willingly cause ourselves pain? You know what hurts more than that damned rubber band? Constantly calling yourself fat, stupid, and not good enough. Yet that has never made you do whatever it is you think you need to do (or not do) to stop being those things, has it?
Trust me on this, we put ourselves through enough pain and torment if we are at point of inflicting pain to stop a behavior. More pain is not the answer. Instead of answering self-hate with more hate, answer it with love. If you have a bad habit that you just can’t quit, give yourself gentleness, awareness, and a break!
Let’s take the same negative self-talk example. Next time that voice says that you’re not good enough, try answering with an affirmation or even better, an example of why you are good enough. See if repeated positive reinforcement doesn’t help diminish the pattern and actually change your thoughts more than the negative reinforcement and fear of the rubber band.