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A Negative Attitude Can Be Addictive

Did you know that a negative attitude can become addictive? Of course, you won’t go into withdrawal without it and won’t have to join a 12-step program to recover, but regularly underestimating and putting yourself down is an attitude you’ll keep returning to again and again (mostly unconsciously) if you’re not careful. At best, it’s a bad habit that guides your thinking and promotes ineffective decision-making. At worst, it’s a mindset that shuts out hope and creates a lifetime of unhappiness and despair.

It’s natural to think poorly of yourself if your caretakers chronically maligned or neglected you. You probably believed what they said about you at the time. However, you now know that what your parents and relatives taught you about yourself is simply untrue. You now understand that they put you down to make themselves feel better or because they didn’t know how to be better care-takers. You recognize—don’t you!—that you’re nothing like what you were taught you were way back when. However, you may have lingering doubts that you’re not worth much, don’t deserve queenly or kingly treatment, and should be grateful for small favors.

Sure, it’s difficult to cast off this mindset. One of the reasons it’s so hard is that it’s comfortable not to aim high (or aim at all!). You’ll never fail if you don’t try to succeed; never lose if you don’t try to win. Staying negative keeps you in your comfort zone, but miserable. Maybe one of the reasons you don’t want to give it up is that you’ll have to experience discomfort. You know, the kind that emotionally healthy people feel when they lose, fail or make big-time mistakes. You might believe that would be too painful and overwhelming and that you couldn’t bear disappointment or the shame of not succeeding. Balderdash!

You will have to work through these irrational beliefs if you want to become emotionally healthy, especially in the food arena. You might try to become a “normal” eater and not see success for quite a while. You may wish to think more clearly, but find it slow going. Mentally healthy people experience these feelings too when they try to change. Striving for goals, they’re impatient; failing to achieve goals, they’re disappointed. So what! They assume they’ll eventually triumph and pick themselves up and keep trying—again and again. If you want to remain emotionally comfortable, it’s probably best for you to hold on to your familiar negative attitude toward yourself. But if you’re willing to stretch and endure some unease and unfamiliarity, now might be the time to throw off your old “poor me” attitude and insist on thinking more highly of yourself.