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When my depression was at its worst, one particular feeling popped up over and over.
Well, it was more than a feeling.
It seemed like a certainty, like one of the most certain things in the world.
I kept telling myself, "I can't do anything right."
And those words?
They burned through me.
They were searing.
This is an incredibly common feeling for people who deal with mental health issues.
But it doesn't make it hurt any less.
My goal today is this: to make it hurt a little less.
Because there's more to the words, "I can't do anything right."
Anatomy of a Feeling State - "I Feel Like I Can't Do Anything Right in Life"
For me, certain thoughts and feelings become more than that what they appear on the surface.
They don't just float around outside your body like an innocent fly--they become feeling states, full-on experiences that make your ears go numb with their ringing truth.
Or so it seems.
Feeling states take over your body with their seeming certainty.
They capture your attention, and they change how you physically feel.
And feeling like you can't do anything right is one of the worst feeling states I know. It's a you vs. the world type of deal.
When I've felt this way, my world became so small. All I could think about was that I couldn't do anything right. I wanted to change my attitude, but the belief stayed the same.
I felt like I was trapped.
Has this ever happened to you?
Then you could be in the tight grip of a mighty feeling state.
But don't worry.
There IS a way out.
If You're Thinking, " I Can't Do Anything Right" - A 3-Part Strategy
There are a couple of steps you need to take to figure out what's going on. I'll walk you through what I've done when I've felt this way.
An important reminder, one approach does not fit all. That's just not how mental health works. But there are key principles at play here.
Your 3 Tasks - Follow These Steps to Improve Your Mindset and End Self-Inflicted Abuse
1 - The Ultimate Question: Where is this feeling coming from?
Seems simple enough, right?
But I'm sure you've already tried to figure this out. If you knew exactly where your feeling was coming from, then you would have been able to solve this issue by now, am I right?
Still, this is a worthy goal to pursue.
Before you can ever change a feeling, a thought, a behavior, or anything else, you need to get to the heart of the matter.
Is this a feeling you have only at work? Is this a feeling you have around certain groups of people? Maybe you only have the I Can't Do Anything Right feeling in very specific situations but you've now carried the feeling into everything you do.
It's so important to just STOP and think through what's going on first.
Even better--don't just think.
Don't just ask yourself over and over in your head, "Why can't I do anything right?"
Get the feeling state out of your head and body. Write it down. Say it out loud. There is power in extracting your darkest feelings and thoughts and letting them see the light of day.
2 - Mindset Change: A Bit About All-Or-Nothing Thinking
All-or-nothing thinking is very common for us humans.
People have to deal with it all the time.
What I mean by this is that we are often prone to think in binary terms. If it's not this, it's that. If she's not a good person, she's most definitely bad.
We apply this dangerous thinking to ourselves as well, and, boy, does it hurt when the thought, "I can't do anything right" pops up.
The reality? All-or-nothing thinking is a cognitive distortion.
To me, this is a good thing. If something is well documented, it means I'm not alone. It means that help is out there, that other people have dealt with this--and overcome it.
One of the things you need to do is identify when you're caught in this type of thinking.
At first, it's difficult. It takes a lot of attention to notice when you're stuck in this thinking. But, after a while, it gets easier.
Meditation can help you notice your thoughts. So can keeping a journal or a simple notebook handy to document what you're thinking about.
You're not a bad person for having these thoughts, and the sooner you can separate your thoughts from who you are, the sooner you will start to feel better and crush your negative self-talk.
3 - The Secret Behind It All - Making a "Mistake" and the Message You Send Yourself
The last one seems so obvious, but the obvious often only becomes apparent after you've done the work to make it so.
You do things right.
All the time.
You're reading an article about mental health, for crying out loud.
Most people don't do that. Most people don't care about personal development. They just want to live a life of luxury and tune out the world, whatever it takes.
But not you.
You have a track record of doing things right even if you're asking, "Why can't I do anything right?" I know it.
There is a major difference between everyday mistakes and egregious mistakes.
The simple slip-ups you and I have each day fall into the first category.
The second category? Those mistakes are few and far between.
Even those are possible to overcome.
But it's so common to think that simple mistakes are the end of the world.
It's the negative feeling states that get in the way.
And they can be brought on by all kinds of things--a catastrophic event, a big change, even a small change.
It doesn't matter what tips the scales into all-or-nothing thinking. It just is. Obsessing over a feeling will only make the feeling grow stronger.
What does matter--and matters a lot--is that you are committed to trying something new.
Develop a different relationship with yourself.
What got you here won't get you there. This statement is often applied to business issues, but it's an aphorism that can work for any type of issue you might be facing.
Finally, and this can be a tough thing to talk about, but the way you talk to yourself could be considered a form of emotional abuse.
You would never tolerate someone screaming at you for hours, but how often do we allow this kind of treatment from ourselves?
A victim of abuse does not always show outward signs.
Difficult topics like domestic abuse provide society with clear images of what abuse "should" look like.
But you may actually be a victim of abuse if you attack yourself with negative words and thoughts.
Remember: victims of abuse come in all shapes and forms.
When you think of it that way, it becomes easier to realize that how you think of yourself clearly impacts how you live your life.
In Conclusion: Taking Action and Giving Yourself Advice - You Have to Change if You Want a Different Feeling
I get it, change is hard. You've been trying to change for a while now.
But have you really? Have you truly made the decision that you are going to commit to a new path?
When you think you can't do anything right, it can be all you think about it. Period.
It's a form of self-inflicted abuse, and we would never abuse others the way we abuse ourselves.
I've been there.
But I've also been here, typing these words, letting you know that feelings of deep shame and self-hatred do not last forever.
If you know where you've been, and if you get these thoughts and feelings out of your head, your new path forward will appear.
It may not happen today, but it will happen.
Landscapes change. People change.
One day you're stuck in the forest.
Then, suddenly, the brush clears, the skies open up, and you see the positive light of day like you never have before.