Self doubt and worry have been around as long as humans have been thinking.

We all experience unwanted thoughts, like 'I'm not good enough' or 'I think I offended x' etc, and we know they're not a helpful mindset to get stuck in. Yet knowing that can often just make things worse. Hence: "I know I shouldn't be worrying, but that's making me feel even more worried, and now also neurotic".

I'm going to come clean. Even though I'm a hypnobirthing teacher, there are times when I spiral into worry and self doubt. For ages I thought I should be calm and positive all the time and that I was failing if I wasn’t. But I've come to realise that if you want to be like that all the time, you probably need to be a robot. 

"Stop worrying" doesn't work. Strategies do.

Whilst we must accept that the kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions are part of what it is to be human, including the more uncomfortable ones, it’s equally important to have strategies to ensure you aren't engulfed in the unwanted ones that hold you back and make you miserable.

This is why I love teaching Hypnobirthing. Mums-to-be can be filled with anxiety and self doubt about birth, but Hypnobirthing builds self belief. You let go of worries. But what about after your baby is born? Or maybe you're not pregnant and not a mum and you just want a trick that you can add to your life toolbox.

Cue the THOUGHTS AS CLOTHES analogy.

This may sound whimsical, but please bear with me.

Thoughts are slippery abstract things. They can be hard to get a handle on and therefore hard to let go. So it's helpful to ground them in something real. Introducing... Clothes! 

This thoughts as clothes trick is easy to do. Here's how it works.

Clothes Photo by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash

Clothes Photo by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash

This analogy is entirely relevant and transferrable to everyone. We all get dressed in the morning. We all have very different styles and different bodies - and isn't that marvellous!? But one thing's for sure.

Most of us usually wear clothes that we LIKE. 

That look and feel good. Maybe a comfy cotton shirt, or a red dress that happens to show off all your best bits, or a pair of socks that make you happy.

But sometimes we put on something that doesn't fit right, or it's itchy, gone bobbly or a moth's eaten half of it (story of my life).  The outfit doesn't look or feel good.

So then there are 2 options.

A. Wear it all day and feel crap

B. Take it off and put it in the bag marked 'charity shop stuff'.  Then put something better on. 

The answer is B!

Now apply this to your thoughts. When you find yourself going down the dark tunnel of worry or self doubt, recognise those thoughts for what they are. They are that unflattering outfit. They are that itchy jumper. The skirt that rides up and gets stuck with static on your tights. Do you really want to walk around wearing these thoughts, letting them ruin your day? Me neither.

Wouldn't you rather put on some different thoughts that make you feel good? Yes! So then you mentally get changed. I take off the crap outfit and put on my shirt if I want to be comfy and free wheeling, or my red dress if I want to be bold and brave. The fun is in the choosing AND the wearing!

Looking manically happy in my red dress

Looking manically happy in my red dress

It seems I'm not the only one who's made this connection. Interested to see if I'd stumbled upon something entirely original, I googled 'thoughts as clothes' and discovered that... I had not. Damn it! But then I decided that was a good sign.

Here's Elizabeth Gilbert, one of my heroes, who says: “You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control.” And here’s Samuel Beckett’s riddle-like: “Words are the clothes thoughts wear.” See. We are in good company!

So I invite you to try it.

The next time you are spiralling down the tunnel of unwanted thoughts, choose to change outfits. Hopefully you'll find it's easier to do than to simply say to yourself 'I don't want these thoughts any more'.

I would love you to give it a go and please let me know how you get on!

Here's me spouting on about this on a 1 min video on instagram:

Zoe DonkinComment