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(BTW, I'm not talking about clinical depression here. That's a bigger, more deeply biological problem than mere pessimism.)
The pessimistic outlook often presents itself as "realism." A hope or dream begins to form, and the pessimistic mind will quickly devise an elaborate deconstruction project, bent on showing you how that hope or dream is unrealistic.
A pessimistic mind has to be combated with affirmations based on tangibles before any truly optimistic thoughts can make headway. It's one of the reasons I love the Psalms so much. The psalmists have their share of Yippee, yay, hallelujah moments, but usually in the midst of reminders of things God's people have endured with God's help. Our memories are short, so actively reminding ourselves of our own histories can be a helpful way of getting a grip on hope.
So when your inner pessimism responds to "Yes, you can!" with "No, I can't!" try mulling these thoughts.
- I am really struggling with fear of ___. I'm going to journal about that, consider worst-case scenarios, and come up with a plan to take small steps anyway.
- I don't really know where to start with this, but I remember other times I was a newbie, and eventually I got more competent. Who taught me then? Who in my life could teach me now?
- I haven't done this exact task before, but I did this other hard task ___. What lessons can I take from that?
- I don't know if I have the stamina for the hard work. But I know that stamina grows, and that the biggest effort is just starting. I remember another time I had to overcome inertia and what I gained.
- If this fails, I don't want the effort to go to waste. How have I become stronger, wiser, or more compassionate from setbacks I've suffered before?
- I struggle to believe in myself, so I am going to ask these people who care about me, [NAMES], to check in on me and affirm me.
- I am struggling to be patient and wait for results. What other good things in my life came later than I'd hoped, but were perfectly timed just the same?
- I feel like a failure compared to ___. But everyone struggles with this. Who could I encourage today who is younger, less resourced, less experienced, less skilled, etc., to keep on keeping on and see hopeful signs in the progress they are making?
- I worry that I am becoming jaded and bored with this, but I might find it more exciting if I helped a newbie gain skills and confidence. What younger or less experienced person in my life would I like to mentor?
- I feel stuck today. What skills do I have that I didn't a year ago? Five years ago? Ten years ago? What skills do I hope to have in five years? What small steps might help me gain them?
- I'm scared of doing this alone. What other times have I faced hardship and got unexpected support? How can I better ask for support instead of expecting it to magically appear?
Which of these affirmations speak most to you?