Change your thoughts and you change your world.
– Norman Vincent Peale

In life, it is inevitable that we will be criticized or judged at one time or another. I know I have had my share to last a lifetime. I have always wondered how people can be so harsh and insensitive. Why can’t people treat others as they would want to be treated? Why can’t they consider the circumstances that brought an individual to where they are in life before judging and offering demeaning words?

Negative words, actions, and judgements can really change the way we perceive ourselves. As a child, I was called “the jolly green giant” due to being tall and full of life. I received insults from peers and teachers that included being called “dumb blonde,” “worthless,” “weird,” and “stupid”. Being “jolly” quickly turned into loathing myself and depression.  After internally reciting these insults repeatedly, the way I thought about myself drastically changed. I started to believe I was stupid and worthless. No matter how hard I worked or how kind I was to others, the hits just kept on coming.

As I grew up, I anticipated that the harsh words and judgments would come to an end. Wrong! Even now, I hear, “If you can do this, then why cant you do that?” “You’re too pretty and young to be sick.” Here are the ones that really shock me: “You’re not important until you have a child,” and “you’re selfish because you do not have a kid.”  I have truly felt like a “nobody”  because I don’t have children and because of the repeated attempts by people to label me as “stupid.”  At times, I have felt invisible. I recall sitting in a room once surrounded by people supposedly close to me without being spoken to, seemingly because I did not have kids. I could not relate no matter how hard I tried. People say time heals all wounds. Instead, time made my wounds toxic. How was I supposed to think positively about myself after all this?

It took many years to not allow the negative comments to control my life. I had permitted them to change my own perception of myself  to the point of trying to find a permanent way out.

In the midst of all the turmoil, I was taught a concept known as wise mind thinking. Wise mind thinking means determining the facts in any given situation while learning to control your emotions. For example, if I am called “stupid,” the wise mind approach examines the facts apart from the negative thoughts racing through my mind before allowing the emotions to take over. The fact is that if I was stupid, I would have failed in grade school, I would not have passed nursing school with an A average, and I would not have written and published a unique cookbook. With these facts, I am able to keep my emotions in check and positively contradict the hurtful spoken words.

Wise mind thinking does not necessarily fix every wrong. Words and actions still hurt. We are human and will fall back into the negativity at times. But by practicing wise mind thinking, it assists us in preventing negative thoughts from altering the way we view ourselves and helps us manage our reactions to criticism. Changing my thought pattern has had a profound impact on my life. Through wise mind thinking, I have accepted the unique aspects of who God has created me to be and who I am. As Norman Vincent Peale eloquently stated, “Change your thoughts and you change your world”.