Your opinions and beliefs in your mind can be playing tricks on you. Just because you sincerely believe one thing to be true does not mean it is the truth. It can be an opinion and even a negative viewpoint on the world or towards yourself. Your meta-messages could be ruining your life. Here is the truth behind lies inside your head.
1. Understanding Negative, Meta-Messages
How you live your life or define your truths is based on your belief system. In counseling, we refer to these “truths” as your beliefs or your “meta-messages.” A meta-message is a message received from reading in between the lines. As you might infer, a meta-message itself may not be true but you might define it as being the truth.
Who gives these messages to you? Sometimes your parents, teachers, siblings or other important figures give you negatively, meta-messages. You might interpret them wrongly and these messages could stay with you for a long time.
These are the types of messages that define your self-worth but they can be largely misleading especially if you walk away with a message negatively defining you.
For example, if a mother says to her child, “Others might think you are dressed like a prostitute if you wear that short skirt and top showing your bare stomach,” the teenage daughter might interpret that as her mother calling her a prostitute.
2. Dissecting a Negative, Meta-Message
In the example above, let’s look at the real message. It is true, that the mother could be more selective of her word choice because teens can be sensitive to others’ comments, especially depressed teens. However, the message is not that her daughter is a prostitute, yet that might be how she interprets it. Her mother is more than likely concerned for her daughter’s safety and is not explaining that.
Through positive regard and more effective communication, we can truly see what the other person is conveying. By asking questions, paraphrasing or using “I statements” at the moment during the discussion, reading in-between-the-lines can be avoided.
Instead of making an assumption, the daughter can ask a question for clarification purposes. She can also explain that the statement hurt her feelings after explaining how she interpreted it. What the example lends to is knowing your worth and clarifying any confusion.
Validation of the daughter’s feelings after she assertively tells her mother how she feels is another way for effective communication to take place. Then, there is no misconception to be had. Dissecting a negative, meta-message takes work including confidence, openness, effective listening, and assertiveness. These are awesome skills a counselor can teach. These skills are typically glossed over in our American educational system.
3. What Can You Do with Your Meta-Messages?
The position of power is always in the present moment. By paying attention to your thoughts and how you are interpreting the information given to you by your outside world you are able to position your power. Are you thinking a positive thought or a negative thought when others are speaking to you? Are you judging them or yourself? Are you personalizing or blaming?
Being a positive versus negative person can be a personal choice. The reason is that thought can be changed. Do you know that you have control over your thoughts? By taking a stance and choosing to have the power to choose your thoughts, you are one step closer to dissecting the negative meta-messages given to you over the years.
A very common inner-most belief for everyone is, “I’m not good enough,” “I don’t do enough,” “I don’t belong here,” “I’m not loveable,” but according to whose standards? This is certainly a roadblock as this type of thinking yields problems. This is a victimized stance. You can look at this problem as an opportunity though to try to overcome this negative type of meta-messaging. If you are struggling with these inner-most, common beliefs then you have some work to do.
What are some of the ways you express to yourself a lack of love, lack of self-worth or deny your own good? Make a negative message list that your parents (or others) might have said to you. We are about to work on overcoming them.
4. Work on Having a Perspective Shift
Imagine your potential. Imagine you are living a life where you are good enough, loveable and people like you. I guarantee you are all of those traits but have one thing standing in your way: perspective. Perspective is what changes some cases of depression into happiness, anxiety into calmness and potential divorce into a healthy marriage (disclaimer- depending on the circumstances-each case is unique).
The perspective shifts when you are not letting fear or doubt get in the way. The perspective shifts when you have gratitude in your life and operate from a place of love not a place of negativity, resentment or fear. Blame is the number one way to stay in a problem. Taking ownership and putting change into action is the surest way to start working on your opportunity.
If you are believing negative meta-messages about yourself that were taught to you by your parents, other people or even yourself, remember that it might not be the whole truth. It could just be an opinion or a sorely misunderstood negative, meta-message.
(Unfortunately, I have even counseled children whose parents look as if they want to deliberately hurt the children by saying cutting words. All-in-all those parents are a product of their damaged parents who used cutting words towards them.)
Loving the self is the most important thing in life. There is always truth in love and love in truth. You must love yourself before you can truly love others and this is hard work.
5. Recognize your amazingness!
This might take time but the opportunity at hand is amazing. Take time to reframe any of the negative thoughts you think about yourself. Take time to put them into positive statements. You have an amazing ability within you to recognize your greatness and throw away the past resentments or fears.
Imagine your ideal self. When you look at the possibilities they are endless. You have negative beliefs to overcome. I have mine. She has hers. And he has his.
Meta-messages do not have gender limits but they come from a place of lack and limitation. It is up to you to overcome the limitations holding you back.
6. Learn How to Reframe Negative, Meta-Messages
“You are a baby.” “You are a maturing, magnificent person and I can’t see that.”
“Keep your mouth shut.” “You have a voice that deserves to be heard. I am holding you back.”
“The way you dress makes you look slutty.” “You have a nice body that deserves complimenting clothes.”
“You’re a terrible son (or daughter).” “I have my own issues with anger and fear.”
7. Understand that Reframing Negative, Meta-Messages Takes Effort
Being able to reframe negative, meta-messages is not easy most times. They might not come forth naturally. When using reframes, give yourself plenty of repetition and time to start believing them. That is key, the 4 R’s: Reframe, Repeat, Repeat (some more) and Remember.
Keep in mind that when you are taking messages from others personally, it is their own insecurities and fears that are being projected onto you. Their own misgivings and negative emotions are coming out.
We often take things personally when if fact, it is the other person’s shortcomings shining through. They just happen to be taking them out on you. By dissecting and overcoming any personal negative, meta-messages, you are taking the first steps towards self-love.