Health Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Environmental and Workplace Health

Employee Assistance Program Newsletter

Help on accessing alternative formats, such as Portable Document Format (PDF), Microsoft Word and PowerPoint (PPT) files, can be obtained in the alternate format help section.

Volume 4, Number 3

Coping with Change

Re-framing: From Self-Defeating to Powerful Thoughts

Different frames can change the look for a picture completely. Likewise, re-framing thoughts can help you see evens or situations differently. A drab picture of hopelessness, helplessness and despair in a new frame can become a picture of hope, challenge, learning and opportunity.
If you see yourself as a failure, you are less likely to try again. If you see the plan as the failure, you are more likely to change the plan, move forward with a more hopeful attitude, and possibly succeed next time.

Have you had an experience that seemed very negative at first, but later you realized it had a positive effect? The event didn't change, only the way you framed it!

Putting yourself down doesn't help you cope with problems or come up with solutions. It only leaves you feeling worthless and discouraged. You don't like others putting you down, so why let yourself get away with it?

Questions every self-defeating thought that pops into your head. Thoughts like:

  • I'm too old to change.
  • I should never have...
  • I'm no good at anything.
  • I'll never be able to make it as a ...
  • I'm alone in this.

What evidence is there to support the thoughts? Is there any real basis for it? For example, if you think "I'm too old to go back to school," stop and consider the idea. it is based on myths like "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" or negative memories about school? Do you know someone who has gone back to school? Are you thinking about your age or is it your attitude about yourself?

Sometimes, self-defeating thoughts come from messages people gave us when we were children.

For example, if someone (e.g. an older brother or sister) said "You're too dumb" often enough, you may have learned to believe it. It's worth comparing these old messages with the facts - you are smart enough to have learned a great many things since then!

Tips for Re-Framing

  1. Confront your self-defeating thoughts.
  2. Practise saying positive things about yourself to yourself. Refuse to think negatively.
  3. Identify what you can do, instead of dwelling on what is not possible. Spend time thinking about how to build on your strengths, and improve on or get around your weeknesses - don't waste your time on regret or bitterness.
  4. When you are concerned about an upcoming event, imagine yourself bing confident and successful, getting what you want in that situation.
  5. Talk to people you respect who have a positive outlook. Ask them to help you identify the positives and re-framing your self-defeating statements.
  6. Focus your attention on the good times, not the bad times.
  7. Activity helps you to feel better about yourself. Use it to help you stay positive: walk, run, swim, do volunteer work, ... just keep moving forward!

If negative thoughts persist or if you would like some assistance in re-framing, contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at 1-800-268-7708 or 1-800-567-5803.

Reprinted with the permission of the Alberta Advanced Education and career Development