How to Avoid a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

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If thoughts ranging from “I can’t do this” or “I’ll never be successful” run through your mind regularly, you could be programming yourself to fail if you’re not careful. Self-fulfilling prophecies can derail your success and trick you into taking action that prevents you from living a happy life and achieving triumph over tragedies. Learning how to change your thoughts, build your self-esteem and dive into self-fulfilling prophecies that garner success is the first step in achieving the lifestyle you desire.

Demand Respect

When you internalize negative messages about yourself, it can leave you feeling unloved, misunderstood and even worthless, according to family therapist Tamara Hill in the PsychCentral article “Children with Severe Behavior Problems: 5 Ways To Build Self-Esteem.” When you feel down and out, your motivation to keep trying wanes. Instead, demand respect for yourself by limiting your self-talk to positive phrases only. Stop yourself when you are tempted to downgrade your appearance, accomplishments or performances to avoid negative self-fulfilling prophecies. Model respectful behavior for yourself and treat others the same way to model how you want to be treated.

Fake It

If you’re struggling with negative thoughts about your performance at work or doubting your ability to interact well with others, don’t let a self-fulfilling prophecy determine the outcome as negative too. Fake it until you make it, recommends psychologist Carolyn Kaufman in the Psychology Today article “Using Self-Fulfilling Prophecies to Your Advantage.” If you program your mind to think positive thoughts about your performance or first impression, your behavior will likely change. As a result, people may also respond to you more positively when you are showing confidence. It may seem false or fake at first, but as you continue to play the part, you may eventually believe the positive thoughts and avoid letting negativity bring you down.

Lose the Paranoia

Fear of others viewing you negatively can prompt you to act in a negative manner, thus actualizing your self-fulfilling prophecy. A March 2012 study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, concluded that group members who were paranoid and suspicious of co-workers were met with resistance and even anger by others. When your thoughts or suspicions override logic, you tend to push others away, producing negative results. Instead, lose the paranoia by assuming others have honest intentions and your behavior will follow suit.

Change Your Language

Negative self-fulfilling prophecies typically include absolute words such as never, always and can’t. The Social Anxiety Institute recommends tossing these all or nothing words and phrases from your vocabulary. Instead, replace the absolutes with positive words and phrases, such as “maybe” or “I’ll try” to promote positive action. Changing your mindset and your self-talk language may take time, but slowly ridding your thoughts of negativity is a strong start in the right direction.