Positive self-talk to lower self-stigma
Many people with dementia have a lot of negative self-talk about themselves because they have dementia.
- “I’m stupid because I have dementia”
- “I’m useless because I have dementia”
- “I’m a burden because I have dementia”
These thoughts are not accurate and stop people from moving forward with dementia. They are a barrier to taking part in life in a meaningful way. These thoughts often arise because of self-stigma. Self-stigma means negative beliefs or feelings towards yourself because you have dementia. Self-stigma is very common in people with dementia because of the negative stereotypes that we as a community hold about dementia (see this article about myths and stereotypes about dementia).
- When we examine each of these statements, we can show that they aren’t accurate.
Stupid means “showing a lack of intelligence or common sense”. Intelligence can include academic intelligence, emotional intelligence and practical intelligence. While your memory or some aspects of your thinking might change because of dementia, it’s likely that you’ve got most of your previous intelligence and common sense. So, it might be more accurate to think “My memory or thinking is worse than before because I have dementia”.
- When negative self-talk starts, focus on things that you’re good at, not the dementia “I’ve got good common sense” or “I’m great at cooking”. You might like to write down three things that you’re good at, and put them on the fridge as a reminder.
Useless means “something that has no function or purpose or that is not helpful in any way”. It is very unlikely that you are useless. You do things for yourself and others, for example, in your home, in your garden and outside the home.
- When negative self-talk starts, focus on things that you do which are useful. “I make my grandchildren laugh”, “I read and enjoy books”, “I keep the garden weed-free”. You might like to write down three things you do that have meaning or purpose and put them on the fridge as a reminder.
Being a burden means “causing someone a lot of difficulty, worry or hard work”. It is very unlikely that you are a burden. While people around you might worry and care for you, the help they give is probably not so much that they think of you as a ‘burden’. You might also worry about and care for others, and might have done a lot for others in your life, too.
- When negative self-talk starts, focus on the things that you do for yourself, or for someone else. You might like to write down three things that you do for yourself or for someone else. “I make my wife tea every day” “I keep my shed organised” “I treat my friends when we have coffee”.
Some of you reading this might think that positive self-talk is new age mumbo-jumbo and won’t work. There is scientific evidence that positive self-talk can help with your mood and feelings, find out more here Positive Psychology.
Practice Positive Self Talk
Write down 3 things you’re good at, 3 things that give you meaning or purpose, and 3 things that you do for yourself or others. Put them on the fridge as a reminder.