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Breaking Habits—the paper wristband

I’ve got a white paper band around my wrist and so far it’s blank.

No black marks yet.

That’s a step in the right direction..

It’s not really a new year’s resolution, but I’m trying to break a bad habit.

One aspect of my depression is intensification of Imposter Syndrome. As my mood goes down, I lose confidence in myself and my abilities (sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for days). Frequently, I’ll voice aloud by saying “Oh no, I’m a loser” or something equally silly (but surprisingly convincing in my depressed state).

Negative reinforcement certainly doesn’t help matters.

I don’t know if I’d heard someone else use this idea, but I made myself a paper wristband. It’s big enough that I can get it over my hand easily, but small enough not to fall off. Every time I say something negative about myself, I have to make a black mark on the band.

I started by giving myself permission to get 10 black marks per day. Then 7. Soon it’ll go down to 5, 3, 1.

I’ve been doing it for a week and significantly lowered my negative self-statements. Some days, no negative at all!

If the band doesn’t get any black marks or get messy, then I can use it again the next day! (bonus points…) Having it on my wrist makes it very present and easily available in case I have to make a black mark. It’s also there to show me what a good job I’m doing. And it comes off easily if I have to go to work.

I didn’t count negative thoughts unless they became a huge internal monologue. Something about saying a thought makes it more real.

How do you break your bad habits? positive reinforcement? negative reinforcement?


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Sillyness — an antidote to moping
April 26, 2008 at 3:32 pm


Dad December 31, 2007 at 5:03 pm

I’m glad you have found something to do to help with this problem. When you mention this feeling on your part, one of the first things I can think of (after rejecting it because I know you and I know better πŸ™‚ ) is that no impostor could have achieved the excellent grades you achieved over four years of college at a rather good school. They didn’t give that degree with those honors to an impostor. No, you are the real thing πŸ™‚

Laura December 31, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Awww,your dad is so awesome! I have to have a small notepad with me to remind me to focus on the big tasks of the day. I have a really bad habit of missing these things as I have a hard time focusing.

mrsmicah December 31, 2007 at 7:01 pm

Aww…thanks Daddy! πŸ™‚

RacerX December 31, 2007 at 10:12 pm

..Not to mention that your blog (not to mention the blooger!) are very real indeed as well. I never would have a visitor without the support of Mrs M!

Pretty sure that is a positive thing… πŸ™‚

vh December 31, 2007 at 10:42 pm

Wow. That is scary…I mean, it’s scary because in my acquaintance so many really talented and decent people DO think and feel negative thoughts about themselves. For the people who are looking outside in at them, it’s hard to imagine what to say to convince them that the negative thoughts — and not the person him- or herself — are what’s out of whack.

Yours is an interesting idea that sounds like it works.

I’ve managed to change bad habits — especially imbibulating my favorite imbibulations — by keeping a running record of the frolics I would like to change. For example, I decided to keep a daily record of how many glasses of wine or beer I was snarfing down, and also, in an Excel spreadsheet, specifically how much I was spending at the grocery store on my favorite potables.

Being able to actually see, in writing, how much and when I was tippling (and how much it was costing!) allowed me first to cut down drinking and then to stop altogether in mighty short order. Nothing like hard numbers to get your attention….

CatherineL January 1, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Mrs M – there is no way you are a loser. You’re an excellent writer and this blog is one of my favourites.

The one way I increased my confidence (which was virtually non-existent at one time) was to cut negative people out of my life and only hang out with positive people.

Don’t let anyone put you down. Also, make a list of all the great things you have achieved and look at that list every time you feel like putting yourself down.

plonkee January 1, 2008 at 3:58 pm

I’m trying to do and say positive things. The more I say that my life is pretty good, the more I will remember that it’s true. Sometimes I need to remind myself that I am happy.

It’s pretty bad, but what actually makes me snap out of imposter syndrome is listening to someone else speak and realising that they don’t know anything much. When they’re looking to get rid of all the imposters, I’m so not going to be first in the queue. πŸ˜‰

SavingDiva January 2, 2008 at 4:34 pm

When I was younger, I tried to stop biting my nails by snapping a rubber band around my wrist. However, it didn’t really help. I’ve stopped biting my nails on a regular basis, but I still do it when I get stressed out…

Wooly Woman January 3, 2008 at 4:56 pm

How nice your Dad reads this blog! Mine is still anonymous from my family, but I may reconsider in the future.
I get these thoughts too sometimes, and I know they should stop too. I like your idea of how to stop them, it is more concrete than simply resolving to think these thoughts less. You are actually keeping track to see how often you do it in order to make a change.

Dave January 3, 2008 at 8:39 pm

That is a really good idea, I think I will have to appropriate it for my own use. πŸ™‚
I hope it continues to work well for you, stay positive!

Kjen April 27, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I’m glad I found this post.
I’m struggling with negative-thinking and it’s a slippery fight uphill. I think the use of a visual reminder WOULD be very helpful to me.

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