Pushing Out Self-Limiting Beliefs

An Interview with TedxUofT Speaker and Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Monica Vermani

By Alissa Chooljian, Staff Writer

Photo source: PureStudios, Agnes Kiesz, Monica Vermani 

“You’re not meant to be perfect. To be human is to err.” –Dr. Monica Vermani, C. Psych 

Trinity Times recently had the privilege of interviewing clinical psychologist, Dr. Monica Vermani, regarding her upcoming Tedx Talk on the power of negative thoughts at the TedxUofT annual conference. Dr. Vermani’s speech will dive deep into “where our negative thoughts come from, why they are so strong, and how we can clean them up and become more resilient, adaptive, and positive thinkers.” This interview aimed to get behind-the-scenes insights on Dr. Vermani’s inspirations for her talk. 

Dr. Vermani highlights how there was much discussion about the health issues and financial struggles that accompanied the pandemic, but there was scarcely enough light shed on its collateral damage: the significant decrease in mental health among citizens. 

“Today, people are really struggling with mental health issues in the wake of the pandemic and don’t have the resources or access or time to seek the help of a mental health professional.” This is what inspired her to focus her Tedx Talk on the power of negative thoughts and how to roadmap out of them. She wants “to give the Tedx audience […] something to think about and a way to create positive change in themselves.” 

Even she herself has had her perceptions about what people can do about their mental health over the course of her career. She says that one main belief that “strengthened” during her years of mental health work is her “faith in the capacity of people to change.” As her career progressed, she began to see more and more of the determination and will her patients had “to do the work required of them to move past their problems and create a meaningful and rewarding life for themselves.”  

Dr. Vermani wants students at UofT to realize the importance of analyzing where their harmful thoughts come from and that it can be transformative to “clean up [those] thoughts that no longer serve us.”  

“Our negative thoughts can limit our courage to try things we would love to do or be. In addition to that loss, we may find ourselves people-pleasing and putting ourselves last on the priority list,” Vermani underlines. She also stresses the unconscious detriments of self-limiting thoughts: “Things like believing that we are ‘unworthy of love’ or viewing the world as a threatening place will negatively influence our choices, relationships, and the way we interact with the world, and ultimately lead us to a state of hopelessness.” 

To avoid such pervasive consequences, Vermani emphasizes that we need to pay attention to our mindset and challenge our inner voices when these damaging thoughts pop up. 

Vermani exemplifies, “Say, one morning, as you’re brushing your teeth, the thought, ‘This is going to be a terrible day’ pops up. Pay attention! This is a negative thought! […] We can replace that with a healthier one that makes you feel stronger, more optimistic, and better able to face the day ahead.” However, mere replacement is insufficient. We must keep it up, commit to it and only then will we begin to benefit from these changes in thinking.”  

Vermani recognizes that self-limiting or negative thoughts may not be all bad. “We are hard-wired to survive, pay attention to, and avoid life-threatening elements in the world. These negative biases help us navigate our environment with caution.” However, she clarifies that “we are not meant to suffer in silence in this world. We must learn from one another and support one another.”  

To help students overcome these negative thoughts and take charge of their mental health, Dr. Vermani provides a list of therapeutic practices that could be of help. Along with working through her mental health workbook, A Deeper Wellness, Dr. Vermani also suggests perusing self-care books like Dr. Julie Smith’s Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before and Dr. Gabor Mate’s When the Body Says No. She also recommends practicing meditation and lists that apps such as “Calm”, “Insight Timer”,  and “Headspace” offer guided meditation programs. For students who want a swifter remedy, Dr. Vermani recommends Janice Kaplan’s The Gratitude Diaries, a podcast “which drives home one of the most powerful tools we can utilize to support our mental health—gratitude.”  

Most importantly, Dr. Vermani stresses the value of finding “what engages us and balances us” in order to achieve inner tranquility. 

On February 5th, Dr. Monica Vermani will present her talk titled “Think About It” at TedxUofT’s annual conference.