My life has been full of terrible misfortunes – most of which never happened. Michael de Montaigne
People with low self-esteem will often think up the worst-case scenario possible. They believe everything is their fault. It can become a way of thinking that paralyzes you. These negative messages we create in our heads are also called cognitive distortions.
Cognitive distortions are inaccurate thoughts that reinforce negative thought patterns or emotions. They are wrong ways of thinking that convince us of a reality that is not true and that drags us down.
There are a few central cognitive distortions that you need to know about and may recognize in yourself:
Filtering refers to how many of us can somehow ignore all the positive and good things in our lives and focus solely on the negative. But, unfortunately, it can be far too easy to dwell on a single negative aspect and ignore many good things.
“Black and White Thinking”: is all about seeing black and white only, with no shades of grey. It is all-or-nothing thinking with no room for complexity or nuance. As a result, if you don’t perform excellently in one area, you may see yourself as a total failure instead of simply unskilled in one domain.
Over-generalization: is taking a single incident or point in time and using it as the sole piece of evidence for a broad general conclusion. For example – you went for a job interview. It was a bad interview, and you didn’t get the job. So now you assume you are bad at interviews – period.
Jumping to conclusions: refers to the tendency to be sure of something without any evidence at all. For example, you believe someone dislikes you without the flimsiest of proof.
Blaming: is when we assign our responsibility for an outcome by blaming others for what goes wrong.
Crazy-making: When confronted by others, they tell them they are wrong and off-track with their observation – thereby telling them they can’t trust their perceptions.
Compartmentalizing: The person divides life into compartments, where one has nothing to do with the rest. It is a way of keeping thoughts, feelings and behaviours separate from the other parts of your life.
Hopeless & helplessness: The person believes nothing can help to improve the situation and feels all is lost.
The beliefs people have about themselves and the world around them come in 2 categories
Logical or rational thoughts: they are true; they make sense or are helpful.
Foolish or irrational beliefs: these are untrue, don’t make sense or are not beneficial.
Rational thoughts are positive and constructive and help you get ahead. Irrational thoughts are destructive keeps you back. It is essential to become aware of these in your own life and question these thoughts and beliefs. Learn to separate them. It requires thinking before speaking. Your goal is to stop negative thinking and practice positive rational thinking. To counter negative thoughts, you can turn them into a question. Here are a few examples
Irrational thought: My boss never liked my work
Question: Has my boss never valued my work?
Rational Answer: My boss is okay with most of my work but didn’t appreciate my work on that project.
Resilient people don’t see themselves as total failures just because they performed poorly in one area.
Irrational thought: I am no good at anything because I can’t do my job.
Question: Am I not good at anything?
Rational Answer: I can do many things, but I messed that project up because I didn’t get the support I needed to finish that project successfully.
Resilient people don’t let setbacks or bad events affect other unrelated areas of their lives.
Irrational thought: I am worthless.
Question: Am I worthless?
Rational Answer: I am valuable to my family and friends in things I do and mean to them and cannot say that I am useless.
Resilient people do not solely focus on the negative aspects; they also see the good and positive in their lives.
Exercise for you:
Start to write down your negative thoughts. Question every thought. Write down the rational conviction and re-read them if the idea pops up again. Practice to banish negative thoughts and instead think positive thoughts that will help you get ahead.