We spend a lot of time in our heads. While spending a lot of time thinking isn’t necessarily a bad thing, we may find ourselves getting caught up in negative thinking patterns; otherwise known as cognitive distortions. This negative thinking can affect everything from how we view ourselves to how we feel others perceive us. Unfortunately, being in this negative state of mind can limit what we do. Perhaps it’s letting a job opportunity go because you don’t feel capable. Maybe it’s avoiding certain people because you feel like they don’t like you. Whatever it may be, the negative thinking is usually irrational, and also falls into patterns. In this article, we’ll be talking about 10 types of negative thinking that you should avoid.
Sometimes little things can seem like huge issues. For instance, doing poorly on a test and feeling that it will wreck your grade, or even worse, it will ruin your future; the consequence is much bigger than what is realistic. There is a constant feeling of worst-case scenarios that can ruin your mood. It might be best to reach out to a friend or someone you trust to talk about your issue (Stanborough).
Example: I didn’t get accepted into my dream college, I’ll never be successful.
It is easy to discredit yourself for being “bad” at something. Perhaps you got rejected from a school play, or got a poor grade on an art project. It’d be easy to say that you’re simply not good at either of those things, even if it’s not the case. Overgeneralization is taking an isolated instance and using it to summarize yourself. It is important to know however, that even the most successful people have failed a countless number of times. There’s always time to improve yourself (Stanborough).
Example: I didn’t get accepted into the choir, I must be a bad singer.
3. Mind Reading
We sometimes think we know what others are thinking and limit ourselves. You might talk to someone who’s acting slightly different and think that you’re being judged. You feel that people are thinking about you in a negative way and use that to change yourself. It’s difficult to take risks and try new things if you feel that you’re being judged for it (Stanborough).
Example: That person probably thinks that I’m annoying when I talk about my problems.
Even if you achieve something, it can be hard to celebrate it if you feel that it isn’t a big deal. You feel that your achievements aren’t that big and that anyone can do them. Maybe you get an A on a project, but feel that anyone could have done the same. Minimizing makes you feel less important because you feel your achievements are small (Stanborough).
Example: I may have passed my driver’s test the first time, but so have many others. Therefore it doesn’t matter that much.
5. Black and White
Perfectionism makes accomplishing anything difficult. It’s hard to finish anything if you feel that it has to be perfect. Black and white thinking makes you feel that there’s only two sides to a situation; if something isn’t absolutely perfect, then it’s not good enough. Maybe the only thing stopping you from trying out for a talent show is because you can’t get it perfect, and anything less is unacceptable. It can also stretch to other areas. You feel that if you don’t achieve a certain goal then you never will (BusinessStudent.com).
Example: If my painting doesn’t get into this art show, it’ll never get into anything.
The opposite of minimizing is thinking that a single failure is much more important than it actually is. Perhaps you think that missing a job offer means you’ll be unemployed forever. This type of thinking is very similar to black and white, however is more focused on failures and how they’re much bigger than they actually are (BusinessStudent.com).
Example: I missed that high note in my audition, my whole performance must’ve been ruined.
Sometimes we think we know the future. An artist may not enter an art show because they know that they won’t get in. People may justify quitting or not even starting based on fears of getting rejected. However, nothing is for certain, and failure isn’t the end of the world so it’s best to try anyways (Ackerman).
Example: I’m not going enter the triathlon because I know I’ll come in last.
We may internalize problems and put the blame on ourselves. For instance, blaming yourself for losing a relationship. It’s inserting yourself into a situation that you may not have ever had control over in the first place. Self-blaming is especially harmful to our self esteem. However, it’s important to be rational and logical if you really are a cause of a problem (Grohol).
Example: It’s all my fault that my group failed our presentation. I should’ve tried harder.
We can sometimes focus on everything that’s gone wrong and miss the brighter side. For instance, we may think about all of our failures without considering our successes. It’s as if the failures outweigh everything else. Like if you won an award at an art show but think about all rejection you faced up to that point so you disregard it. Perhaps instead of focusing on all the bad, we should also shed light on what has gone well (Grohol).
Example: I may have gotten into the play, but I got rejected from 10 others. Therefore it’s not a big deal.
10. Disregarding the Positive
Sometimes we feel like we achieve something that we don’t deserve. Perhaps it’s getting a promotion over someone else and feeling that it should’ve gone to another person. We can acknowledge that we achieved something, however feel that it isn’t justified (Ackerman).
Example: I may have gotten the job over everyone else, but someone else probably deserved it more.
Negative thinking patterns can be harmful to our self esteem and happiness. It is important to know that these patterns are often irrational and that you can change your thinking to be more positive. As always, reach out to someone if you feel that you’re struggling. Also, let us know if you enjoyed this article. Can you think of any more negative thinking patterns? What are some ways you can change your thinking to be more positive?
- Ackerman, C. E. (2020, April 15). Cognitive Distortions: When Your Brain Lies to You ( PDF Worksheets). Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/cognitive-distortions/
BusinessStudent.com. (2019, December 5). 10 Common Negative Thought Patterns and How to Change Them: BusinessStudent 2020. Retrieved from https://www.businessstudent.com/topics/common-negative-thought-patterns/
- Grohol, J. M. (2019, June 24). 15 Common Cognitive Distortions. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/
- Staff, G. T. (2019, July 11). 20 Cognitive Distortions and How They Affect Your Life. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/20-cognitive-distortions-and-how-they-affect-your-life-0407154
- Stanborough, R. J. (2019, December 18). What Are Cognitive Distortions and How Can You Change These Thinking Patterns? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/cognitive-distortions