Unhelpful thinking – part 1

self esteem dummies

Self Esteem Review

As there is no “Self Esteem for Dummies” (yet!) I have decided to partially fill the gap in the market. The first issue of my newsletter “Self Esteem Review” will be sent out later this week. For those of you who read my blog through the RSS feed, you need to visit my site to sign up for the free newsletter. The content will be different to the blog, including articles by other writers and reviews of other sites blog posts you may find useful.

Unhelpful Thinking

Several of my posts have focused on thinking – today I want to start looking at the link between how you feel and your thoughts. Ultimately, self esteem and self confidence are undermined by poor, unhelpful thinking habits.

Shoulds
There is something called the “tyranny of the shoulds”. Here we set ourselves up by saying “I should” or “ought to….” It is as though you believe that you need to threaten yourself to achieve anything. Its like using a big stick approach to yourself:-

I shouldn’t eat that cake

I ought to practice for another hour

I ought to volunteer to help

I should have got all those questions correct

We feel a failure if we are unable to match our shoulds and oughts, and the emotional consequence is often guilt and frustration. Mentally we punish ourselves by more negative labeling – such as “I don’t deserve xxxxx as I should have……..” As a way of motivating ourselves its quite poor – a diet based on lots of “I shouldn’t eat that cakes” will lead to rebellion before very long!

When we “should” or “ought” about what others are doing it can also lead to frustration and anger. But its mainly the way we beat ourselves up that I’m concerned about. Practice saying “I would like to” rather than “I ought to”, and look at other ways to challenge this self talk.

Musts
A step beyond should is must. These again are ways of trying to enforce high standards on ourselves.

I must be hard working

I must get an A+

I must be the first to finish

Sometimes its difficult to know when we are “musting” ourselves, but the degree of emotional upset may be a clue. Musts, like shoulds, are a problem because they leave us with a sense of failure, or let a fear of failure stop us from starting. You can probably see the link with perfectionism.

With shoulds and musts, in the first place try to identify and catch yourself using this type of language. Turn musts into preferences, recognize the choices you have and the decisions you are making. Look towards the pleasure of success rather than the fear of failure.

All or Nothing
Things are viewed in black and white, either/or terms. For example, if your performance is not what you hoped for, you judge yourself a complete failure. If someone is upset with you over one incident, you think they can’t possibly like you anymore. Again, this can be linked in with perfectionism – if something is less than perfect, its judged a failure.

Life is full of gray areas. Practice thinking more flexibly and suggest alternatives to yourself. Remember what you think is just that – a thought. What you think may be far removed from reality.

Over-Generalization
A single negative event may be seen as evidence for a never ending pattern of defeat or failure. You often use words like ALWAYS and NEVER. If a bird makes a mess on your car/auto you say “this always happens to me”. If you buy tickets in a draw or raffle and don’t win a prize you say “I never win”

Notice how often you say these words – practice thinking in terms of SOMETIMES.

Jumping to Conclusions
This is when we jump to negative conclusions even when there are no facts to support doing so. This has two forms:-

Mind Reading – You decide that someone is reacting negatively to you. This is especially likely if you have low self esteem.

The Fortune Teller Error – You assume things will turn out badly, and feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact. You book more lessons having assumed you will fail your driving test.

In both of these situations – check, or find, the evidence. But in all cases, the first job is to catch yourself doing it. You may already have identified one habit that you display. Don’t beat yourself up about it – just gradually look at alternative ways of thinking or viewing a situation.
photo credit srboisvert

Land Projects UK June 10, 2008 at 3:51 am

Self motivation is important! Being optimistic on things and the happenings in life helps a lot. Whether good or bad things happen in life, we should still be positive. Everything happens for a reasons. Another important thing to remember is acceptance!

Land Projects UK’s last blog post..Why Not Join Commercial Property Investment Seminars

Efijy October 24, 2008 at 8:01 am

Hi David,

Great site! I think we must also acknowledge that ‘unhelpful thinking’ surrounds us and that we can take action to reduce our exposure to it. For instance I stopped watching TV about ten years ago and I only buy the newspaper once a week and even then only read the two sections relevant to my business. I still get all the news (radio, word of mouth from friends and the internet) but I have limited two torrential sources of unhelpful thinkling that bombard people with negativity and promote feelings of helplessness or being a powerless victim.

Hakim April 19, 2009 at 11:45 am

I write ups are helping me a great deal and i have since commenced sending them to friends & family.

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