Unhelpful thinking – part 2

gozo self confidence Through the wonders of WordPress this post is appearing whilst I am 1200 miles from home on the Mediterranean Island of Gozo (part of Malta). Please leave comments, but they won’t appear till my return (unless I need to hide from the heat and find an Internet Cafe!)

As I said in part 1, self confidence and self esteem are undermined by poor, unhelpful thinking habits. These are things we all do to some extent – don’t mentally beat yourself up if you recognize things you do. Noticing a habit is the first step to changing it. The second is to tell yourself an alternative thought and practice using it.

Mental Filter

This is focusing on single events, or single details, and allowing them to color all your thinking. Unfortunately you exclusively chose negative details to focus on. For example, if you make a mistake you ignore all the successes and good things you did. Nearly everyone praises you for something you have achieved – but you focus on the one slightly critical comment.

Practice thinking about other aspects, like what you have done well or gained. Or ask yourself, how will you feel about this in six months time – or what would you say to a friend in the same situation.


This is when we tend to derive catastrophic conclusions from single events. You exaggerate the importance of things. For example you have an argument with a friend and decide they will never like you again – and no one will like you anymore so you will forever be lonely… Another way of viewing this is we do the opposite of what is logical – we exaggerate our problems and minimize our good points.

Practice checking out the evidence – what you think is not the same as reality. If a friend said such things to you about themselves, would you agree with them?


This is a tendency to give global labels to ourselves – for example “I am useless”, “I am incompetent”. Labeling this way makes us feel bad. We are a mixture of aspects, talents, moods, abilities and we can vary from day to day. We are made up of lots of littles i’s, not one big I.

Practice saying “Well, I didn’t do that as well as I would have liked, but this doesn’t make me incompetent.” Again, how would you help a friend who tended to label themselves negatively if they made a mistake. Remember a label is just an abstraction – there is no such thing as an “idiot” or “loser”. These are just labels.

photo credit et id der ikke findes

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