“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t- you’re right.“ – Henry Ford
Yesterday’s post, “It’s either Perfection or Failure”, was inspired by my own experiences and belief system. For reasons too lengthy, too personal and too complex to write about at this point; I hold a belief within me that I need to be perfect, to be deserving of love. As a result, I find the prospect of failure very uncomfortable. This belief impacts me daily; my personality, my work ethic, my relationships and how I behave.
It’s not always negative, there are a lot of good things about wanting to work hard and do well. But, by the very nature of being human and, therefore, prone to make mistakes; I find myself increasingly frequently experiencing moral and psychological distress.
I’ve been believing this with such conviction and for so long, that it has been deeply cemented in my psyche. It probably started as an unhelpful thought; the posh word for thought being cognition. In the clinical world (particularly the Cognitive Behavioural side of things), these unhelpful patterns of thinking are called Cognitive Distortions.
One Cognition that I’ve already identified as having is: “If I don’t do it perfectly, I have failed.” This involves a Distortion called ‘Black and White Thinking’. As you can see, there’s no grey area or middle ground to my thinking, it’s either one way or the other.
There are lots of other Cognitive distortions too, so maybe have a look and see if you can identify any that relate to you.
Black and White Thinking Where thoughts are all or nothing, e.g. “If it’s not perfect, I’ve failed”
Fortune Telling Making predictions about the future and believing they’ll happen, e.g. “I knew it- he was never going to show up anyway.”
Over Generalising Making sweeping assumptions and seeing patterns, based on one or two events, e.g. “This always happens to me- everything is going wrong”
Catastrophising Expecting the worst- case scenario to happen or something terrible, e.g. “If I go on an aeroplane it’ll probably crash and i’ll die.”
Mental filter Only paying attention to certain pieces of information or evidence, e.g. “I read that line wrong so the entire thing was ruined.”
Disqualifying the positive Not giving yourself the credit or making excuses when you deserve reward or recognition e.g. “I was only doing my job”
Mind Reading Making assumptions based on what you think a person is thinking, e.g. “She doesn’t even like me, she wont come.”
Emotional Reasoning Believing something, based on the emotion you’re feeling, e.g. “I’m not coping and feel overwhelmed… I must be a failure.
Minimisation Making something sound less important than it is, e.g. “Don’t worry about me though, i’ll survive…”
Expectation Using phrases such as, “I should”, “I must”, “I ought”, makes you feel like you aren’t meeting standards or the expectations that are upon you. The language you use reinforces how you think and feel about yourself. E.g. “I should be doing better at this.” “I must not make a mistake” “I ought to have moved out by now”
Labelling Giving yourself derogatory titles, e.g. “I’m such an idiot/ loser/ failure…”
Personalisation Blaming yourself for something that was not completely within your control, e.g. “It’s all my fault, now they’re going to hate me”
Lack of accountability Blaming other people for your own actions or mistakes, e.g. “I was speeding, but she got in the way…”
Beck, A. T. (1964). Thinking and depression. Archives of General Psychiatry, 10, 561-571.
Beck A.T., Rush A.J., Shaw B.F. & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. New York: Guilford Press
Burns, D. (1980). Feeling good: the new mood therapy. New York: Morrow