Cognitive distortions are thoughts and beliefs that skew your perception of reality. Don’t worry, you aren’t going insane. These thoughts are normal but if they occur too often, they’ll make a nice life feel miserable.
Furthermore, they’re usually unconscious and happen so quickly that you may not be aware of them.
Over time these cognitive distortions can damage your mental and emotional health.
However, the good news is once you’re aware of cognitive distortions, you can start to challenge and reframe your thinking to create a more accurate and positive view of yourself and the world.
Cognitive distortions cause divorces, friendships to end, and even suicide. They rip apart confidence, and to make things worse, they increase depression and anxiety.
Your own brain is tricking you into believing that the world is against you.
However, after you read this article, you’ll be able to identify these thought patterns so you can put a stop to them. Learning about these inaccurate beliefs can be very empowering. Because how you respond to life determines how happy you’ll be in the future.
See if you can relate to some of these common cognitive distortions:
Cognitive distortions relating to yourself:
1. Believing your emotions represent reality
“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.”
Emotional reasoning is an inaccurate belief that how you feel about a situation is true. You might think, “I feel like I’m not good enough, so it must be true. I shouldn’t even try.”
It’s easy to believe our emotions, but not everything you feel about a situation is correct. Why would we lie to ourselves? Unfortunately, it’s incredibly common. Our emotions tend to overpower our logical thoughts.
You can put an end to this unnecessary turmoil. When you feel emotional, step back, and evaluate the situation with rational thinking. You might find that your emotions have misrepresented reality.
2. Cognitive distortions like overgeneralizing
“Every thought we think is creating our future.”
— Louise Hay
People who overgeneralize will experience something negative once and then expect it to be like that every time. They often use the words “always” or “never” in regards to themselves or others.
Or they’ll believe that one person’s opinion is how all people view them.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
— Albert Einstein
What if Albert Einstein believed that he was an idiot after his teacher told him he’d never amount to anything? When he got kicked out of school, he could have thought that he’d always be a failure and shouldn’t try to be more.
In reality, if something didn’t work out in the past, that doesn’t mean it never will. Learn to let go of past mistakes and realize that there are many future successes on the horizon.
“What we do comes out of who we believe we are.”
— Rob Bell
Mislabeling is a cognitive distortion that takes one flaw and uses it to form a general opinion of yourself or others.
For example, if someone cheated on you, you might label all people as cheaters. But this isn’t true, and it holds you back from ever having a successful relationship.
Likewise, if you made bad choices when you were young, this doesn’t mean that you’ll always be a screw-up. I made tons of mistakes when I was younger, but now I’m doing fantastic. It’s scary to think about where I’d be if I didn’t realize I could change myself and my life.
4. Taking things too personally
“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.”
— Benjamin Disraeli
Personalization causes people to believe that most interactions are a personal attack on them. Or that all problems are, in some way, their fault, even if these events had nothing to do with them.
This is a victim mentality where you’re the scapegoat for all problems.
In reality, you aren’t running the world, so everything can’t be your fault. Furthermore, you don’t need everyone’s approval, so let go of the need for their acceptance. You can’t control the world. No matter how wonderful you may be, there will always be some who don’t like you, and that’s okay.
5. Filtering out all the positives
Mental filtering is ignoring everything good about your life or yourself and putting a spotlight on your mistakes. These cognitive distortions demolish your self-image and happiness.
You might think you don’t deserve to acknowledge your good qualities. But, you most certainly are worthy of celebrating all the admirable things about you.
Write down your accomplishments and good qualities. Then remind yourself by looking at this list when you feel down about yourself.
6. Needing to be right
Do you feel that you’re always right and everyone else is wrong? Are you continually attempting to make people agree with you? Is it hard to let things go until you feel you’ve proven yourself?
Constantly defending yourself is stressful for both parties. It’ll also push people away from you so it’s not worth it.
The next time you’re in an argument, try agreeing to disagree and moving on to something else. Notice how everything is still okay, and you didn’t need to shout from the mountain tops about how right you were. That’s the confident way to handle arguments, calm and unburdened.
Cognitive distortions in regards to other people:
1. Cognitive conformity
“To find yourself, think for yourself.”— Socrates
The Asch Experiment was a psychological test that proved people will deny their common sense in order to conform to a group.
Do you go along with everyone else to not stand out? Even if what they’re saying is wrong?
A herd mentality is a belief that if a large group of people has accepted something, it must be true. You might assume that there’s no way vast amounts of people would buy into false information. When, in reality, it’s human nature to do this. In fact, some people will believe anything to be accepted in a group. But is it worth it?
Find out if you’ve done this by taking off your blindfold today and examining your life. Have you chosen to accept lies? You deserve to know the truth, go, and find it.
2. Dismissing all evidence that opposes your beliefs
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”—James Allen
Avoiding evidence that opposes your current beliefs are cognitive distortions that are called confirmation bias. This type of person chooses to believe lies despite mountains of contradicting proof. They’ll make excuses for why they don’t need to know about it.
So, they go through life blindfolded and allow others to think for them. Thus, making them prime targets for propaganda and brainwashing. It’s true, and it has happened repeatedly throughout history.
But, when you accept lies as facts, your self-respect starts to fade. This is because you think you’re not worthy of the truth.
However, you deserve to know the facts. So, be brave and research the things that oppose your beliefs.
3. Blaming others for your emotions
“You are not a helpless victim of your own thoughts, but rather a master of your mind.”
— Louise Hay
Blaming others for making you react in certain ways is a cognitive distortion. Many people will blame others for their internal misery or emotional outbursts.
However, no one can force you to feel or react in any way. You alone can control your emotions. Whether you allow yourself to explode emotionally is your choice.
For instance, you might say things like, “You made me angry, that’s why I yelled at you!” or “I flipped out because my boss disrespected me!”
In contrast, you might blame yourself for everything, even if you had no control over the actual cause. You, therefore, decide to be a scapegoat for everyone’s problems. But, no one deserves to be a whipping boy for the world.
Every day try to do the best you can, and that’s enough.
Eliminate your cognitive distortions by journaling
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
— Norman Vincent Peale
It can be helpful to journal about your experiences. Afterward, step back and examine what you wrote as if you were someone else. This helps you to see how your thoughts might be causing problems.
I know it’s not fun to look for your faults, but it’s the only way to fix them. It’s worth it because you’re eliminating future arguments and stress.
In short, if you solve just one of your cognitive distortions, I promise it will improve your entire life. So, pay attention, and you’ll start noticing these misguided beliefs. Then you can correct your perspective with rational thinking. Afterward, you’ll be a more enjoyable, carefree, and happier person for it. I have all the confidence in the world that you can pull yourself out of these negative thinking habits.
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Comment below: Do you have cognitive distortions?