Destructive thoughts can be brutal to our confidence and hold us back from reaching our biggest goals.
The way we experience our lives is fundamentally grounded in our perception of the world. Unfortunately, some of us allow destructive thoughts to rule our world and our understanding of it. So how do you know if your thinking is destructive? After all, most of the time we don’t even pay attention to what we say, but we feel the aftermath.DOWNLOAD THE INFOGRAPHIC FOR THIS POST HERE
Imagine for a moment that you’re looking at a picture of a woman. She’s wearing black, she’s crying, and she’s in the front row of a church.
How do you feel about this situation? Do you feel empathy for her? Do you think this woman is at a funeral? Most likely, your perception of this mental image was negative. If not, two thumbs up for you.
If I told you this woman was at a wedding, would you have the same empathy? How would you feel about this situation? Indifferent, happy, annoyed that she’s one of those people who cries at weddings?
The Power Of Your Mind
Our minds change our perception and our emotions in a split second based on our perspective. Likewise, wee see and hear things that may or may not be true all the time. All things considered, what we choose to believe becomes our reality.
We tell ourselves stories, creating cognitive distortions about our world all the time. Unfortunately, these distortions have a detrimental effect on our confidence and our actions.
To demonstrate, here are five distortions to be aware. There are plenty more where these came from but drinking from a fire hydrant isn’t the best approach, so let’s start small. Be aware of these and notice your thoughts. Being aware is the first step to changing your mind.
1. Jumping to Conclusions
It’s a funny thing, we all lose our sense of reality when we jump to conclusions. I mean we know we can’t read minds, yet we convince ourselves of what others are thinking.
We assume our boss hates us because he doesn’t say hello when he comes into the office. He could have been preoccupied. It’s possible that he had something pressing on his mind that needed attention. It could be a myriad of thing causing his mood.
The problem is we see ourselves as the center of the universe so it must be about us.
I’ve never met anyone who can see the future. Still, we make negative predictions about life, our businesses all without factual proof.
2. Fortune Telling
Convincing yourself that your ideas are wrong or that no one will understand you, is a form of fortune telling. It’s hit or miss based on some unfounded logic, and if it comes true well, then you were lucky. In which case, at least you can’t say you never get lucky.
If you catch your inner critic doing this ask “How do I know this is true?
Have you asked anyone about it? Have you taken a world pole on the subject thus are looking at raw data that proves your point? If not then you need to get some feedback before you give up on your ideas.
It could be a matter of making slight changes to your ideas. You might take a different perspective on your approach or your marketing. There are millions of ways to look at the same situation.
I’ve seen companies with identical products have very different results. One wasn’t better than the other. It was because they had different approaches. There are millions of perspectives if you’re hitting a brick wall odds are you need to change yours.
3. Discounting the Positive
So you know there are a lot of things you’re good at, but then you say it was luck or it was nothing. Being lucky may be true, but there is another truth you need to consider here.
Luck comes with a lot of hard work.
It may have been nothing to you because you’re damn good at what you do. In fact, that in itself deserves praise not destructive thoughts and criticism.
Never discount the positives. You’ve worked hard, you’re talented, and not everyone can do what you do. Saying things like, “anyone could have done it,” only demeans your effort. In spite of your humble nature, not anyone could have done it, or they would have.
Here’s a good example of someone who has destructive thoughts. I watched a news story the other day about a woman that lost 80 pounds. She looked like a different person. All things considered, losing that amount of weight couldn’t have been easy. When the interviewer asked her how she did it, she said, “Well I only lost 80 pounds, I should have lost 100 pounds by now, so…”
How can losing that amount of weight not count? I know a lot of blood sweat and tears went into losing that weight. Losing ten pounds is like torture for me so believe me I know. I can’t even fathom trying to lose 80 lbs. For me, this was fantastic.
4. Blame and Excuses
The blame game works in one of two ways, self-blame or blame on things we can’t control, for outcomes we can’t control. These are destructive thoughts because they give you an excuse to limit yourself.
You’ll recognize this when you start using the “if only” mind trick. Here are some examples:
“I’m too old if only I had done this when I was younger.”
“If only I had a lot of money everything would be different.”
“If only I hadn’t said that or done that or tweeted that.”
This stuff is pointless. The fact is, you did say it, tweet it, do it. Unfortunately, you’re not younger or wealthy. You’re you, and you is good enough.
The opposite reaction is blaming others for things that happen to us even though they have no control over the outcome. How would your sister know telling you to hurry up would give you anxiety? Then because of your anxiety, you fall down the stairs and break your ankle.
It’s not her fault.
You make your choices. If you chose to run down the stairs to appease your sister’s impatience, you chose it. Period.
We have ultimate control over how we act, what we say and everything that we do. As a consequence, we will make mistakes. Those are ours as well.
5. Emotional Reasoning
I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into a place where I know absolutely no one. I felt awkward, alone and like a loser.
The key word here is “FELT.”
Having a feeling does not result in truth. I feel ugly some days, this is true. I have a bad hair day. I’m tired, but that doesn’t mean I’m ugly and I should shave my head to spare people from having to look at it.
The only truth is the feeling
Tomorrow I’ll go somewhere, and I’ll shine. I’ll make connections and have fabulous hair while wearing incredible shoes. In fact, what I thought yesterday would no longer apply.
Before you take your feelings as truth, dig deeper. Is what you’re thinking about yourself or the situation accurate? Is there proof or are you going off your emotions?
- I feel guilty (I must have done something wrong).
- I’m a terrible mother because I feel sorry for yelling at my kids.
- I feel awkward standing here alone with bad hair and ugly shoes (I’m such a loser).
Being aware of Destructive Thoughts
These are only a few examples of the many destructive thoughts we have. By and large, staying mindful of the fact that we do make them is a tool for change. Never accept that this is the way the mind works. We have great power in that we can change our minds, our thoughts and the way we react to everything around us.
Take notice and make a change.
P.S. If you find visuals helpful, pick up this free infographic that accompanies this post.