Do you wake up and just allow your brain to start thinking on default? Or do you create your thoughts on purpose?
Have you ever noticed that your mind is often on autopilot? Unfortunately, that can mean a lot of toxic thinking for many of us because many of our default thoughts are rooted in old beliefs that don't serve us.
We talk about mindset quite a bit in the School of Self-Image because it is essential to creating the life we want.
You must tune out the toxic thinking that keeps you down and tune into the thoughts that serve you.
It is impossible to transform your self-image without changing your thoughts and feelings. That’s because your thinking is always creating your feelings. Always. And, your thoughts and feelings influence your behaviors, choices, and ultimately, your outcomes.
Creating intentional thoughts has been a habit that has served me in amazing ways in my life. And if I find myself living on autopilot, I feel the difference right away.
Toxic Thoughts and Their Distortions
Toxic thought patterns, or cognitive distortions, are irrational assumptions about yourself, people, and circumstances. Unfortunately, these illogical, skewed perspectives may be so habitual that they feel completely normal.
They're incredibly damaging and can take their toll on your physical and mental health and your relationships with others.
The following are some toxic thought patterns you may recognize as yours. If left unchecked, they can inflict tremendous damage on your self-image and your entire life.
All or Nothing Thinking
Also known as black-and-white thinking, this distortion excludes shades of gray needed for objective reasoning. With all-or-nothing thinking, you only see things in extremes.
You may recognize some of these:
- You're either perfectly effective or completely incompetent
- You feel like an eloquent communicator or a blithering idiot
- You're always right or consistently wrong
- If every element isn't perfect, the entire thing is ruined
This type of thinking doesn't leave much room for you to be human.
Shoulding on Yourself and Others
"Should" thinking involves rigid absolutes. This distortion is based on the words "should," "ought," and "must." For instance, "I should clean the house more often," "I must come up with better ideas at meetings," or "I ought to read more books, or I'll stagnate."
In essence, you're guilting or shaming yourself into doing something with inflexible rules, and this will only stir up self-directed anger and resentment.
If your "shoulds" include other people, such as, "She should have answered my email sooner" or "He must do favors when I ask him to," you're imposing harsh standards and expectations that are likely to go unmet.
This, in turn, will only leave you feeling disappointed, frustrated, resentful, or hurt.
Catastrophizing is when you anticipate – or even expect – the worst possible outcome in any situation.
For example, if your boss or a client asks to speak with you, you just KNOW you will lose a contract or be fired.
If your partner is late getting home in the evening, your head gets busy with all kinds of horrific scenes like car accidents, love affairs, or some other catastrophic situation.
If you catastrophize, you also anguish around the "what ifs."
Let go of drama by recognizing the toxic thinking that is causing you to be certain that only extreme, negative outcomes are possible.
If you mind-read, you believe that you can tell what people are thinking about you. So, for instance, if someone is quiet or scowling, you conclude that they dislike you when, in fact, they just argued with their spouse.
Or, your partner says or does something that makes you feel a little off, and you decide all by yourself what they meant by it.
If you’re uncertain and your mind is telling you crazy stories, take a moment to ask.
Mental filtering is when you dismiss the positives in a situation and only focus on the negatives.
Suppose you’re hosting a dinner party. One of your friends brings along two extra guests and your seating arrangement gets skewed. Instead of enjoying the camaraderie and great conversation, you spend the entire evening obsessing over how the table looks - not quite the elegance you’d painstakingly planned. You’re furious with your friend, anxious about what your guests are thinking and, as a result, your evening is ruined.
You may even take it a step further by actively transforming positives into negatives.
For example, a neighbor offers to fix your broken gate. Instead of seeing the offer as a gesture of kindness, you assume they're only doing this favor so that they can demand one in return.
If You target a single negative element in a situation, that can then sum up the whole experience, thereby creating a negative one for you.
With emotional reasoning, you turn feelings into facts. See if some of these resonate with you:
- I feel like a failure at generating leads for my business; therefore, I AM a failure
- I feel like I gave an inadequate answer in that board meeting; consequently, I am stupid
- I don't love how I look in skinny jeans; that means I am fat
- I don't feel like adulting today; I am immature
When you allow one negative incident or feeling to define your real character, you indulge in emotional reasoning, which does not serve you.
The Fallacy of Fairness
If you've taken this fallacy to heart, you are convinced that life revolves around fairness and justice. But, as the adage goes, "life isn't always fair."
Weighing and measuring the justice of every situation can leave you feeling bitter, depressed, or frustrated.
When you can step back and say, "Ugh; well that's disappointing. Now – what am I going to do about it?" you can take back our power and even out the playing field.
Seeing life as fair or unfair can place you squarely in victim mode. Instead, decide how you will respond to outcomes and use obstacles to create opportunities.
The Fallacy of Change
Transformation and happiness often go hand in glove. For example, when you pursue personal development by joining the School of Self-Image, reading, journaling, engaging in yoga, doing a daily meditation or mindfulness practice, you change old thinking and adopt good habits and approach the world differently.
As a result, you experience personal growth and improved happiness.
Those who fall victim to the fallacy of change, on the other hand, focus on trying to make others change to support their happiness and often find that the result is not what they believed it would be.
If this is your cognitive distortion, you think you need to change others to be happy.
Just as you are not broken, you must remember that neither are they.
Let Go of Toxic Thinking and Embrace Thoughts That Serve You
Your thoughts shape your reality, and when they're distorted, they can lead to a pretty unhappy life.
The good news is that you're not stuck with toxic thought patterns. Instead, you can become aware of them and change them.
Elevating your self-image will require that you create intentional thoughts every day.
Live Your Life With Style, Flare, and Elegance
IF YOU LIKE IT, SHARE IT