Can you spot your own thinking errors?

I can’t do it, I’ll never come up with a good idea - who among us hasn’t had a thought like that, right? Or when receiving a compliment, immediately starting to list your faults as a response?

These types of thought patterns, also known as thought or perception errors (or
cognitive distortions, if you want the technical term), are something almost everyone
experiences at some point in their lives. Usually, these thoughts pop up spontaneously and unknowingly. However, a big advantage to have is to know how to notice these
mistakes in your thinking to consciously stop them or at the very least, make them come up less often.

The main reason for stopping these thinking errors is that they are not useful at all. Although they are easy thoughts to have, they have a negative effect on your self-esteem and mental health. If such thought patterns dominate your mind, you should pay
attention to them because they make your life more difficult than it should be.

So - what thinking errors do you tend to make?

All or nothing thinking (also black and white thinking)
You think you have to be perfect, otherwise, you're completely useless or a failure. Something is either good or bad, and there is no in-between.

You draw conclusions based on one negative incident, believing that it will keep
happening over and over again. For example, something didn’t go as planned and as a
result you affirm to yourself that everything will always go badly and nothing will ever work out for you.

Mental filter
You focus only and completely on one negative thing and you either can’t see the positive or you choose to ignore it.
Example: you get many positive comments and one negative comment after a
performance. You only focus on the negative and fixate on it, forgetting about all the
positive comments you received.

Disqualifying the positive
Example: when receiving a compliment, you just don't believe it nor take it seriously. You think that it was meant as flattery or that the person giving the compliment is just naive and doesn’t see how things “really” are.

Jumping to conclusions
You have already drawn conclusions before anything has even happened, or you
obviously have too little information to draw any conclusions at all. There are two types of this thinking error:
Mind reading: for example, without actually knowing what someone is thinking about you, you are already convinced that they have a negative impression of you. In this
pattern, you may jump to conclusions based on the other person’s body language or other (partial) information.
Fortune telling: you predict the outcome of events, even though there is no way of
foreseeing what will actually happen. For example, you have prepared well for an exam, but you think you know that you’ll fail for sure.

Magnification or minimization
In most cases, this works by assigning a disproportionately high meaning to negativity, weaknesses, or danger, and a disproportionately low meaning to success, strengths, and opportunities. Also, one's own good traits are seen as less valuable than those of others, and one's mistakes seem worse than those of others. This kind of thinking is especially amplified in depression: everyone else is good and smart, but I only have flaws.
This thinking error also includes catastrophizing: you imagine and fixate on the worst possible scenario (however unlikely it is) or you see a small inconvenience as a
completely unbearable and unsolvable situation.
Example: you don't dare to start learning to drive because you imagine yourself causing a car accident.

Emotional reasoning
This is the opinion that your negative feelings reflect the true nature of things and
experiences - that is, you evaluate reality based on your personal feelings. Example: I feel very bad today, so the whole world is an ugly place. Also: if I feel incompetent and stupid, that's what I am.

Essentially means using stereotypes to judge yourself and others. For example: they act like this, therefore they are naturally like this; they are a teacher, therefore they are pedantic. Self-labeling can sometimes be even harsher - for example: if I make a mistake, I must be a loser, because only losers make mistakes.

Blaming yourself or others
If you tend to take responsibility for a situation or consider yourself the cause of an event, when in reality you cannot influence the situation or event in any way, then you have an excessive tendency to blame yourself. Example: your friend is in a bad mood, and you are convinced that you have caused it without knowing the real reason. The other extreme is when you always blame others or something external for the bad things that happen to you, without seeing your own role in it.

If you recognize some of these thinking errors (or even all of them), then the next time you catch yourself with one of these thoughts, tell yourself to stop and rephrase the thought into something positive instead. For example, if something does not go as planned, rather than thinking that nothing ever works out for you, think that sometimes things don’t go well, sometimes they do, and sometimes they even go really well - and that’s okay!

What is self-compassion and why is it important?
A little glossary of mental health

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