It is more than just how you look that can impact how you feel about yourself, your self-esteem. It can also be how you think that can determine how you assess your self-worth. I don’t mean whether or not you are a brainiac, though. Our thoughts powerfully influence our emotions. In fact, how we assess any given situation determines how we feel and often how we behave. Because thoughts are so important and powerful, psychologists have classified errors in thinking that can cause difficulty or distress for individuals. One of these errors is “all or nothing thinking.”
One example of all or nothing thinking is believing that because you are overweight you are not a valuable or lovable person. Not only does this belief lead to sadness and emotional distress, but it ignores all the other attributes that a person possesses. Beauty is fleeting, and generally not as important as intelligence, kindness, ambition, or humor. What characteristics do you most value in a friend, romantic partner, or family member? Do you recognizable those traits in yourself? Do you find yourself focusing on the single part of yourself with which you are not happy?
Thinking errors are generally applied repetitively in several situations, so they become habitual ways of thinking. When we do anything frequently, we become good at what we have practiced, and thus it can take time and effort to extinguish the habit and move to a more helpful mode of thinking. Even if you recognize the thought pattern as irrational, it can be automatic and difficult to eliminate. For many, the assistance of a therapist to help you identify thinking errors and create new thinking patterns is helpful. For all, simply recognizing the pattern of all or nothing thinking is a major step in the right direction.
January 12th, 2012