Did you know that two things can be true at the same time? That’s right! Keep reading and hopefully life will begin looking brighter by simply understanding how to modify a certain type of negative thinking that makes perspectives seem dim and disappointing.
All-or-nothing thinking is the tendency to evaluate a situation in extreme categories. When we judge ourselves, or others, using extreme measures, we decide –consciously or subconsciously – that a situation is all good (perfection) or all bad (failure). Now, if we make all good or all bad our only two choices, and perfection doesn’t exist, then the only choice left with this type of thinking is… all bad. Yep, a big, bad, hideously daunting failure!
So, if you tend to think in all-or-nothing patterns, awareness is the first step to unlearning this bad thinking habit. Knowing that it is a thinking trap will motivate you to not fall into it.
Hint: one way to detect this negative thinking pattern is by catching yourself using the words always and never to describe situations that happen to you (e.g., “I never get picked,” “I’m always excluded,” “I’ll never understand this,” etc.)
Sound familiar? If your answer is yes… learn to look for the gray area. Find ways that two things can be true at the same time. Here are some examples:
You can receive an insult (real or perceived) from someone, but not feel insulted by everyone: Avoid the “Everyone insults me trap.” Think of a recent compliment you’ve received, or someone you know that shares your taste, style, interests, or sense of humor. “Someone may have insulted me, but someone else thinks I’m awesome.”
- You can be excluded by someone, but not excluded by everyone. Think about people that DO include you. Think about your tribe.
- You can be wronged by someone, but not wronged by everyone. Think about the reliable people in your life that DO show up for you.
- You can have high self-esteem in some situations and low self-esteem in other situations. Think about the situations that make you feel most confident and good enough. Realize that nobody is good at everything.
You can experience a situation as meaning everything to you one day, but consider it to mean nothing to you just a few hours later. Think about a time when one day something meant everything in the world to you yet later seemed insignificant. We could all benefit from being less reactive in the moment and finding space to better understand a difficult situation.
Disbelief and certainty live within each of us. In our minds, most of us know that both can be true. So why is it more automatic for us to live in the space of disbelief (that we aren’t enough) than to push into the space of more empowering certainty (that we are enough)? Let me suggest that each of us possesses the power to let go of negative thinking and decide that we’ve earned the right to enjoy the many beautiful, imperfect truths that make us worth being loved.
“Live life as if everything is rigged in your favor.” -Rumi
by Alison Conner, Ph.D.
Dr. Conner is a Psychologist in Fresno, California who specializes in behavioral and mental health for teen and young adult girls. She is a member of our expert panel and provides consultation and content in the area of mental health, particularly the intersection of mental health, healthy relationships, and healthy sexual development.