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Changing Negative Thoughts

21 09 2006

When you’re overloaded by anxious thoughts that diminish your confidence in yourself, you tend to see things as more negative than they really are. Before the event, you may make negative predictions about how other people will respond to you, how you will perform, and how events will turn out. After the event, you may make negative evaluations of how you handled it. Certain patterns of anxious thinking are associated with social anxiety. Being aware of these patterns can help you identify them.

1. Perfectionism: Most of us like to do things well, but some people are so focused on doing things perfectly that it causes a great deal of distress. If you are a perfectionist, you may spend much more time on an activity than is warranted, taking time away from more rewarding pursuits. Perfectionism can be particularly troublesome if someone is watching you. You may be so worried about making a mistake that you can’t perform well. The most reliable way to avoid mistakes is not to do anything; many perfectionists become expert procrastinators who accomplish very little. Creative people allow themselves to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes as they go along.

2. All-or-nothing thinking: Related to the problem of perfectionism is all-or-nothing thinking. When you think this way, if a social encounter does not go the way you wanted, you see yourself as a complete failure. A more constructive approach is to see where you have succeeded and consider where you can do even better in the future.

3. Catastrophic thinking: This involves taking a disappointing experience and thinking it into a catastrophe. If you do not get that job offer (close that sale, get that date), you will never have another chance. In reality, most people have to put in a good number of job applications before they receive an offer.

4. Overestimating the danger in a situation: Most of us know people who worried excessively about failing each exam despite their history of getting strong marks in all their courses. Likewise, a socially anxious person may expect social encounters to turn out badly, even though they often turn out well.

5. Underestimating your ability to cope with a difficult situation: You may feed your anxiety by telling yourself that you will not be able to handle the upcoming meeting, work task, or family problem. In reality you are self-defeating yourself by materializing that outcome, with your negative thinking.

[This article was written by an outside contributor]

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