Changing thinking styles


Negative thinking affects your feelings and behaviours. For example, if you think that you might not know what to say and that no one will like you before going to a party, you may feel very anxious and avoid going to the party.

Here are some common unhelpful thinking styles that are related to perfectionism. Does any apply to you?

Unhelpful thinking style What it means Example Your example Things to think about
Double Standards Where you have one set of harsh standards for yourself and another set of lower standards for others. This keeps perfectionism going, as you are expecting more of yourself than others, which results in you being very harsh on yourself and feeling anxious and upset It is OK for others to make small errors e.g. spelling mistake in an essay, but not OK for you to make a spelling mistake in an essay Is it fair to yourself to have one harsh rule for you that is different from your rule for all other people? Why should rules be harder for you than others? How does that affect your mood?
When you conclude that because you have failed to achieve one goal, you are a failure as a person overall When Lily’s cake did not turn out well, she took this to mean that she had failed at the dinner party she had organized and over-generalized that she was a failure as a person There are so many areas to feel good about yourself: Is the label of being a failure as a person based on one occasion or one performance accurate? Is it healthy to only feel good about yourself when you have focus on meeting one single goal?
"Should" statements Strict rules for yourself This puts a lot of pressure on yourself and makes you feel anxious or stressed, especially when you don't not meet the standard “I should never make a mistake”, “I should always do things thoroughly” How about replacing “should” with guidelines (which we learnt last session) to feel less stressed? Is it possible that when you feel less stressed that you do better?
Thinking the worst Thinking of the most terrible, possible effects of a situation and blowing things out of proportion. It usually starts with “What if…” Someone who submitted a report to their teacher with a minor mistake on it might think the worst: “What if my teacher notices the mistake, thinks that I’m a terrible student and fails me? I will not be able to finish high school and I will not be able to find a job and have nowhere to live!” What are the chances of something like that really happening?
Emotional Reasoning Basing your view of a situation on feelings rather than facts Someone who is about to give a presentation might think: “I feel anxious, therefore I will give a bad presentation.”
This is basing the predicted result of a situation on feelings rather than facts (e.g. the fact that they have prepared well for it), and does not consider the fact that many people feel anxious when delivering presentation.
What am I feeling? What are the facts of the situation? Am I basing my view of a situation on feelings or facts?
Labelling Using very negative and harsh labels about yourself When you make a mistake or do not reach a goal, you say words like “stupid”, “loser”, “failure”, “useless”, “idiot” on yourself. Is it helpful to use such words on someone? How does it feel when you label yourself/someone else negatively? Is it helpful to use such words on yourself?
Taking full responsibility for an event without considering any other causes. An athlete who is playing in a team might think: “It is my fault that the team did not do well today because I am not performing well”, without considering the fact that everyone on the team has an impact on the final result Who else is involved in this situation? What duties does each of us have? Am I the only person who is fully responsible for this situation then?
Mind-Reading We guess what others are thinking without really knowing what they think “My teacher is thinking that I have done a bad job on the reports because she did not say anything positive about them, and she must think that my classmates’ reports were better." This thought may not consider the teacher may have been busy and not had time to give feedback to anyone. The key point here is that the person does not know directly what her teacher is thinking but is only guessing Making predictions about the future; while often ignoring facts from the past
Predictive Thinking Making predictions about the future; while ignoring information from the past A student thinks "I will fail the exam” before her exams, even though she has no information on how she will do, and has ignored past information that she has never failed an exam and always got good results. Is my prediction likely, when considering past information?




We can change these unhelpful thinking styles by using thought diaries where we challenge unhelpful thinking by looking for evidence and seeing things from another point of view. The idea behind this is that thoughts are not facts: we need to check if our thoughts are true. 





Here are some ways to describe how we feel.