Image: morguefile.com Our thoughts could be the very thing that's holding us back.
Our thoughts are often our worst enemies. They are often over-active, overflowing with imagination and are tuned into looking for possible threats. Thoughts can be wrong, unrealistic, untrue and unproven. Anxious, stressful or fearful thoughts can affect our lives, our work and our relationships.
Now I will list and give examples of some common faulty thinking errors that we all make. Such thinking is unnecessary, and can causes stress and unhappiness.
Which ones can you relate to or are guilty of?
Jumping to conclusions:
You know those times when we decide what other people's motives are without any proof from that person. Say you walk through a packed shopping centre and you see someone you know. Yet you smile and wave, yet they don't respond. Next thing you know your thoughts go into overtime such as:
"Are they angry with me." "Do I look really awful." "Perhaps they are embarrassed to be seen with me."
Therefore we worry, feel low and unimportant. We often fail to remember that there could be other potential and logical explanations for their reaction to seeing you. They may have not even been aware that you were there, or perhaps they were so busy in what they were doing that they didn't know anyone was near them. Their eyesight may not be good...perhaps they lost their glasses, or they were running late for an appointment or for work.
Expecting the worst:
In such times when a loved one is running late, and you start to think of things that could have happened to them, like the following:
"Have they been in an accident?" "Are they seeing someone else?" "Do they not love me anymore?" "Are they lost?" "Have they left me?" "Are they lying in a ditch somewhere?"
The fears become worse and worse as time goes along, until we have almost made a whole traumatic emergency situation in our minds. It's not very often that an emergency happens does it? Yet we still imagine the worst, even though 95% of the time they stayed back at work late; lost track of time; were stuck in traffic or popped into the shop on the way home.
Making things personal:
These times when without any kind of evidence, you turn a situation into all about you. Say you meet up with some friends, and one of them pulls out at the last minute. Suddenly you start to wonder as follows, in most cases:
"is it because of me?" " Are they angry at me? Did I do something or say something to put them off? Do they think I am a loser?
There could be a million reasons as to why this person hasn't come. It may not be about you at all. Yet we worry about it and stress ourselves out - only to see that person another day, and find out they have a genuine excuse for not attending. Then you wonder why you were so worried in the first place.
The times when you walk past people who look at you, and then start talking to each other. You assume they are talking about you. You check your hair, straighten your clothing and feel your cheeks go red. Yet they could be talking about the weather or the traffic. In fact they could be talking about anything at all. We can't know for sure what others are thinking.
Those times when we feel like what happens around us is our fault. You might say to yourself:
"if I hadn't had done this." :"If I haven't have done that." "Its all my fault."
We are all human, and we do make mistakes. If others were involved, you are not responsible for them. You can only control what you do.
Doubting and judging ourselves:
The times when we look at ourselves, and we don't feel that we look good enough - or we believe we aren't thin enough, and in situations when we feel unintelligent and unlikable. We might think of put downs in our minds like the following:
"I can't do this." "These people are much smarter, attractive or more successful then me." "I will make a fool of myself, and everyone will think I am stupid."
Panic before you have all the information:
That feeling of dread we get when we hear from a third party - where something hasn't gone our way, or we hear some sad news. We then imagine all of the things that could happen after that. The what ifs starts to float into our heads, and we start to predict that this will lead to something else, and that will end up being even worse than the original issue. We haven't spoken to those involved, yet we still assume that it will become a major disaster.
Labelling things good or bad:
When we get one impression of something or someone, and forever more we hold onto that impression. Identified by thoughts such as the following:
"I tried that once, it was horrible." "I met her. She is a bad person. I could never be friends with her."
Rather than taking the time to getting to know the thing or person we label; we might be missing out on a good opportunity while also fearing it - and avoiding it for possibly no reason.
Such thoughts sound familiar don't they? Our experiences should prove to us that the worst case scenario happening is rare, however our thoughts still try to convince us otherwise.
Our thoughts are just thoughts. They are not necessarily reality.
Keep a look out for Part 2 where we will look at challenging these thinking errors, and turning them around to worry less and enjoy life more.