The Power of Thought: 3 Negative Thinking Patterns that Impact Your Life
The way you think about life and yourself has a tremendous impact on how much you enjoy and will get out of your life. In our heads is a constant narration, which gives tremendous insight into the way we perceive and think about our existence. As you think about the running dialogue in your mind, would you say it is usually positive or negative? Does it help you enjoy living or keep you from engaging in life the ways that you would really like to?
It is probably not a shock, but the more frequently the voice in our head has a negative tone, the more difficult it is for us to enjoy our lives. We start seeing negativity only in the world around us, in our relationships, and ourselves. This is a very dangerous place to get into, and it can often lead to debilitating bouts with depression and anxiety.
How would you say that voice in your head talks about you? What types of thoughts do you have of yourself? The relationship we most often neglect is the one we have with ourselves, and one of the easiest ways to make a withdrawal from that delicate relationship is negative thinking. It only takes one negative thought about ourselves to start the pattern of tearing ourselves down regularly, and this happens easier the more often we think this way.
When we allow our inner-dialogue to define us by our fears, inadequacies, mistakes, failures and challenges only, we are looking at a small part of the picture and using it as pure truth. Negative thinking is also a self-fulfilling cycle that perpetuates itself. In other words, negative thinking wants to create more negative thinking! Thus, it affects our behavior so that we act in the way our negative thought tells us we should, if we allow ourselves to go into auto-pilot.
The hard part about negative thinking is that there is not just one way of thinking negatively. Our brains are adept at thinking in various ways, and unfortunately negative thinking also has a few tricks up its sleeve. That is why it can be hard to identify negative thinking, there just isn’t one thing to look for!
To help identify some of the negative thinking patterns we can get into that can destroy our lives, this post is going to focus on three common types of negative thinking. The more we recognize the negative thinking patterns that are occurring, the more we can fight back. Just as shadows disappear when you shine a light on them, negative thinking hates to be illuminated.
Once you put a face on the various negative thinking patterns you have, you can get out of auto-pilot mode and empower your life by taking the wheel back. The key, as you start finding these patterns, is to acknowledge they are there and have compassion for yourself. Beating yourself up overthinking certain ways is negative thinking keeping itself in power. We are all human, and we all do things that do not always make sense or can be counter-productive. The trick is to learn and move forward, so let’s shed some light on those negative thinking patterns!
Negative Thinking Pattern #1: Other’s Approval is Necessary
Let’s face it, there is something that feels good when we know someone else is a fan of what we are doing in our lives. There is a need in all of us to feel like we are accepted and belong to those that we care about. What happens though when this moves from being a need and morphs into an obsession? How does our life change when we run our thoughts and decisions for our life through a filter that begs for others to approve of us to validate we are worth anything?
When we start depending on the approval of others, we let them dictate what about us is of value and worth. We overlook our own unique strengths and characteristics and instead behave in ways that we think others want us to. The thing is, it is our guess what others want us to be rather than our actual reality that creates our behavior. It is our own distorted thought process that leads us down the road of compulsively seeking the approval of those around us.
The more we seek the approval of others in our lives the more unhappiness we will find. This is because we turn away from what makes us who we are and attempt to morph into what others need us to be. We move further away from our core self and depend on others to make us feel worth it. If thoughts regularly run through your mind asking whether person A or person B would like what you are thinking of doing, you are likely seeking the approval of others.
Negative Thinking Pattern #2: Comparing is not Caring
One of the quickest ways to tear ourselves down through our thinking is by comparing ourselves to others around us. A couple of months ago I was interviewed on the Bones to Bulk podcast to talk about how comparisons can throw us off our fitness game mentally. We talked about how quickly one comparison thought can change our mindset and mood as we move forward in life.
For a quick example, we discussed walking into the gym for the first time in a while to start on a new fitness goal and seeing someone that is in incredible shape. All it takes is a simple thought of “I’ll never look like that” to take the wind out of your sails and to make your motivation fall. This is the incredibly destructive power of comparisons.
There are many different things we might compare ourselves against with others. We might compare jobs, money, partners, fitness levels, possessions, homes, cars, intelligence levels, creative abilities and so much more. Whenever we use comparison thinking, we are taking a snapshot of the other person at that moment and using that 2-second glimpse as a measuring stick to judge our entire life. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?
When we compare ourselves to others, we are doing it in a completely skewed way. We zoom in on only a few details and believe that is the full picture. This is devastating to the relationship we have with ourselves, as we consistently sell ourselves short. Or, we do the opposite with comparison, and go from despair to grandiose.
The other side of comparison is believing that we are better than all those around us. We zoom in on our strengths and pretend our flaws do not exist. With this distorted picture of ourselves, we measure others around us and consistently find ways to make them fall short. This type of grandiose comparison ruins relationships with others.
If you find that you compare, make sure to identify whether it is comparing to despair or grandiose. Either way you are not looking objectively at your life and are taking away from its overall quality. This type of negative thinking is destructive, and remember, all it takes is one thought to get the negative snowball rolling.
Negative Thinking Pattern #3: Life Should be Fair
I think it is fair to say that life is tough, and unfortunately, it does not always run on the fair principle. There are times that we put a lot of time and effort into something, only to find that the return on investment was much less than desired. When we consistently think that life should be fair, we will be consistently disappointed when we find out that it is not.
No matter what our thoughts and emotions are at a given time, the world continues to spin and time keeps moving forward. The more we expect life to be fair and tell ourselves this story, the more often we will find ourselves disappointed and upset. While it would be nice if life were fairer than it is, this lack of fairness will only have as much negative power over us as we give it.
If you consistently find yourself wondering why life isn’t fair or that things should have gone different, you are probably stuck in this negative thinking rut. Remember, the more you dwell on why things are unfair the more unhappy you will be. Accepting the basic concept that life simply is and we are experiencing the ebbs and flows of it helps us approach life more realistically. Basically, it would be fair to say that you will find in life what you look for, it’s up to you to decide if you want it to be negative or positive!
Our thinking has incredible influence over the way we experience and get satisfaction from our lives. The more we can identify the different types of negative patterns, the more we will change the way we live our life. Recognizing these patterns puts you back in the driver seat and allows you to decide what you are going to do about it. The more we let negative thought patterns rule us, the more we struggle. Choosing to find new ways to challenge these negative thoughts and learn and implement new tools will empower your life in ways you never imagined!