Psychologists call the act of defining ourselves by one choice, one situation, or one result catastrophizing. We might decide that we’re a terrible salesperson after just one month of declining numbers, or a horrible friend because we get in a fight with a friend, or that we’ll surely die alone after one painful breakup.
I probably don’t have to tell you how harmful such thinking can be for our happiness, confidence, and success (rest assured, research confirms it’s really bad). But what makes catastrophizing especially dangerous is that it often disguises itself as productive self-reflection. After all, why else would we put ourselves through such self-flagellation? If we can objectively understand just how much we suck this time, we’ll suck less next time…right?
Wrong. It’s one thing to objectively and reasonably assess our limitations. But catastrophizing is neither objective nor reasonable, and if we want to be truly self-aware and successful, we have to work on overcoming it. The good news is that it is possible to do so.
Two Techniques to Combat Catastrophizing
1. Focus on Self-Acceptance
When we are catastrophizing, it usually means we could have handled something better or differently. For that reason, it’s neither realistic nor helpful to blindly convince ourselves that everything is okay (“It’s fine that I screamed at my spouse this morning! I’m awesome!”). What’s more reasonable, and productive, is to focus on processing the objective reality and choosing to like ourselves anyway.
Self-acceptance isn’t just a good idea in theory—it has very tangible benefits. In one study, Kristin Kneff and her colleagues asked job-market-bound undergraduates to participate in a mock interview for a job they “really, really want[ed].” When the interviewer asked the students to describe their greatest weakness, those high in self-acceptance reported feeling significantly less nervous and self-conscious afterward—had it been an actual job interview, they likely would have performed much better as a result.
– Tasha Eurich
Photo Source – pixabay/CC0