Hey there friends and pals, welcome to my limited series called Breaking Out of Thinking Traps where I will delve into spirals we put ourselves in when we begin to worry. For our first installment, we will be discussing Black/White thinking or All-or-Nothing thinking.
If you are a perfectionist like me, you enjoy the little details and making sure things are just right. All-or-Nothing thinking is looking at the mistakes and automatically considering the entire thing a failure. It can be something large or small, but if anything is out of place people who think this way become discouraged immediately. According to Anxiety Canada, black/white thinking is “thinking only of possible outcomes at either extreme (really good or really bad) and not seeing all the possible outcomes in-between (or the “grey”). Most of life is somewhere in the middle.” In other words, you either do perfectly or shouldn’t have done it at all.
This is harmful in many ways. By thinking this way, you mentally cage yourself with your own impossible expectations. Sure, something can go wrong with your presentation or you lost your lucky pen. That doesn’t diminish your ability to succeed. Everybody wants to do well, and this is one of the harsher thinking traps people tend to fall in.
It can affect many aspects of your life. You could get into an argument with a friend and regardless of who was right you’ll see yourself as a bad person because the argument happened in the first place. You can forget to do chores and feel like an irresponsible, unproductive person because you didn’t wash your dishes. One small thing can lead to heavy conclusions, which will only hurt you more than it needs to. Worry not, dear reader. The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it’s there. Your feelings are valid, and here are ways you can remind yourself how to deal with this:
This may be a bit difficult, but you will need to notice when you’re falling into this trap. Are you thinking in absolutes? Do you think it’s a “make it or break it” type of situation? Can there be a compromise? It’s vital for you to point out to yourself when things begin to feel like life will only go one way or another.
Next, you should take a step back and really look at your options. Once you realize you’re only giving yourself option A and option D, you start seeing that there were options in between. Life itself isn’t just black and white. You can eat eggs for dinner, so you can certainly find a good grey area for most situations. Try to separate logic and your own assumptions.
Finally, remind yourself that your performance now does not reflect your self worth. Always give yourself room for improvement. Some things may be disappointing but you must let yourself grow. Giving yourself all-or-nothing situations closes the shade when all you needed is sunshine. It would be better for your mental health to remind yourself that sometimes the way we perceive things is much worse than it really is.
Taking an inward look at yourself is no easy feat, so it takes strength and courage to deal with these sort of things. Whether you’re reading this to help yourself or someone else out there, I am proud of you. Things suck, and they may suck for a while. You’re not alone, though, and suffering is never permanent. You are one day, one minute, one second closer to your better days. You will get there, I promise.
As a disclaimer, I would like to state that I am not a mental health professional. These are things I picked up from my own personal experience and advice I’ve gotten from counselors and articles online. If you believe you may be suffering from anxiety or these types of thoughts can’t be dealt with on your own, seek professional help. There is nothing wrong with getting help, and your mind deserves to be healthy too. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you in my next installment of Breaking Out of Thinking Traps!
Credits to Team Apollo for the first graphic.
You are loved and appreciated, always.