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Do you find yourself stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts? Is perfectionism stopping you from living your best life? If so, then the How To Stop Thinking: A Perfectionist’s Self-Help Guide is for you. In it, we’ll examine the problem of perfectionism and how to stop negative thinking habits that can hold us back from achieving our goals.
We’ll look at strategies that will help us break out of these destructive thought patterns so we can move forward with confidence and self-compassion. With the right tools and perspective, we can learn to accept ourselves and move toward a more positive mindset. So let’s get started on learning how to stop negative thinking!
Negative Thinking Problem
We all have that one friend. The one who is always complaining, always negative, and always finds something to be upset about. The dreaded family member who never has a positive thing to say about anyone or anything, so when you hear the words “family gathering” you suddenly come down with the plague. You know the type—nothing is ever good enough for them, and they’re quick to find fault in even the best of situations. Maybe that friend is YOU?
We’ve all been there. You’re minding your own business, going about your day, when all of a sudden you’re hit with a wave of negativity. Some of us name that little voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, or _____ enough (fill in the blank). We are our own worst critics, which can create significant stress not only for us but for those around us! We need to adjust our own standards of high-level expectations, which nobody needs, in the first place!
Negative talk can come from anywhere and anyone—but that doesn’t mean it has to control you! By becoming aware of when negative thoughts creep in, challenging their validity, and reframing them into something positive, you can change the entire way you view life and yourself.
we can switch negative self-talk to self-talk that’s loving and kind, improve our self-esteem and use our energy to do what makes us happy. Self-talk is important in how we treat ourselves and those around us.
As a perfectionist dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I understand how overwhelming it can feel when faced with overwhelming thoughts of perfectionism and negative self-talk. Creating a perfect schedule and plan can help manage these feelings and achieve clarity, but only if you make changes in your thinking as well. To kickstart your journey towards developing a healthier perfectionist mindset, start by challenging yourself to break the patterns of negative self-talk, practice mindfulness, and focus on creating daily habits that are manageable and realistic. With dedication and a bit of patience, you’ll eventually be able to form better versions of yourself free of oppressive thoughts.
Perfectionistic Thinking and Perfectionistic Mindset
Perfectionistic thinking is a set of beliefs and behaviors that originate from often strict adherence to unrealistically high standards. People with perfectionistic tendencies:
- Strive for perfection in everything they do.
- Consistently falling short of their expectations.
- Have difficulty understanding imperfection.
- Cannot accept reality.
- Need to learn that some tasks are simply difficult.
- Experience frustration and anxiety when things aren’t perfect.
Having a perfectionistic mindset is something that must be managed carefully in order to succeed while also promoting well-being.
Understanding Level of Perfectionism
Perfectionism is a trait commonly associated with high achievers. It refers to the setting of personal standards that are much higher than the standard set by one’s peers, and striving towards surpassing said standards. It is a powerful force that can be used effectively to push beyond limitations and reach greater heights, however, it needs to be kept in check; as taking on too high of a level of perfectionism can put individuals under serious pressure from an early age. Knowing your level of perfectionism is the first step toward reaching success.
Fear of Failure and Potential Problems
Fear of failure has the potential to greatly affect our behavior, leading to a range of problems from avoiding taking risks to allow past mistakes to cripple our decisions in real life. This can cause us much stress and manifest itself in a variety of negative ways, leaving us feeling paralyzed and unable to move past our past mistakes and take a leap into the unknown.
If you are convinced that one bad date means you’re destined to be alone forever, think you’re undeserving; or the horrible, catastrophic (in your mind) mistake you made at work means you’re a terrible employee, you are setting yourself up for failure,
Root Causes of Perfectionism
Perfectionism can appear in many shapes and sizes, and it’s important to understand the root of the problem. It is commonly linked to low self-esteem, fear of criticism, anxiety, or unhealthy comparing oneself to others. Perfectionists try to fill an inner void by achieving impossible standards they set for themselves, which often leads them nowhere. By recognizing and addressing the underlying emotions that trigger perfectionistic tendencies, individuals can grow sensitivity and be able to distinguish between healthy striving and destructive patterns.
Different Types of Perfectionism
There are three primary types of perfectionism:
Adaptive perfectionists strive for excellence in a healthy way; their behaviors are focused on growth and improvement. Maladaptive perfectionists often have rigid expectations for themselves and others; their attitudes about mistakes and success can be overly critical. Lastly, neurotic perfectionists engage in behaviors that are compulsive and excessive; they are often consumed by unrealistic standards that lead to feelings of hopelessness. By understanding the behavior of different types of perfectionists, one can recognize and properly address the signs of perfectionistic tendencies.
Perfectionist behavior is often a sign of higher levels of multidimensional perfectionism. Perfectionism is much more layered and complex than striving for high standards. It’s about setting excessively high standards that are unreasonably hard to reach, for oneself or others. It also involves feelings of shame or self-criticism when someone doesn’t meet those excessive personal standards. Perfectionism can lead to anxiety, depression, and even suicide in extreme cases. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs of perfectionism and seek professional help before it’s too late.
Paul Hewitt, Researcher on Perfectionism
Paul Hewitt has done extensive research and talks about perfectionism
Core Beliefs & Past Experiences
Our core beliefs and past experiences can shape how we process information. Critical self-evaluations of our own minds can help us identify our biases and ultimately make better decisions. Whether it is positive reinforcement or negative memories, learning to bring awareness to what influences us can result in an ability to challenge our opinions. Taking back control has the power to redefine how events unfold in our lives.
Unrealistic Expectations and Standards
Ask yourself how you would react if it happened to someone else or if a friend ask you what you thought about it. Would you respond the same way? NO. YOU WOULDN’T.
Unrealistic expectations and standards can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. They can also lead to feelings of low self-worth due to not being able to reach or maintain an expected level or standard.
These pressures to reach an ideal can be especially difficult for younger generations who are often inundated with these unrealistic messages from all angles, such as negative comments on social media, unrealistic standards of pop culture, and even the educational system. It’s important for individuals to find a healthy balance that recognizes their own individual capabilities and takes into account their own personal aspirations instead of what society deems “correct.”
Disadvantages of Perfectionism
Perfectionism can have negative consequences and can negatively impact physical health. It can lead to negative self-talk, anxiety disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts, and avoidance of taking risks. Trying to reach impossible standards can cause people to become overly critical of themselves, others, and their achievements. It can also lead to procrastination and difficulty making decisions. Additionally, it can be exhausting for the individual and those around them. Therefore the impact of perfectionism should be addressed in order to promote mental wellness.
Advantages of Perfectionism
Perfectionism can be seen as a positive trait, as the good intention behind it is to reach the highest level of quality in order to produce work of the best standard. Perfectionists are motivated by their internal desire for excellence and will push themselves to achieve the best results in all their endeavors.
This attitude often leads to high-quality results and great success, while also enhancing self-confidence and a sense of pride. With hard work and dedication, perfectionists attempt to exceed expectations with their best efforts. Unfortunately, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, which is discussed in the TED MED talk video below. Listen to this while you do something, or at the end of this article if you choose. It is only 15 minutes long.
Cognitive Distortions & Distorted Thinking Patterns
1) Catastrophic thinking
Catastrophic thinking is the process of expecting the absolute worst in any situation. It causes people to anticipate failure and discourages them from taking risks or engaging in challenging activities. It reduces self-confidence and can lead one to avoid engaging with the world entirely. People suffering from catastrophic thinking may benefit from cognitive restructuring techniques such as reframing phrases or seeking out positive affirmations. Learning healthy coping mechanisms can help alleviate symptoms associated with this destructive mindset.
White-thinking promotes a narrow-minded way of looking at the world. It attributes value judgments to people based on their skin color and overlooks social, economical, and educational differences. It allows bias to drive decision-making, creating unfair advantages for some while placing others at a disadvantage. Such thinking is rooted in historic inequalities so it’s important for us to become aware of its effects and educate ourselves on diverse perspectives that allow everyone to have equal opportunities.
3) Vicious cycle
When stuck in a vicious cycle of catastrophic thinking, it can be difficult to break out. White-thinking and all-or-nothing thinking makes it even more tricky. These types of thoughts can lead to extreme anxieties around situations that were once neutral. Believing that what seems like the worst-case scenario is inevitable may prompt us to behave in irrational ways as a reaction. To try to escape this cycle, it’s important to recognize and challenge these thoughts.
4) All-or-nothing thinking
All-or-nothing thinking is a phenomenon that sometimes prevents us from seeing the possibility of several outcomes. It describes a belief that only two options exist, one being completely successful or the other being completely unsuccessful. This kind of thinking often overlooks the middle ground and makes it difficult to see avenues for growth and change. Instead of only one way being correct, having an open mind to multiple mitigating circumstances can help recognize other potential solutions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – How To Stop Negative Thinking
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a tool that mental health professionals use to help people manage much stress in their lives. It’s a good thing for many who have a hard time dealing with negative thinking. CBT helps identify irrational thought patterns and replace them with more balanced outlooks on life. Through this process, individuals can learn skills to manage difficult emotions and develop healthier relationships.
The first step to silencing your inner critic is acknowledging that you have one. We all do! Guess what? That voice is lying to you. It’s time to start listening to the truth instead of the lies your little nutty buddy tells you. Sometimes emotions feel like actual facts, which can be confusing. Read more about how Feelings Aren’t Facts. Good things to keep in mind:
BE EMPATHETIC TO YOURSELF
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO NOT FEEL GUILTY.
AWARD YOURSELF WITH A BREAK.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques
1) Identify negative thoughts (Important first step)
The first step to stopping negative talk is becoming aware of when it’s happening. This can be tricky because, for many of us, our inner critic has become so ingrained in our thought process that we don’t even realize we’re doing it anymore. Pay attention to your thoughts throughout the day, and notice when they start to turn negative.
See if you can identify any patterns or themes. Are you constantly comparing yourself to others? Do you dwell on your mistakes? Do you find yourself thinking things like “I’ll never be good enough” or “I can’t do this”? Once you become aware of when and why negative thoughts are creeping in, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them.
2) Challenge automatic thoughts
Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it’s true. Once you’ve identified a negative thought, ask if it is true: Is there any evidence that disproves the thought? Is this factual or just a belief I have? How likely is this to happen? Allow yourself to consider other outcomes.
For example, if you’re thinking “I’m such a loser,” ask yourself if that’s really true. Have you achieved any successes lately? Do people like and respect you? If the answer is yes, then clearly you’re not a loser! Challenging your negative thoughts helps to put them into perspective and prevents them from taking over your life. Also, consider that those negative thoughts are commonly irrational.
3) Replace negative with positive
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches people to replace only negative thoughts with positive ones. By doing this, they can gain a variety of benefits and become more productive. Changing your thought patterns to be more positive can lead to improved focus, less anxiety, better self-esteem, better-coping skills, and increase motivation and clarity. CBT allows you to become conscious of your own behaviors and take control in order to make meaningful life changes.
This technique changed my life. I started doing this consistently after my husband died in 2019 and my everyday life is much happier and healthier because I have eliminated most of my stress. It takes time to develop the habit, but if you are going to pick one to start with, this is my recommendation!
4) Assess evidence by asking questions
Negative thinking can impact our lives in a huge way, so it’s important to assess evidence and ask questions. Gauge the evidence with facts; self-doubt is not supported by proof. Examine the thought objectively. Is it rational or extreme? Replacing “I must” with “What if” can be incredibly helpful in clearing away negativity. Challenge the mental pattern to avoid getting stuck in rumination, looking differently at the evidence with an open mind.
Positive Practices Are How to Stop Negative Thinking
This is where things get a bit more difficult because, unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to control negative thoughts. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa. Try some of the tips in this article to find the most effective way of stopping negative self-talk for you.
Reframe your thoughts by changing the way you think about yourself and your situation and use positive affirmations. For example, instead of thinking “I’m such a failure,” try: “I’m doing my best.” Instead of “I’m so fat”, change it to “I love the color of my eyes with this shirt!”. It might not seem like much of a difference but trust me, it makes a world of difference in how you think and feel about yourself.
Another helpful tool is to practice compassion. Compassion is perhaps the most important response of all because it allows us to treat ourselves with kindness and understanding—something we so often forget to do. Instead of thinking “I’m such a loser,” try thinking “I’m doing my best.” Instead of thinking “I can’t do this,” try thinking “I can do this if I take it one step at a time.”
So instead of beating yourself up for being human and making mistakes, try showing yourself some compassion instead. Remember: we all make mistakes; we all have flaws, and we all have bad days. What matters is how we choose to deal with those mistakes, flaws, and bad days—compassion should always be our go-to response.
Practicing gratitude is one of the best ways to stop negative talk in its tracks. When you make it a point to focus on what you’re grateful for it’s difficult to have room for negativity in your life. Choose to think of things you’re grateful for every day, and watch how much happier and more positive you become as a result! You can learn How To Write A Gratitude List – Start Simple And Become More Complex Over Time
Personally, I have made it a habit to list 3 things I’m grateful for every morning before I get out of bed. You can say each thing out loud if it helps! I also make a couple of clear improvement goals for that day, such as: reminding myself to be quiet if I want to say something negative in response to someone else’s actions or simply finding at least 1 positive in each situation throughout the day.
Be Present and Mindful
Mindfulness is a tool that provides a sense of relief, giving you the ability to stop and refocus your energy. When you start thinking of your to-do list, which causes the anxiety and panic to come rushing in, take a few steps back and reset. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Focus on hope and the good things surrounding you at that moment. Ground yourself so you don’t arc off down the negative path. Experience each sight, sound feeling touch, and taste to the fullest and enjoy each sense. Be free.
Set Realistic Goals & Expectations When Learning How to Stop Negative Thinking
It’s important to set reasonable goals and expectations when trying to stop negative thinking. Challenging yourself to improve is great, but setting goals that are too high can be discouraging. Make sure you are realistic about the amount of time it will take and the outcome you’re looking for. Choose a few thought patterns you want to work on first and plan out small achievable steps that lead to your ultimate goal. Celebrate each milestone along the way.
Pursuit of Perfection in Small Doses
Setting realistic goals and expectations when stopping negative thinking helps create attainable objectives and prevents unnecessary stress. The best way is to start with a 30-day plan and take small steps toward greater success. This encourages progress and keeps motivation high. Tracking progress allows for accountability, as well as areas to adjust. Celebrating successes provides a chance to recognize accomplishments and appreciate the effort that is put in as you let go of perfectionism. So, keep working away at your goals and make sure you mark each win!
SMART Rewards System
SMART rewards system, recommended recently by American Psychological Association (APA), is an effective way to encourage desired behaviors and increase motivation. This type of reward system works by providing reminders or reinforcements for performed or accomplished tasks, as well as providing positive feedback on achievements or outstanding performances. Smart rewards systems can be used in educational classes and workplaces, making it a great tool to help build long-term successful habits.
Seeking Help If Needed
It can be challenging to break free from a cycle of negative thinking because you can be bogged down. Psychological distress, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, can lead to feeling overwhelmed and powerless when faced with difficult emotions or life changes. If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to remember that there are resources out there for you, because it is ok to seek help. Talk therapy, medications, and supportive counselors are all safe ways to start getting your life back on track, so go start now!
Reach Out To Anyone
If you are truly having trouble visualizing a positive or just can’t see a way out, then reach out and talk to someone about it. It doesn’t have to be a counselor or psychiatrist. It can be the bartender at the local pub if it helps you to get out of your brain case and challenge the negativity head-on. Brainstorm with them and figure out what is reality vs. made-up in your messed-up little world that you’ve invented because then you can see things clearer.
Put It In A Box For Later
Everybody gets overwhelmed at times., so when you just can’t take anymore, stuff it in a virtual “box”, seal it with duct tape or throw it in your brain’s “attic” and insulate it, or write it down to address later, so you can just let it all go for a little bit. If you don’t think you have anything left and feel like trying to challenge the negativity will just short-circuit and fry your brain, then STOP. Give yourself permission to breathe and get a moment or two of clarity, because this helps you calm down. Zone out for a bit, meditate, read, cook…RELAX. Visualize sorting it out later while you chill, which leads us to the last, but quite effective.
Inner Critic Shutdowns
Research shows that our professional inner critic can seriously impact our mental health, which affects our physical health, and ultimately how we recognize and manage stress because we are using the precious energy that we have to hold us back in life, which will ultimately stop us from reaching our true potential and the person we think (KNOW!) is in there somewhere.
Everyone experiences inner critic shutdowns from time to time. These are the moments when growth feels too difficult and it’s easier to give up and become overwhelmed by self-doubt, but understanding how to identify and acknowledge these inner critic shutdowns is an important part of personal growth. The key is to remember you can rebuild self-confidence by engaging in healthy thought patterns, developing positive affirmations, and cultivating strong well-being habits that serve your highest mental health. For more information, read How to Tame an inner Critic – A Mental Health Strategy, as that will give you a more in-depth view on the subject.
Negative Self-Talk and Addiction
Negative self-talk can lead to addiction. Low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, and growing levels of anxiety can trigger someone to turn to addictive behaviors for comfort. For example, an alcoholic may drink to make themselves feel better when feeling down. Substances often relieve the pain temporarily, until the urge to use increases, and the cycle begins anew. It is important to be aware of our inner dialogue and create positive mental habits in order to counteract negative self-talk before it leads to addictive behaviors.
Two Easily Remembered Questions That Silence Negative Thoughts | Anthony Metivier | TEDxDocklands
Proud of You for Learning How to Stop Negative Thinking!
Negative talk can come from anywhere and anyone, but that doesn’t mean it has to control you! If it has become a part of your daily thought process, it’s time to do something about it. Build up to a high level of self-care and compassion because then you will develop into the perfect definition of a final product! You are the good news! The new you is the way you are rewarded for effort and hard work.
By acknowledging your inner critic, recognizing when it is talking, screaming, or throwing a tantrum, and shutting it down by at least giving it a time-out, you are already ahead of where you were when you started! You know what to do next time your inner critic tries to slam you. Keep focusing on the little things and happy thoughts, and at the day’s end, instead of being a basket case, you will have a basket full of positive thoughts, less stress, and more energy – not to mention peace of mind!
The national suicide and prevention hotline is now 988 suicide and crisis hotline: lifeline.org
Book and Audiobook About Perfectionism and How to Stop Negative Thinking
The Psychology of Mattering: Understanding the Human Need to be Significant is the first comprehensive examination of mattering that is discussed in terms of associated motives, cognitions, emotions and behaviors.
Don’t have time to read? I have the solution for you! How about an audiobook? They are my favorite way to get chores done!!
Are fears, doubts, and insecurities running your life right now? Are these stopping you from taking charge and doing what you need to do or what you want to accomplish in your life? Are you seeking a solution for change? You have come to the right place at the right time.