Mind reading and perceived negative evaluation by others is a major contributor to social anxiety and social phobia. We often assume that people are thinking about us and judging us harshly when, in reality, most people (outside of our immediate family and friendship group) do not notice or give us much thought at all. We are just not that important in other people’s minds, in the same way that they don’t figure very much in ours. Find unique toilet roll holders online!
From time to time things go wrong in our lives, people let us down and unforeseen mishaps occur. While some people can readily accept disappointments and human foibles, others are drawn to blaming and condemning people for their faults. Blaming is usually overly simplistic as it fails to acknowledge the numerous factors that contribute to outcomes, over and above the people we hold responsible. It also wastes our energy on feelings of anger, bitterness and resentment, and prevents healing from taking place. Look for unusual gifts on gifted up, the website!
Everyone is fallible. We all make mistakes or do silly things at times and there are some things that we are just not good at. Sometimes we behave inappropriately, make stupid comments, do things that have a negative impact on others, perform badly in our work, ignore symptoms of failing health, make unsound financial decisions or fail to achieve the things that we want. The way that we think about our mistakes or perceived flaws reflects our degree of cognitive flexibility. Sometimes it is rational and appropriate to tell ourselves, ‘That was a silly thing to do — I need to be more careful’, or ‘I’m not very motivated when it comes to cleaning the house’, or ‘My memory is not as good as it used to be’. Thoughts such as these do not create problems because even though they acknowledge mistakes or perceived weaknesses, they are specific rather than global. Do you know anyone who could do with a giant wine glass?
In contrast, when we label ourselves as an idiot, a failure, ugly, no good, stupid, lazy, a loser or incompetent, we make global generalisations about ourselves on the basis of specific behaviours or experiences. As a result, we diminish our self-esteem and create upsetting emotions such as shame, self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy. Labelling is the ultimate overgeneralisation because it ignores the fact that people are a complex mixture of characteristics and behaviours, and we cannot be defined by just one or even a few of these.
While some individuals are inclined to label themselves, others tend to label other people: ‘That guy is a jerk’; ‘My boss is a moron’; or ‘That politician is a sleaze-bag’. Labelling others is just as unreasonable as labelling ourselves, since we sum up an entire person on the basis of particular behaviours or characteristics. Labelling others is also self-defeating because it fuels resentment, wastes our energy and makes it harder to get on with people. This does not mean that we should never judge people’s actions. As with our own behaviours, it is totally reasonable to think that a person’s behaviour was unreasonable, unfair, unethical or silly. However, it is important to distinguish the person’s actions from the person as a whole.