A lot of common beliefs are negatively impactful. They encourage distorted thinking and can wreak havoc on our mental and emotional well-being. When we’re aware of the harmful thoughts, we can reframe them to improve our mindset.
The first step is spotting the little suckers. Below are 3 common and culturally supported beliefs that negatively impact us. (Plus, how to reframe them so you can be happier.)
1. Equating Emotions With Weakness
Cognitive distortions: Emotional Reasoning, Labeling, Overgeneralization
There’s a culturally forwarded belief that expressing emotions and being vulnerable is weakness. And they teach us that expressing emotions in any way makes us weak, that we need to stuff them down or express them in private.
Some people feel so strongly about this distorted belief that they, ironically, get very emotional about it. The emotion they get is likely sadness from being so disconnected from themselves. And maybe even jealousy because they don’t find it fair that others are expressing their emotions and they created a rule for themselves where they can’t.
But since sadness is usually masked by the secondary emotion of anger. These people feel powerful over being “angry”. They overgeneralize and label people who express emotions as “weak” or “cowards”. And hide under the other general belief that anger is OK.
No matter what you think or feel about them, we all have emotions. Our emotions tell us things. They alert us to problem areas and they help us stay in the right direction.
Rejecting them or considering them weakness would be equivalent to thinking that breathing is weakness. And similar to how after you hold your breath, you gasp for air. After holding in your emotions, they are eventually going to explode out.
In order to stop this distorted belief, we need to allow for life to not be so rigid. We need to acknowledge that we have emotions, and that it’s not weakness to feel them.
It’s actually the opposite. Being vulnerable and expressing your emotions is incredibly courageous. Especially since we live in a society where you can get lashed at for expressing them.
So if anyone ever tells you they think you’re being “too emotional” tell them you think they’re not being emotional enough.
2. Thinking Money Buys Happiness
Cognitive distortion: Control fallacy, Discounting the Positive
Sorry Ariana. While money can help solve problems, and it can buy our basic needs for comfortability clothes and warmth. Money does not buy happiness.
People who think that it does are confusing having the power of money with having basic necessities. I truly belive we all know deep down money doesn’t buy happiness—no matter how many marketers and companies selling products tell us otherwise.
When we operate thinking we need more (more money, more stuff) to be happy, we base our happiness on external factors. We give away the limited control we have in life.
We can believe that we just need one more raise, or one more outfit to feel happy. But if we think that way, then we will always want more and we will not find happiness.
The truth they don’t want you to know is: we can choose to feel happiness right now in this moment if we want to. That we have control over!
So focus on the idea that while money can buy basic necessities and keep us warm, clothed and fed. Money does not buy happiness. Now consider what will make you feel happy and why you think it will make you happy.
Keep asking yourself why until you get to the true reason.
Example: What do you think you need to buy or do to feel happiness?
Answer: I want to have a huge house and an expensive car.
Answer: Because it will make me feel successful.
Answer: Because I think successful people have big houses and expensive cars.
Because that’s what I hear about and see a lot.
I don’t know that’s what I see.
OK. So you want the car and house to be successful because you think that’s the definition of success. But is there a way for you to feel successful now? Do you need to have the car and house?
What have you done so far that makes you feel successful? That you have celebrated in the past? Are there things you can do now that will make you feel like more of a success? It can be a simple as going for a walk and being active.
I feel like a success for finishing this article!
3. Labeling Food
Cognitive distortion: All-or-Nothing, Labeling
Diet culture has taught us to go against our intuition. We’re trained to believe we need to put food into two categories. So much so, you may not be aware you’re even doing it.
Bad foods are the ones we typically enjoy, while good foods are something that we may roll our eyes at. Cheese fries = bad. Kale salad = good.
This can leas us to feeling proud or accomplished when we eat “good” food and guilty when we eat “bad” food.
Not only does it hinder weight loss progress. Labeling food as “bad” or “good” ignores the sole purpose of food: nutrition. We eat food for nutrition so that our body can function properly and so we don’t, ya know… die.
So you can fix this negative thinking pattern of “bad” and “good” food by labeling food on a scale based on nutrition.
Soda has no nutritional value (and isn’t even food) so that sits right at “no nutritional value”. Kale is one of the most nutrient dense veggies and has a ton of vitamins so that is on the “highly nutritious” end.
Focus on having a healthy moderation of nutritious foods. When you consume something, label it on the scale. And no cheating with “tomato is nutritious” as you down a supreme pizza.
You may wonder where to go from here.
Since awareness is the first step, you’re already on your way!
Incorporating the new thought into your life will need repetition and practice.
You can start by reflecting on the past. Think about a recent time when you’ve had one of the three thoughts above. It may have been as recently as a few minutes or hours ago.
How did that thought lead to your response and emotions? Did you feel guilty for eating something you enjoyed? Is your happiness on pause? Do you feel weak for having emotions?
How did your response lead to results? Did you ditch your diet because you ate a “bad” food and thought all hope was lost? Or do you feel miserable even though you were once dreaming to get to the spot you’re in now?
Find what thought is particularly, negatively impactful in your life and get another think coming by using the suggestions above. Remember, consistency and repetition is key!