TIP: HOW TO RESPOND TO ALL OR NOTHING THOUGHTS
Updated: Jun 16
My selfishladies approach to helping women work through their anxiety includes a major emphasis on teaching you how to understand your thoughts. I came up with Self Harming Insecure Thoughts (SHIT) to teach you how to recognize negative thoughts so you can challenge and change them. One of these SHIT'y thoughts (there are a few) is “All or Nothing.” These thoughts are all about us making assumptions about what is the right and wrong way to do any given task, or to approach any endeavor. All or nothing thoughts create an unreasonable rule in which any outcome less than 100% equates to 0. These thoughts create anxiety, so they must be challenged and debunked.
This article aims to help you identify your all or nothing thoughts and challenge them. To start, lets review some examples of what these thoughts sound like:
You want to work out and you make a plan to go to the gym 5 days a week. When you miss a day you consider yourself a failure and give up and stop going.
When you perceive your relationship is running smoothly you are okay, but when there is some conflict or adversity you think it's over or heading for a breakup
Focusing on Covid news and how horrible the state of the world is and getting stuck in that negativity without the ability of pulling yourself out of it because you if you focus on some positive it means you are a bad person or not empathizing with others.
You are rigid with what you will and won't do at work. If you are inconvenienced for a moment in time you freak out and think you are losing control.
All or nothing thoughts force us into a corner and make us pick a side. If we change our mind, the all or nothing thoughts judge us and force us to stick to our original plan, even if it is no longer serving us.
Enter: “Just Because, Doesn't Mean”
This intervention strikes right at the heart of all or nothing thoughts by highlighting for our brain that a grey area CAN and DOES exist. We are not all or nothing. Life is not black or white. The more we make it our reality, the more anxious and helpless we feel.
Use this as a fill in the blank to help build perspective and shake you out of your negative presumptive rut:
“Just because (undesirable outcome or issue), does not mean (absolute negative conclusion)”
Lets work on an example shall we?
Using the examples above:
Just because I do not work out a full 5 days a week (undesirable outcome or issue) does not mean I am a failure (absolute negative conclusion)
Just because the relationship is having some bumps in the road (undesirable outcome/issue) does not mean that we are heading for a breakup (absolute negative outcome)
Just because I allow myself to focus on some positive amidst all the negative Covid news (undesirable outcome or issue), does not mean I lack empathy for others and what they are going through (absolute negative conclusion).
You can tack on another sentence about what you will do DIFFERENTLY now compared to what you usually do:
“let me rather take a moment to calm myself down by identifying this SHIT'y thought and not buying into it. Instead of responding how I usually do, I am going to talk to myself like I would a friend. I will not be so harsh on myself and instead I will try doing x…”
Using the same examples from above:
Instead of buying into this false belief that I am only a success if I work out 5 days a week, I am going to encourage myself to work out once and celebrate that!
Relationships are hard. Instead of reacting to my partner under the assumption that we are going to break up, I am going to keep the perspective that couples have fights, but I want to have productive conflict. I will approach my partner to work through it with this energy
The world is a really complicated place right now. Instead of pressuring myself to focus on only the bad or only the good, I am going to encourage myself to feel for those less fortunate than me. I am going to count my blessings, and I am going to give back and make a plan for giving back where I can.
Try filling out the others on your own using this free guide!
Once you get the hang of it, start tracking our own shit'y thoughts and use this formula to talk back to them!
You control your perspective and nothing else. So when you are feeling negatively and insecure about something, it will cause you to act in such a way that brings upon an undesirable outcome, when you challenge these thoughts that bring upon said insecurity, you regain control of yourself and your emotions and thus your behavior.