Distortion Practice: 006

Spot the cognitive distortions in your life

You can get better at revealing the cognitive distortions in your life with a little practice. Try identifying the distortions that are happening in this short story:


📖 Short story

You are giving a presentation at work. You make a mistake and stumble over your words. You feel yourself going red. You think “people are going to think I am stupid, why can’t I do anything right. I’m such an idiot” and you feel embarrassed and inadequate.

Which of the following distortions are you experiencing? You can find the answers below.


📜 Common distortions

  • 👯‍ Generalizing: Assuming that because you experienced something in the past this must mean it will happen again. “A dog bit me when I was 5, therefore all dogs are dangerous and will bite me.”

  • ☄️  Catastrophizing: Are you focused on the worst case scenario? Regardless of how likely it is.

  • 🧠  Mind reading: Assuming what others think. They probably think I'm an idiot.”

  • ✨ Should statements: Pressuring yourself with things you should have done differently. I should have eaten healthier today."

  • 🌓  All or nothing thinking: Thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. "She doesn't want to date me. I'll never find love.”

  • 🕹️  Out of your control: Are you worrying about something out of your control?

  • 🔮  Fortune telling: Assuming future events. “I just know that something is going to go wrong and I'm going to be late for my interview.”

  • 🚫  Disqualifying the positive: Focusing only on the bad. He said that I looked nice but he says that to everybody. He was just being polite."

  • 🏷️ Labeling: Taking one characteristic of a person and applying it to the whole person. “I failed a test, so I'm a bad student.”

  • 🔎 Magnifying the negative: Judging a situation entirely on the negative parts and not considering the positive parts. “I ate healthy this week, but I skipped the run I had planned.”


💡 Answers

People are going to think I am stupid

You are mind reading. There is no way to know what other people are thinking. They probably haven’t noticed and even if they have there is no evidence to suggest that they are judging you negatively for it. These are your thoughts, not theirs.

Why can’t I do anything right

You are generalizing and drawing a conclusion about yourself based on this one experience. There are many other things that you have done well in your life and beating yourself up like this is not helpful. 

I am such an idiot

You are labelling. You are putting yourself down in an unfairly harsh way and this is only going to make you feel worse. Everyone makes mistakes, it is part of being human.


🌇 Conclusion:

Everyone has cognitive distortions sometimes. But we can prevent them from taking over our lives with a little practice everyday.

Here’s another powerful tool for defeating cognitive distortions: Triple column technique.


📚 Read more


📱 Practice more

Download Bold CBT. It’s an iOS app that I made which makes it easier to do CBT exercises like this one.

🙏 Thank you

I’m grateful that you read this far! Please subscribe to get more exercises like this each week.