Self Defeating Thoughts


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“I can’t accept myself without the love and approval of others.”

As children our environment plays a large role in our development. Our parents and our peers can shape the way that we think about ourselves. As adults our mate or peer groups can also shape how we feel about ourselves. Just as some children learn to be spoiled brats and to expect to get every thing they want others learn to fight for approval and may be made to feel (or be) neglected, unwanted or inferior. This can lead to an overpowering need for the approval of others. This approval becomes the measure of a persons self worth. This can have devastating consequences on what you can accomplish as a person and how happy you can be.

Signs & Symptoms of Approval Issues

Approval issues may manifest themselves in the work ethics and personal beliefs. What might seem like perfectionism may in fact be the need for approval. This need drives the person on to greater effort to receive the approval of others.

People who crave the approval of others often are unable to give approval to themselves. They may discount their own abilities thinking that they “are not good enough”. They feel that some how the judgment of others is “better” not realizing that others are interested in their own lives. Their thinking is centered on their concerns and even worse they may want to use the person seeking approval for their own gratification.

Acceptance issues often lead to a person avoiding conflict even when conflict is necessary to solve a issue. The keep the peace at any cost. They will do anything to avoid hurting the feelings of another person or have their disapproval.

How did this come about?

As children we learn a lot of our beliefs about ourselves. These beliefs may be true, such as, we are a worthwhile human being. We have unique talents and abilities. Perhaps some we do not even know of.  Other beliefs may be irrational. I deserve everything I want, for example. We may believe that others are superior, we are stupid or we can never do anything right. Perhaps we have the belief that we can’t change what we dislike about ourselves or we are just worthless. These ideas and more may have been taught to us by others including our family members but these beliefs are irrational. We are all experts in some areas of life and ignorant in others. That is the nature of being human. People around us may reinforce our beliefs by talking down to us or pretending we can’t do anything right. They secretly enjoy pointing out any mistakes or supposed mistakes on our part so that they can make themselves feel better. The opposite would be more ideal, surrounding ourselves with balanced people that do not direct THEIR negative feelings at us.

The Consequences

Low self esteem leads to the need for approval from others. This in tern leads to certain actions from others who prey on this need for approval. For example the boss or other significant person can imply that more is needed from us, while they ignore their responsibilities leading to us to work harder at our responsibilities, taking on their responsibilities and making excuses for them to others and excuses to them as to why we can’t carry more of THEIR responsibility.

The person needing approval becomes deeper under the control of others who prey on this need. They may start to feel guilty that they cannot do more. They take on more and more obligation, start to suffer from stress and anxiety as they look for approval. They will never receive the approval that they need because the other person does not care and wants to use the situation to their own advantage. Trying to get approval from a heartless, careless, unappreciative person is impossible. To believe that your self worth is based on what others think of you is irrational. Trying to meet this need for approval will lead to frustration and failure.

What You Can Do

Identify the irrational need for the approval of others. Is this need for approval based on fear, rejection, neglect, abandonment or disapproval by someone who was important to us in the past. Get to the root, then forgive the person, but don’t let them continue to abuse you. Find your way to freedom and build your self esteem.

Learn to say positive things to yourself. Make an inventory of your positive qualities. Are you responsible, have good character and are you nice. Refuse irrational thoughts that condemn yourself. Replace them with good thoughts about yourself. Learn some inspirational quotes that will strengthen you rather than relying on others to say nice things. You can say nice things to yourself.

If your life is full of toxic friendships that sap you of your strength and get you into trouble, distance yourself and get new friends. Do not avoid conflict but use positive skills you can develop to communicate. Make a list of what is important to you and work toward these goals rather than constantly trying to please others.

Keep up the good work. Don’t give in to guilt or negative thinking about yourself. Do things that make you happy and change things that don’t and never give up.

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“If I don’t do everything right or I’m not the first. Then it proves that I am worthless.”

Perfectionism is a belief that you or others should never make mistakes orthat everything must be done “right”. While doing your best is good never being happy with the result is bad. Perfectionism is a self defeating thought which means it produces negative consequences for yourself and others. Perfectionism toward others will cause them to hate you. Perfectionism directed inward will cause you to hate yourself.
Perfectionism is a irrational belief that you or others must be the best at everything and never make mistakes. Perfectionism makes a person ever vigilant to perceived “imperfection” in themselves or others. It is a ever vigilant attitude that the perfectionist believes makes him invulnerable to criticism while he or she also believes that criticizing others will direct attention to them. In reality perfectionism makes him and those around him miserable. Far from seeing the perfectionist as the “ideal” mature individuals around a perfectionist will see them as a loathing or even “crazy” and be fed up with the constant irrational criticism. This is a rigid outlook that does not account for being human or living a more or less normal life.
Perfectionism can become a form of thought paralysis as well. A person can be ever planning and over thinking every issue until they are paralyzed into inaction.
The root of perfectionism is a fear of rejection or failure. It comes from a deep seated need for approval. Perfectionism as a self defeating thought is often learned in childhood and as irrational as it may be is carried into adult hood not only as a belief but a way of life that can ruin relationships and a persons ability to be successful and happy. A persons parents may have inadvertently placed this way of thinking into a child or they may be victims of this thought distortion and the child may have learned this behavior. Perfectionism renders the perfectionist unnaturally vulnerable to the approval or disapproval of warped standards, opinions and beliefs of himself or herself and others. Far from being a method to reach greater success it is a recipe for disaster and unhappiness.

Realize that perfectionism is irrational.
It is irrational to believe that we can judge or set the standard of perfection yet a perfectionist believes that he or she sets the standard for perfection for everyone. The perfectionist believes that it is unacceptable to make mistakes. Yet again though, a perfectionist cannot live up to this standard so the perfectionist will have to secretly hold to a lower standard, lie to others and hope to be able to make excuses or even become a bully.
Achievement is a important part of life. Achievement and satisfaction are very good for mental health, but the perfectionist is forced to measure his life by his accomplishments often pretending that his accomplishments are more grandiose than the accomplishments of others. This completely ignores the fact that life is not just what we do but who we are. A criminal may be a successful purse snatcher for a time but would you call his life a success? Does his achievement really merit any praise. No. A perfectionist tries to walk over others to make himself feel better.

Understand that perfectionism can lead to paralysis of the mind.
Since there are problems with most any endeavor that is worth doing the perfectionist may avoid doing anything difficult. The perfectionist believes that mistakes are unacceptable therefore one has to plan laboriously to accomplish anything. The planning for different possibilities takes over the project until nothing is accomplished. The perfectionist may avoid action or give up easily because he cannot afford to make a mistake. A perfectionist may be plagued by a fear of being discovered or may cover over this fear with a persona of invincibility forcing the perfectionist to lie, hide mistakes or become paralyzed to inaction. The perfectionist may believe that others are doing something wrong and fixate on some perceived wrong or may reason that “I can’t do this the right way so I’ll do nothing.”

Learn that perfectionism has negative consequences.
Rather than making a person better, as the perfectionist may believe, perfectionism leads to deep life disrupting problems. Here are some negative consequences.
Rigidity of life. The perfectionist becomes a dull person who ruins relationships.
Guilt. The perfectionist has to feel a sense of shame at his or her own failures even if they try to hide these feelings from others.
Low self esteem. Every one needs to have proper self esteem to be mentally healthy. A perfectionist is plagued by low self esteem even if hidden from others.
Pessimism is another negative consequence. When life is all about finding problems or something to complain about there will be plenty of pessimism to go around.
Depression and mental paralysis often are consequences of perfectionism. These are just some of the negative consequences. To break free from perfectionism you must realize that it is a liability to your life. It is controlling you and making you fail where you could succeed. It makes you guilty for no reason and wrecks the happiness of the perfectionist and those around him.

Replace irrational perfectionism with rational ideas.
Your only human. Sure you should strive to be your best. Your best will only come after you have experience, which means learning from your mistakes and the mistakes of others (which means that you must make mistakes to gain experience). Learn to forgive yourself and others. Blame is often wasted time and energy. There is a big difference between perfectionism and doing your best. You don’t give up if you fail or make a mistake when you are doing your best. You simply learn from the mistake and move on, even if it is upsetting. Perfectionism can cause you to give up or to make others want to give up because of endless complaining. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake. Let go of rigid ideas and learn to be more fluid in your planning and goals. Learn to love yourself and enjoy your accomplishments rather than second guessing that it could be better think of the fact that whatever you have accomplished would not have been without your effort and contribution. The important thing is to be going the right direction. Use the time you have to accomplish the things that are important to you. The road to success is paved with the experience of failure.

  • Perfectionism is irrational.
  • Perfectionism leads to paralysis of the mind and body.
  • Perfectionism has negative consequences.
  • Replace perfectionism with rational thinking.
  • Approve of yourself when you have successes.
  • Rejoice that you have learned something new when you make a mistake.
  • If you begin scolding yourself. Stop and think of the good things you have done. Even if it is overcoming the hurtle of getting started toward a goal. Visualize yourself succeeding and how you will do it.
  • Remember practice makes perfect so don’t give up!

Get More Information

Overcoming Perfectionism (Books)
ABC News 2020 Perfectionism in Children (DVD)