Category: Procrastination

5 self-limiting beliefs that keep you stuck in denial

Negative and self-limiting beliefs have an impact on your ability to make positive changes in your life. They not only convince you that there is no actual problem, but also of your supposed inability to solve it. Self-limiting attitudes, rules and assumptions are often not the product of objective reasoning, but tend to work as denial’s “little soldiers”. To help you fight against the dysfunctional influence of denial and develop a more positive, honest and active approach to problem solving, here are 5 self-limiting beliefs that keep you stuck in denial:

5 self-limiting beliefs that keep you stuck in denial
Denial limits learning and personal growth

1- “I will never be able to change this”

Just because change does take time, it does not mean you will never be able to make it happen. When considering making a significant change, be it in behaviour or lifestyle, having a compassionate and tolerant attitude towards yourself is key. Give yourself enough time to change and get used to it. Habits take at least two months to be created. Be persistent and prepared for setbacks. Monitor your critical voice and challenge negative thinking that is making you feel less competent. Keep motivation cards ready for when feeling insecure. Have a designated friend with whom you can get in touch when thinking of giving up. Create strategies of support that will help you stay focused when confidence is low.

2- “If I do not feel 100% confident about changing, it means I shouldn’t”

Emotional reasoning is a cognitive error. Thoughts and feelings are not facts and cannot predict an outcome. If they were, we would all be lottery winners by now. Negative thinking is also a habit we create over years of relying on a biased and perfectionist perspective. Be objective, just because you are feeling inadequate it does not mean you are not able to reach your goals. Separate your thoughts and feelings from your actions. Ask yourself what you are doing and not what you are thinking or feeling. Rumination leads to procrastination and inertia. Fight immobility with determination by reminding yourself that your thoughts are not always best friends with reason. Challenge your thinking in a rational and unbiased manner to boost self-esteem and make changes happen.

3- “Everybody has problems”

Even if that is the case, it does not make everyone’s problems the same and as equally important. You can only do what is best for you. Comparisons tend not to be productive because human beings are individuals who behave, think and feel in their unique ways. No one can ever truly know what it means to be you. Trust your honest judgement and honour your humanity. You are the expert in your own life. If things are no longer working out for you the way they used to, it is probably due to behaviours that have no place in your life anymore. Personal growth is all about noticing those moments and investing in change.

4- “It is not that bad, I am OK the way it is”

Denial is not self-acceptance. Denial is indolent, indifferent and negligent, while self-acceptance is active, beneficial and transforming. Be very suspicious of thoughts and ideas that try to persuade you of the contrary. If you believe that life is a journey of personal growth, passivity will get you nowhere you truly want to be. Becoming your own agent of change is committing to living a full and rewarding life. While change does require effort and dedication, it makes your existence relevant through progress and self-expression.

5- “Everyone else thinks I am OK”

Mind reading is another cognitive error. We have no means of knowing what other people are truly thinking. What is more, trying to guess or being worried about what other people think is often connected to feelings of low self-esteem and a need for approval. Even if you were right about others’ opinions of you, to what extent do they improve quality of life? How big and frequent would that approval supply have to be in order to bring long lasting happiness? You are your most reliable source of love and acceptance. Change that prioritises your physical, psychological and emotional well-being is how self-empowerment materializes. The more you believe in the benefits of change and make them happen, the more trust you gain in yourself. Self-confidence, in turn, boosts self-esteem, which makes life more enjoyable and worth living.

Not resisting and challenging self-limiting beliefs, such as the ones mentioned above, keep you stuck in denial. Denial may successfully protect a frail sense of self-esteem and relieve anxiety temporarily, but it restricts learning and personal growth. Behavioural change often follows a new way of thinking or approaching your thoughts and actions. It is never too late to put an end to your denial and introduce healthy cognitive and behavioural habits.

5 common beliefs of procrastinators

Procrastination is a very familiar problem. If you often feel that you struggle to self-motivate, you may be prone to procrastinating. As negative beliefs are at the root of our most common psychological vulnerabilities, it is helpful to become aware of the attitudes, rules and assumptions that are stopping you from getting things done.

Here are 5 common beliefs of procrastinators:

1- “If I can’t do my best, it’s not worth doing it”

Perfectionism is not a skill, but a self-confidence killer. A perfectionist wastes precious time on unproductive thinking while life passes him by. You can learn how to embrace your humanity by accepting the idea of trial and error and celebrating your efforts. Ten thousand “good enough” actions are much more rewarding in the long term than carrying out a single perfect one.

2- “No risk, no disappointment”

5 common beliefs of procrastinators
Procrastination is a very familiar problem

If you value your efforts – and not only perfect results – you are not afraid of taking risks. Self-confidence is nurtured from the inside out. Practice self-compassion whenever you are brave enough to get out of your comfort zone. Tell yourself that trying is as good as winning and act as your own best friend. Praise yourself even when it feels like no one else seems to be taking notice of you. Do not wait for outside recognition to build an inner sense of self-esteem, but let unconditional self-love guide you through your endeavours.

3- “Nothing ever works out for me anyway”

In CBT, such statements/automatic thoughts are classified as cognitive errors due to their unrealistic perspective. To tell yourself that absolutely nothing works out for you is too global and simplistic a statement to be reflective of objective truth. Aren’t you failing to recognise some of the good things that you have managed to achieve? It sounds as if you were allowing perfectionism to undermine your self-confidence.

4- “If I don’t feel like it doing it, it means I shouldn’t”

You would be surprised by how untrue such belief actually is. When you manage to overcome that initial resistance, you usually find that you can carry on doing what you have set yourself to do with reasonable ease. Motivate yourself by developing a higher tolerance to discomfort, little by little. Make it your thing to challenge thinking that seems to be working against you. Question negative and unproductive cognitions through raising self-awareness. After all, who is in control of you, your self or your thoughts?

5- “I don’t have time for this”

Really? Or isn’t that just another excuse not to dedicate yourself to something new or make some positive changes in your life? If you genuinely feel that time is against you, it may be a good idea to work out what you are actually doing with it. Take a few minutes during the next week to write down what you do on an hourly basis, every day of the week from Monday to Sunday. Then analyse your findings and assess how you have been managing your time. What are your priority tasks? What activities could be excluded, shortened or extended in order to allow you to attain your self-improvement goals? Actively structuring your daily routine is a self-empowering initiative that gives you a renewed sense of control and responsibility over your own life.

To win the battle against procrastination and become more productive, be attentive to errors in your thinking. Thoughts that are too general or send out a message of rigidity, perfectionism or bias towards the negative, for instance, are renowned for resulting in personal conflict and feelings of inadequacy. Targeting dysfunctional thinking requires little effort and dedication from your part, while it helps you realise your potential in a healthy and independent way.

Questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively

Excessive worrying feels very debilitating since it gets you stuck in rumination mode. Going over the same thought without dealing with it productively can be a mood killer. The best way forward for those who often find themselves struggling to let go of negative thoughts is through self-awareness. Start actively monitoring your thoughts. More importantly, begin to challenge them whenever they fail to lead you to any useful or creative solutions. Then, if you are new to CBT, use the questions below to help you problem-solve.

Here is a list of questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively:

Does my thought make sense from a realistic perspective?

Would this thought be considered logical?

What is the evidence for my thought/belief/evaluation?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of believing in this thought?

Would the intelligent and mature people I know agree with my thought? Why?

Am I am being too hard on myself?

Would I think/say the same about/to my best friend?

Am I being reasonable?

Is this situation as bad as I am portraying?

Are people as judgemental as I am imagining them to be?

Am I equating my thought with a fact?

How would I evaluate this situation 2 months from now?

Is this going to matter to me tomorrow?

Is this worry productive?

Is this criticism constructive? What – if anything – have I learned from it?

Am I only focusing on the negative?

Am I basing my thoughts on mind reading?

Am I exaggerating the relevance of this thought?

What is the worst-case scenario? What is the best-case scenario? What is the most likely outcome?

How is this thought affecting my mood?

Is it guiding me towards my goals or is it distracting me from them?

Am I using labels to define the situation in a way that does not do it justice?

Am I being overcritical?

Am I being fair?

Am I problem solving in an objective way?

How could I consider this problem more objectively?

Am I blaming others or myself for things that are – realistically – out of our control?

Have I considered all the facts before jumping to conclusions?

Am I taking things too personally?

How am I assessing my/others’ ability to handle this particular problem? Am I overreacting or being too negative?

It is worth reminding yourself that thoughts are just thoughts, not facts. As we tend to negotiate meaning via our internal dialogue, make it work for and not against you. If you display a biased inclination towards perfectionism and self-criticism, for instance, expand your perception investing in a more flexible attitude. Restructure your rigid beliefs so that they reflect a more compassionate and forgiving outlook. Use metacognition as a tool against automatic thinking and learn how to gain more control over negative emotions.

questions to ask yourself when worrying excessively
Challenging negative thinking is a great way to deal with unproductive worrying

Are you a perfectionist?

Are you a perfectionist? Perfectionism is not a skill, but the number 1 enemy of a healthy self-esteem. Perfectionists have a hard time letting go of negative thoughts. They are extremely tough on themselves and often struggle to fully enjoy their own achievements. They also suffer from excessive self-criticism and self-doubt, which increase insecurity and give rise to feelings of inadequacy.

If you are wondering if this is your case, but would like to learn more about perfectionism, see below for its most typical behaviours:

All-or-nothing thinking: perfectionists see the world in black and white. The perfectionist scale contains only two opposite poles: ‘perfect/excellent’ and ‘rubbish/terrible’. There is no ‘adequate’ or ‘acceptable’, ‘good’ or ‘very good’ in the perfectionist’s classification system. According to perfectionist thinking, what is not a success is a total disaster.

Result obsession: achieving a perfect/excellent result is the main motivation of perfectionists. Perfectionists feel empty and unfulfilled without recognition. Because they struggle to love and accept themselves, they use external stimuli, such as praise, titles, acknowledgement, appreciation and validation to feel good about themselves. Perfectionists are approval junkies.

are you a perfectionist
Perfectionism is not a skill.

Mistake phobia: because perfectionists struggle with issues surrounding low self-esteem, the prospect of making a mistake is source of great anxiety. Contemplating failure is psychological torture for perfectionists. This result obsession added to their excessive judging and criticising generate a strong fear of the consequences of not attaining their incredibly high standards.

Aversion to criticism: perfectionists take criticism personally. Because they are extremely harsh on themselves, they have a tendency to interpret negative feedback as a personal attack. This is mainly due to their difficulty to separate their own selves from their actions and behaviours. If you tell a perfectionist that what he or she did is not very good, they believe they themselves to be bad.

Shoulds: why chase perfection like a hamster on a wheel? Because you should. You should always do your best. Forget feelings, moods or other idiosyncrasies, ‘best’ always means excellent, regardless of who you are. Perfectionism goes hand in hand with irrational absolutes and an intolerant attitude.

Discounting the positive: satisfying perfectionists is a big challenge. Nothing is ever good enough. Their worth can only be validated when in line with the highest of high standards. Anything below excellent is considered mediocre.

Rumination: perfectionists are time travellers. When they are not thinking about the past to find reasons for their supposed failures, they are trying to work out a way to transcend their own achievements. This lengthy and persistent consideration process, also known as rumination, feeds on itself. The more they ruminate, the more stuck they are with it.

Procrastination: why make all that effort when perfection is so difficult to attain? Rather than working so hard just to end up regretting your actions, it is easier not to decide. The most comfortable line of action is to put everything off. Without a decision, there is no risk, and no risk means no disappointment.

Self-denigration: perfectionists are masters of self-deprecation. Nobody criticises perfectionists as fervently as they do their own selves. They believe to be their duty to find faults with everything they do. Because nothing is ever good enough, they are constantly second guessing their own decisions, as if they were not competent to assess their own predicaments.

Guilt: feeling guilty for not being able to achieve their incredibly high standards is something with which perfectionists are very familiar. Perfectionism makes guilt seem like a plausible emotional reaction for not succeeding at everything you do. If you have failed to excel, you ‘should’ feel guilty. Guilt, allied with a long list of shoulds, reinforces perfectionism and feelings of low self-esteem, such as inadequacy and insecurity.

Shame: because perfectionists are always monitoring their own behaviours, they believe others are able to notice when they do not perform as well as they ‘should have’. They feel ashamed for not being able to comply with the demands of their own idealised selves, as if everyone else shared their inflexible views.

If you identify with the above, it is very likely that you are indeed a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a fairly common problem. To overcome perfectionism, make your priority to practice self-love and acceptance. Replace your overly judgemental attitude with a daily dosage of self-compassion. Become your own best friend and start telling yourself that it is OK to make mistakes. Learn how to laugh at the idea of being slave to a metaphor. Perfection is an illusion. Make ‘good enough’ the new ‘excellent’. Embrace your humanity and make peace with your weaknesses. Against a positive and forgiving attitude, your perfectionism will not stand a chance.