We all tend to have distorted thoughts from time to time- thoughts that are irrational and unhealthy. These thoughts greatly affect our self-esteem and often leave us feeling unhappy and anxious. Becoming aware of our distortions is the first step to feeling better about ourselves. Make note of which cognitive distortions you commonly use:

All-or-Nothing Thinking

You think of things in “black-or-white” or rigid categories. If something is less than perfect, you see it as a total failure.
e.g. You fail your latest math test and are convinced that you will never pass the class.


You think of a single negative event as a never-ending pattern.
e.g. Your boyfriend breaks up with you so you think “I’m never going to have a lasting relationship”

Mental Filtering

You dwell on a single negative detail, and ignore positive things that may occur.
e.g. You mispronounce one word in a speech, yet you receive many unsolicited praises from your colleagues for the same speech. You ignore the praise and view it as a total failure.

Disqualifying the Positive

You reject positive experiences, …“they don’t count”. You maintain a negative view in spite of contradictory evidence.
e.g. Your boss gives you positive feedback, but you think he is just saying that to make you feel better and didn’t really mean it.

Mind Reading

You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and don’t bother to check this out with them.
e.g. A party guest is looking elsewhere as you are talking to her. You assume she is bored and wants to get away from you, so you leave. (Another friend later tells you that the party guest was hoping to exchange phone numbers with you, liked you very much and wonders why you left so abruptly).

Fortune Telling or Catastrophizing

You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and feel convinced that your prediction is a fact.  You predict the worst-case scenario will occur.
e.g. You don’t want to go to the party because you don’t know anyone and are convinced no one will talk to you.

Magnifying or Minimizing

You exaggerate the importance of certain things (such as your mistakes or other’s successes) and minimize other things (such as your own desirable qualities or other’s imperfections). e.g. You have difficulty with one question on a test and assume that you failed the entire test.

Emotional Reasoning

You assume that the way you feel reflects the way things are.
e.g. You’re feeling jealous of your husband’s new,  attractive co-worker so you assume that he has feelings for her.


You believe you must live up to certain perfectionist expectations. You may have perfectionist expectations of others.
e.g. I should be able to work, keep the house clean and have dinner on the table easily. If I can’t, I’m not a good mom.


You attach a global label to a behavior or action

e.g. Instead of recognizing that you made a mistake, you label yourself a “Loser”.


You see yourself as responsible for events that you had little/no responsibility for.
e.g. Your friend is in a bad mood so you assume that you did something to upset her