Wrong Thought Pattern #3: All or Nothing

I'm finally getting to the thought patterns listed in the book that I mentioned before. The first two were ones I thought of because they kept coming to my mind. Now we will move on to the ones listed in the really great book titled, Why Do I Feel This Way?, on women and depression. (If you've ever been depressed or know someone who is suffering from depression, I highly recommend it.) 

The first unhealthy thought pattern the author mentions is All or Nothing thinking. Being an extremist by nature, I struggle with this one. Things are either all good or all bad. Black or white. Up or down.

That didn't sound like much of a problem until she started applying it. Her illustration got right to one of my issues. She talked about a straight-A student being upset over a B-plus. "Making an A meant success; anything less meant failure." Oh my goodness I am so this way! I could play a beautiful song on the piano, but if I made one mistake, I blew it. I have a terrible time recognizing that life is not about me never ever ever making a mistake or having to apologize or doing less than 100%.

Author Brenda Poinselt puts it perfectly: "All or nothing thinking causes a woman to fear any mistake or imperfection because she will see herself as a loser. Then she will feel inadequate and worthless."


Ever feel that way? That because you don't look like the airbrushed women in magazines, you can't be beautiful? That if you make one mistake you've ruined everything? That if your relationships have any conflict they must be failures?

Brenda says, "All-or-nothing thinking is unrealistic thinking." Well, I've never been accused of being a realist!

The nice thing is, she applies this on the negative as well as the positive sides. It's not realistic to expect myself to be the best in any area (only one person can be the best, and with 6 billion people on the planet, that's a lot of competition), and equally unrealistic to think I'm the worst (again, to be the worst of 6 billion would take some effort).

She says, "No one is absolutely perfect or totally incompetent. No one is completely attractive or totally ugly."

"If we try to force our experiences into absolute categories, we will be constantly depressed because our perceptions will not conform to reality. We'll never measure up."

And that's the crux. That I have always struggled feeling like I don't measure up.

If you feel that way, think about what you're trying to measure up to, or rather to whom. Thinking about it rationally (just for the moment, I'm sure I'll go back to irrational soon), I realize that I take strengths from several different people and expect myself to measure up to some imaginary person who is a conglomerate of all of their best aspects. That's just impossible, and me expecting that of myself is pretty nigh unto . . . well, not smart.

Each person has strengths, and along with those strengths come natural weaknesses. Every person you admire in this world has faults and weaknesses and specific temptations they are most vulnerable to. You may not see them, and the irony is, someone out there may be looking at you and seeing only your strengths and comparing themselves to their ideal of who you are.

Let's stop comparing ourselves to unrealistic ideals (like deciding we aren't beautiful unless we're airbrushed--I know of at least one model who has lamented that she'd like to actually look the way her "image" looks). Let's accept that there is a whole range underneath perfect that is still good. Not being totally perfect in any area does not immediately mean totally bad.

Again, it's a matter of not focusing on ourselves so much and living our lives for Christ. If we are Christ's, we will recognize that we will have moments of human failure. That's normal. We can get up again and move forward, learning from our mistakes, asking forgiveness for our sins, and encourage others by our walk with God rather than intimidating them by our tenuous portrayal of perfection.

. . . but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12

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