Are You Guilty of Stinkin’ Thinkin’?

by | Oct 8, 2013

The other day a friend tripped over her own feet, and I overheard her say to herself, “You are such a klutz.” A harmless putdown, perhaps, but with enough negative talking to yourself, you could create an unhealthy environment that works against you. This is an example of stinkin\’ thinkin\’—irrational thoughts that, in the aggregate, aren\’t good for you. And the truth is, my friend usually navigates quite well, and is sometimes even graceful. So one incident does not mean she\’s a klutz. Her comment to herself was indeed irrational.

One way to maintain a healthy attitude is to make sure you\’re not indulging in stinkin\’ thinkin\’. When you\’re more conscious of the conversations you have with yourself, you can begin to take note of the irrational thoughts you have during the day. And then counter them with rational, positive thoughts.

For example, my friend took one small incident and magnified it into thinking that she was a klutz. She discounted all the many, many times she did not trip over herself, and concluded, irrationally, that she was a klutz. And not just a garden-variety klutz, but “such a klutz.”

Here are some things to watch for when you\’re having internal conversations:

Super Generalization. One negative situation does not doom you forever. When you have a defeat in life, it does not mean you are always going to have defeats. It does not mean you will never succeed. ‘Always\’ and ‘never\’ are words that typically lead to generalizations. When they\’re negative, they do not add to your well-being.

Eliminating the Positive. Some of us only hear negative comments. You can be flooded with all sorts of compliments, but when one person has a tiny criticism, that\’s all you focus on. It\’s true that you can learn to do better by working on fixing the negative things in your life. But don\’t discount the positive things that make you feel competent and good.

Taking No Prisoners. It\’s all or nothing at all for some people. You seek absolute perfection, and if you fall short, you feel like a failure. In actuality, you have merely fallen short. Sometimes by just a little. Cut yourself some slack. If you fall off the wagon, pick yourself up and get back on. And don\’t waste time berating yourself about the past.

Exaggerating Doomsday. When someone looks at you with a stern countenance, you interpret it as the end of your relationship. You imagine they must hate you if they look at you like that. Before you go too far with this negative way of thinking, why not ask them about it? Maybe they\’re having a bad day that has nothing whatsoever to do with you. So don\’t get carried away before you know the facts.

When you are hard on yourself, make yourself feel guilty, call yourself a loser—whatever negatives you use—try and identify what you\’re doing and turn it around. Try to see more positives in your life.

I once overheard a grown man tell himself ‘attaboy\’ when he navigated through some hair-raising traffic. It\’s the opposite of stinkin\’ thinkin\’. We probably all could use more ‘attaboys\’ and ‘attagirls.\’ Who better to say it to us than ourselves?

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional.  If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch.  You can reach her here:



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