All-or-nothing thinking is often used to describe thought patterns that are based on extremes. Also known as “black or white” thinking, people with all-or-nothing mindsets tend to approach life with an absolutist viewpoint – as in, something is either one way, or at the other end of the spectrum.
If you gravitate toward extremes, you may also experience things like anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. This type of mentality can also rob you of many of life’s small joys since people who think in this way tend to overlook the small wins and little victories in favor of their own self-doubt. Read on to discover a few tell-tale signs that you may have an all-or-nothing mindset, and what to do about it.
Sign #1: You use superlatives, like “always” and “never.”
Black and white thinking is characterized by using superlatives when describing something. For example, you might say, “I’ll never be able to master this skill,” or “I always screw up this task.”
Sign #2: You give up easily.
Setting goals is no problem for you, but when you mess up, you tend to throw in the towel completely, instead of cutting yourself some slack and trying again the next day.
Sign #3: You experience low self-esteem and anxiety.
All-or-nothing thinking means that you view yourself as either an expert or a fool. Holding yourself to such unachievable standards can, understandably, result in low self-esteem and/or anxiety.
Sign #4: You often ignore the good things.
Being consumed in all-or-nothing thinking means that you’ll likely stop feeling grateful for the good things in your life. Perhaps, you can’t even recognize those small bits of happiness.
How to Remedy All-or-Nothing Thinking
• Take note of your all-or-nothing thinking when it pops up. Recognizing when you are exhibiting these behaviors is key to putting an end to them.
• Start replacing “or” with “and.” Not everything is either one way or another – you can have many experiences that are good and bad, or happy and sad.
• Write down your strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Writing them down can help you realize that it’s okay to be a great parent, but a not-so-great cook.
• Embrace mistakes. Recalibrate your brain so that it views mistakes as learning opportunities. Don’t worry if this takes time – this is one longer-term skill that’s worth it in the end.
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