22 May

I find that I spend a lot of time wondering if I am “enough.” For example, I’m often plagued with thoughts like “I am not productive enough,” “I don’t work out enough,” “I don’t eat healthy enough.” Enough, enough, enough.

I learned in my Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) class that these thoughts are called “Cognitive Distortions.” These thoughts let you jump to conclusions, assume the worst, and don’t let you see the truth about your life. In other words your brain is selling you a load of crap. The definitions and titles of each cognitive distortion vary slightly depending on which source your using (Psychology Today published a list of 50, while Aaron Beck and David Burns list 15). In my CBT class we called the “enough” thinking “Making Demands: Should, ought to, must, have to.” But you might also find this simply labeled “should thoughts.”

So basically, a common thought process in my brain is: “I should be using the time before I leave for work productively, and go for a run and read for school, otherwise I’m just wasting time” and when I don’t use my morning productively and lie in bed surfing BuzzFeed I think: “I’m not good enough because I’m a lazy loaf who stayed in bed.”

Even though I know that believing that I am a lazy loaf for staying in bed is irrational and that getting up to run in the morning does not make me a better person, I am happy to report that this morning I fought off me-who-doesn’t-want-to and ran before work! (Honestly, me-who-doesn’t-want-to is a cognitive distortion too, it’s a “negative prediction.” I believe I won’t be able to do as well as I did last time, so I figure “why bother?”) Running before work made me feel good. It didn’t just make me feel good because I felt like I was “enough,” it made me feel good that I set a personal goal and achieved, and achieved it for no one other than me.

We all have these thought processes. Some do it more than others. Having cognitive distortions doesn’t mean you need to head off for some CBT, but understanding how your thinking affects your feelings (which influence your behavior, it’s all cyclical) can help you be kinder to yourself. Because no one needs to beat themselves up over a few extra Gawker and BuzzFeed articles or one too many games of Scramble with Friends.

Who would have thought that my social work training would be so applicable to my running!


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