How Our Thoughts Create Our Reality
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” If you’ve ever been on a playground, you’re probably familiar with this school yard saying. While it’s true that words might not hold physical power to harm, they absolutely hold power over how we feel emotionally. Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all interrelated and impact each other. Our perception colors how we view the world. Two individuals can experience the exact same situation and have a completely different interpretation and perception of that situation. We’re all capable of experiencing unhelpful thinking patterns that influence our perception and ultimately impact our behavior. When the lenses through which you view life are distorted, your perception of yourself and the world becomes distorted too.
The tricky part is learning how to identify these distortions in your thought process. Do you ever minimize all of the positive things that happen and maximize the negative things? Do you call yourself dumb, stupid, annoying, etc.? When we go about our day with these negative speaking habits on loop, we're spending much of our time (without even noticing it!) in unhelpful styles of thinking, which typically lead to experiencing difficult emotions such as shame, frustration, guilt, sadness, and anxiety.
Our thoughts have the power to impact how we feel and what we do, for better or for worse. These maladaptive thoughts often fly under the radar and occur without our conscious awareness. When we engage in these unhelpful thinking styles, our perception becomes distorted and our reality becomes warped and skewed. If you look at the world through shame-colored glasses, your perception might be tinged by different shades of shame. We’re our own worst critic. We’re constantly telling ourselves we’re not good enough and we should be better, even if all the evidence is conveying the opposite! If we’re looking at the world through these shame-colored glasses, then we will most likely filter out any positive information that doesn’t fit within the color of shame.
Changing your perception and ultimately the way you feel about yourself and the world is no easy task. Bringing awareness to the language you use when you talk to yourself is a good place to start. Look out for “should” and “shouldn’t's,” all-or-nothing thinking, and harsh self-talk as signs of falling into these patterns of distorted thinking that might be obstructing your perception of reality.
We are what we think. Since our thoughts are often automatic and unconscious, it’s helpful to pause and slow down so you can identify any unhelpful patterns in your thinking. When you challenge these unhelpful thoughts, you begin to rewrite a more adaptive and healthy narrative.
So, the next time a difficult situation arises, ask yourself: what color glasses am I wearing to view this situation?