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Discounting the positive  

This is Part 3 of the cognitive distortion series to beat anxiety Discounting positives is similar to mental filtering. Just letting some things through and I don’t mean the positives. Which can be really detrimental for anyone suffering from anxiety. Discounting the positive is a habitual way of disregarding our successes and strengths while focusing instead on what we consider to be our weaknesses and our failures. In our minds, if something isn’t perfect it is, by default, flawed.

Since perfection rarely, if ever, exists in our world, pretty much everything is considered a failure or flawed in some way.   I am the anxiety specialist managing my own anxiety and I also tend to discount the positive.

Let me tell you about my client Maryanne, she is a fantastic mother. Her daughter suffers from anxiety and Maryanne really struggles with the concept of discounting the positive, which I can also see in her daughter. Last week Lauren (all names are changed for my client's privacy of course) did a presentation in front of the whole class. We had worked towards this for a few weeks. She did really well and the teacher gave her great feedback. But Laurens's response was “ Ah she was only been nice to me because she knew how hard it was or me’, it wasn’t really that good. And Maryanne’s responds was “she was only able to do this because you taught her the skills to get up”.   Do you see what is happening here? Both mom and daughter are discounting the positive which can lead to feeling more anxious, more depressed, and really hopeless.

 

I  have some great free video resources for you on my website www.susannemcallister.com   

So what does this mean for Lauren and Maryanne?   The main difference is that they both dismissed something positive and joyful as something of no value when you do think of positive aspects.  We women to this a lot. For example, if someone compliments the way you look today, you think they’re just being nice. Or you play it down. I am guilty of this too. If someone would pay me a compliment I would say: ‘ oh this old dress, or ohhh this was a bargain” or I would have to ‘repay the person and make a compliment right back' . Now I just say; “ Thank you” and enjoy the compliment.   I would like to know how this shows up for you, comment below and let me know.  

 Discounting positives is finding reasons that your positive experiences are unimportant or don't count. What you are basically saying is that YOU don’t count. When your default thinking pattern is to discount the positives, you build a bias towards the negative experiences that you have, not because you don't see the good but because you think the negative ones are more important and meaningful for your identity or that of your Childs.   ⁣So, what happens when we discount the positive things in our own lives? These are the side effects of discounting yourself and they are not pretty:   feelings of inferiority, Anxiety increases lack of confidence,  bouts of depression,  loss of energy, and loads of procrastination.  

How discounting positives shows up:  

Discounting the positives means that you're unlikely to acknowledge that good things happen because of something you do or say or the choices you make. Instead, you'll reason that it was luck or happy accident or weird coincidence. You'll likely say "yes, but..." a lot. This can lead to a lack of motivation and a sense of helplessness because you don't feel that you have any control over positive things in your life.   It also often shows up as imposter syndrome - a feeling that you don't deserve your own success, even when there's strong evidence to the contrary.  

But WHY do we do it?   I have a theory that we only try to keep ourselves safe from more anxiety and that we try to protect ourselves. Because if we play down or deny our strengths and downplaying our accomplishments? We lower our expectations of ourselves so that we don’t have to the pressure to perform like this or even better next time. After all, if you were successful with this presentation/job interviews or whatever it is you are anxious about what could be next? Will you be expected to repeat this success (or even worse exceed it)? We become so anxious and scared of the possibility so we discount it. We refuse credit for it. This is what we call a fear of success.   

But we don’t do this consciously is our way to self-preservation that happens deep in our psyche. And it often needs an expert or therapist to bring these to the surface.   It is a habit, so we can change it!  To stop Discounting Yourself  I use mindfulness in my coaching practice. The aim is to observe yourself and your language to come aware and identify the problem. Observe yourself like a scientist would, open mind, with curiosity but no judgment.

For instance, you may recognize that you can’t accept a compliment. Observe your language: Do you say: “Thanks, but…” and making an excuse. Ask yourself “How come I find this hard to accept?” Maybe you don’t feel you deserve the compliment or you feel anxious or shy. Maybe you worry about where accepting the compliment might lead. Remember to be neutral in your observation. Identify how you would like to be able to respond instead and visualize your new responses.

Maybe you would like to be able to accept compliments with grace. Create your strategy. What works for me is to tell myself “NO” when negative responses come up. Maybe you want to stay “STOP” or “BETTER” and chose your positive response instead of the negative one. I have learned over the years to be kind to myself and give myself empathy when I mess up, which I still do to this day.

Nothing is perfect and that is the beauty of life. Compassion and mindfulness have been a savior for me and my clients. Celebrate your success! Allow yourself a moment to feel the pleasure of having accepted a compliment without discounting it. Allow yourself to really receive the compliment and realize that this is something important. Receiving doesn’t come easy for many of us. Celebrate the little wins.   

And if you are a parent of an anxious child helping them through, being transparent and open about how you think and how you are working on yourself takes the pressure of the child to want to live up to your expectations. Of course, there is a fine line when “too much information” can lead to more anxiety. If in doubt, get in touch, I can help.

Susanne McAllister

www.susannemcallister.com

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