Have you ever thought about how the way you think influences your potential for academic success? Did you ever wonder how certain habits of thinking might distort the way you see things?
These are called thinking patterns, and when these patterns start to interfere with your daily attempts to succeed they are called cognitive distortions. Unfortunately, living with these cognitive patterns can limit your success in college and negatively impact your self-esteem. You might feel lost with no purpose, which can make you perform badly on tests, assignments and presentations.
There are several types of cognitive distortions, and you can learn to identify them. For example, you might have a tendency to exaggerate how crucial your mistakes are or look at your academic achievements as inferior. This is called “catastrophize” or “minimize.” If you are always quick to interpret any idea or event in a negative way even when there is no evidence to support this, you might be “jumping to conclusions.”
Do you ever feel like you have a crystal ball? You might anticipate things before they happen and convince yourself that everything will turn out badly, and count this as a fact. It is also difficult to make friends at school if you start “labeling” them, as it involves emotionally-loaded language such as characterizing yourself and others as a bad student. This can also appear as a mental filter if you select a negative detail and feel yourself discouraged as you let it interfere with many aspects of your reality.
Do you ever start asking yourself “why try?” This is called “overgeneralization,” as you see a single negative event as pattern for the future. “Personalization” is to see yourself, with extreme guilt, as the cause of the negative outcomes in your life.
Lastly, be careful with the “should statements!” This is basically telling yourself that you “should,” “have to” or “need to” do something in order to try to motivate yourself. You are left with feelings of guilt and ineffectiveness. Also, if you apply these statements to your friends and classmates, all you will find is disappointment.
Do you fall into any of these patterns of thinking? Try to evaluate the way you think. Every campus offers meetings with counselors, who can teach you how to change any cognitive distortions you might have. Creating a more positive pattern of thinking is crucial in order to reach your true potential and become a more productive and successful student.