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Overcoming Magnification or Minimization (A Cognitive Distortion)

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Thank you for stopping by for my ongoing positive self-talk series.  Self-love starts with positive self-talk, and all of that starts with you.  Shifting the way that you think requires the ability to recognize the power of your thoughts.  You can learn to love yourself by changing what you think about yourself and how you talk with yourself.   

We all struggle from time to time with cognitive distortions.  The healthiest person you know will struggle with a little cognitive distortion here and a little exaggeration there.  Doing this here and there won’t have an impact on your mental state in the short term.  However, when you start to do it constantly and become your everyday thinking style, your mental health will suffer. 

Magnification – A cognitive distortion

What does magnification or minimization look like?

Exaggerating the importance of what others might consider an insignificant mistake occurs with magnification.  Whereas with minimization downplaying the importance of something that others might consider to be a big achievement occurs. 

In other words, the problems that a person is experiencing are blown out of proportion, and the good things in their lives are ignored.  This particular cognitive distortion can look similar to mental filtering, disqualifying the positive and catastrophizing.

This type of thinking is common in people that struggle with panic attacks, anxiety, depression, low self-worth, and self-criticism. 

Here are some examples of this cognitive distortion. 

Concluding that because you forgot to attach a document to an email to your boss that your boss must think you’re incompetent (blown out of proportion).    

You shrink the importance of an achievement as “no big deal.”  (minimization)   

Panic Attacks and Magnification and Minimization

How this cognitive distortion can be harmful.

Magnification and minimization almost always play a big role in depression and procrastination.  For example, you magnify the difficulty of a task and minimize the importance and value of getting started today even if you only have a little time.  People prone to panic attacks struggle with magnifying the fear of having another panic attack and minimizing their ability to cope.  Magnification and minimization impact your confidence and self-worth.   

How to know if you are using magnification and/or minimization in your life.

You might be if…

You are making a mountain out of a molehill. 

Or if you are dismissing or shrinking your achievements and thinking, “this [insert accomplishment] is no big deal.”      

You feel like you are looking at things through binoculars.  Things look bigger than they really are.  Or they look smaller than they really are.    

Minimization – A cognitive distortion

How to get out and overcoming magnification and minimization. 

  • I.C.E. – and I’m not talking about “in case of emergency.” 

I’m talking about…

Identify the thought. 

Call it what it is – a cognitive distortion, magnification, or minimization.    

Explore a new thought to replace it with that challenge’s magnification and/or minimization. 

  • Step away from your thoughts and take a fresh look at the situation – Keep in mind that thoughts are just an interpretation and may not accurately reflect the situation. 
Feeling Great book by Dr. David D. Burns
Feeling Great

Check out Feeling Great by David D. Burns, MD [affiliate link].  It is an exceptional book about how you feel is the way that you think.  Uncomfortable emotions like depression and anxiety result from your thoughts and not from the circumstances of your life.      

  • Introduce self-compassion into your vocabulary – talk to yourself as if you were a dear friend.    

Let me know your thoughts and what strategies have worked to overcome magnification and minimization in your life.   

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