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.   

And 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, your mental health will suffer when you constantly start doing it, and this becomes your everyday thinking style. 

If you feel that your mental health has suffered to the point that you would benefit from therapy, then take a look at and you can use my link to receive a 20% discount [affiliate link]. It’s my belief that everyone should be able to have access to mental health resources and if you feel that you would benefit from therapy then I encourage you to give it a try.

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. 

However, with minimization, it’s 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 catastro


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


In the case of magnification, this is making a mountain out of a molehill.

It’s like looking at things through a pair of binoculars. From this end, what you are seeing looks bigger than they really are.

Magnification tends to occur when something negative happens and is blown out of proportion.


In the case of minimization, this is the opposite end of the binoculars and what you see looks small and insignificant.

Interestingly enough, minimization tends to occur with positive events or with things that most people would view as “good.”

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 anxiety and procrastination. 

For example, you magnify the difficulty of a task. And at the same time, you minimize the importance and value of getting started today, even if you only have a little time. 

People with anxiety or panic attacks magnify the fear of another panic attack while also minimizing their ability to cope. 

Magnification and minimization impact your confidence and self-worth.   

Anxiety Disorders

You magnify what causes the anxiety, such as social situations or the fear of having another panic attack. And minimize your ability to cope with your anxiety.


You exaggerate how awful someone was to you. And because you’re frustrated with them, you minimize their positive qualities.

Magnification – making a mountain out of a molehill.

Fear of Disappointment

You magnify how awful it would be to disappoint someone. Or what it would be like if someone viewed you unfavorably or rejected you. And you tell yourself that these negative opinions of you may spread, and soon everyone will reject you.

So, you minimize your ability to survive this possibility, and you can disappoint someone, be viewed unfavorably, or be rejected and still survive.

Feelings of Worthlessness

You magnify your flaws and sense of worthlessness. And also, minimize your strengths and positive qualities and decide there’s nothing special or likable about you.


You magnify how awful and overwhelming it will be to work on a task that you have been putting off. And potentially catas

trophize how awful you are going to feel to even get started.

And minimize the importance of just working on it for a short time each day can lead to all-or-nothing thinking.


You tell yourself that you shouldn’t have made that mistake and magnify it to the point that it begins to eat at you. Finally, you may berate yourself for the mistake and “should” all over yourself (another common cognitive distortion).

And minimize the importance of making mistakes and how mistakes are part of the growth and learning process.

Habits and Addictions

You magnify how great it would feel to experience the relief you get from your habit or addiction. And you minimize the consequences of it and your ability to get through what you are struggling with.

Panic Attacks

There are a lot of physical sensations that occur when you experience panic attacks. Racing heart, chest tightness, struggling to breathe, feeling like you’re suffocating, dying, or going crazy.

When you magnify your fear of having another panic attack, you actually increase the chances of having another.

This is because your sympathetic nervous system becomes activated in anticipation of the fear of a possible threat. Thus activating your fight or flight response.

But when you do this, you also minimize your ability to cope during a panic attack. And you can learn skills to lessen how often and intense your panic attacks are—for instance, mindfulness, breathing techniques, and learning how your thoughts can contribute to panic attacks.

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.  For example, when you magnify, things look bigger than they really are, but when you minimize, 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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