Stop focusing on your flawsDave Smith
Do you tend to see evidence of your deficiencies and defects wherever you look? If you do, your brain is projecting those perceptions. It’s similar to how the Pokemon Go app makes virtual creatures appear on the sidewalk in front of you. When you learn to recognize your inner demons projected for what they are, you can begin to get rid of them.
Researcher William Swann has found evidence that people verify for themselves what they already believe about themselves by selective information processing. More specifically, he explains that people use:
Selective attention: you do this when you pay more attention and spend more time considering comments that confirm that you have failures and that you cannot be loved.
Selective memory: this is a tendency to remember comments that confirm their negative self-perceptions and self-criticisms.
Selective interpretation: it does this when it creates critical comments without questioning them, or interprets unclear comments, or the absence of positive comments, as evidence that it is not worthy of love and has defects in some essential way.
To better understand how you maintain your self-perception of being defective, inadequate or unworthy of love, question each of these three factors with an exercise.
Challenging selective attention
What happened during the day that showed you that you are worthy of love, or at least question your self-perception of not being kind? Choose one or two situations (for example, your partner wanted to watch TV together or a friend called you on the phone).
How did you feel in these situations?
How did you think about these situations? For example, did you discard or minimize this feedback? Did you doubt the honesty or competence of the person who grants it? (For example, did you assume that your partner wanted to watch TV with you just by habit?)
Can you see how you are, or could you be, self-verify with selective attention? Selective memory challenging
What good or positive things did you do today? (Everything counts; nothing is too insignificant).
In what ways have relatives, friends or even acquaintances shown that they appreciate you?
How did your partner show that he cares about you?
Challenging selective interpretation If you think someone has shown you in some way that you are not kind, could you be misinterpreting the motivation or intentions of the other person? (For example, did you misunderstand your tiredness as if it didn’t interest you or didn’t want you?)
Could you be making the comments worse than expected? (For example, thinking that you are defective and that you cannot be loved when your partner was just trying to talk about something that bothered him).
Are you minimizing your strengths and focusing on ways in which you are not living up to your own unrealistic expectations or the accomplishments of your partner and others?
Try to repeat this exercise daily until you have a natural awareness of these problems as you go through your days. Because the impulse for self-verification can make this difficult to do, write your answers as a way to stay focused and be guided. You may find it helpful to discuss this with a support partner or another person you trust.
By increasing your awareness of how you verify yourself, you will discover that you question the negative perceptions of yourself … and that the critical thoughts of your inner demons are not as real as they seemed. As this clarity increases, you can even begin to see yourself as a capable, dignified and adorable person.
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