Cognitive distortions series: discounting positives

August 29, 2020

This is part of a series looking at the most common cognitive distortions, how they show up, and what you can do to start becoming more aware of them in a personal, career and team context that I originally posted on Instagram. You can read more about cognitive distortions and find links to other posts here.

What is discounting positives?

Discounting positives is finding reasons that your positive experiences are unimportant or 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.

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 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.

How it might show up for you:

In your life

"He was just being nice when he complimented me."

In your career

"My appraisal only went well because my boss doesn't want an awkward conversation."

In your team

"The customer only likes our work because they don't know us as people."

Challenge your thinking by

Start a glow journal.

Write down at least 3 positive things that happen each day and what you did that helped to make them happen. Acknowledge your strength or characteristic that you have that enabled it. Be as specific as you can.

At the end of each week, read through your glow journal and circle or highlight the ones that are most important to you or have had the biggest impact:

[Positive experience] happened today because I [positive action you took]. I am [positive strength/characteristic of yours].

e.g. I got great feedback on my written report today from a co-worker because I wrote it in a way that was interesting and easy to read. I am good at communicating complex ideas in a way that is easy to understand.

This will help you notice the good things that happen - proven to increase your positivity and sense of wellbeing - AND help you understand and take responsibility for that role that you played. You'll be able to use the strengths that you see in yourself to build more positive experiences in the future.

Get in touch if you'd like to talk about how to use this activity to help your team understand their strengths and stop discounting the positive.

Come and say hi! You can connect with me on Instagram (Rachel @ Rachel Lee Coaching) and LinkedIn too.