Friday, October 10, 2008

Self-Esteem and the "Binocular Trick"

People naturally want their thoughts, feelings, and experiences to be consistent. If someone interviews for a job, for example, that pays them more than they thought that they would ever earn (even though they are capable of and deserving of the job), their thought that they are incapable is inconsistent with their experience of being offered the interview. Ultimately, they will likely feel very nervous about the interview. As a result of this anxiety and worry, they will not likely interview well. Therefore, they will likely be rejected for the job. This rejection can be internalized as "proof" that they are undeserving, thereby added to their lower sense of self and self-esteem.

Immediately after their aforementioned rejection, their initial anxiety will likely ease, because their experience (getting rejected) is now consistent with their untrue thought (that they are not deserving). Nonetheless, they will likely continue to feel inferior and earn less money. The true reality, however, is that they were and are capable. As they understand this truth (no matter the etiology of the original belief) both in how he/she thinks and feels about themself, they will perform much better in the future. This improved performance (based upon this change in perception and healthy understanding) will likely lead to ongoing approval and acceptance. This positive experience will likely lead to an overall improved sense of self, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-image.

Another common "cognitive distortion," as described by Burns, that influences self-esteem is known as the "binocular trick." If one has ever looked into a pair of binoculars the wrong way, everything looks far away. In essence, people sometimes use this phenomenon upon themselves, while comparing themselves with others. One might look at one's own accomplishments as if through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. Conversely, one may examine another's accomplishments as if through the right way through the same binoculars. When looking at one's shortcomings, there may be a tendency to examine these deficits as if looking at them properly though binoculars. On the other hand, others' shortcomings are examined in the opposite way.

Since most publicly embellish personal strengths, while minimizing weaknesses, the etiology of this discrepancy becomes self-evident. When comparing out, it is ultimately vital to remember that our self-knowledge far exceeds our understanding of others. This imbalanced perspective creates an illusion that can be overcome, therefore, by means of an awareness of the role of the binocular trick and the realization that everyone has his or her own set of shortcomings and strengths.

The "Power of Self-Talk" (DOC file)


George said...

Destructive self talk can run and ruin a persons life. For me, going through Bi Polar swings, when I am weak, the negative thoughts precede everything, so the events of my daily life are meaningless and not worth talking or thinking about. It is then that my thoughts and activities are "gobbled up" by the negative monster. I see and react before I even think or do. I know the outcome before I move, so I don't do anything. I rely on past failures to govern to outcome of present thoughts and ideas.
People have asked if my glass is half full or empty, I tell them I don't even like the color or my glass.

idoexist said...

Hi George, I wonder if being "mindful" of your thought pattern is a step to being able to not only understand your thoughts during those down swings, but also help you to find a balance to help get you through? For myself, education through articles such as these help me to strike a balance, even if that balance is just a few steps toward the positive side.