Identifying Your Irrational Beliefs Can Improve Your Well-Being

May 1, 2019
Irrational beliefs create discomfort because they impose conditions on a person's worth and happiness that are impossible to meet. With this in mind, you can see why it's important to learn how to identify them.

Oftentimes, your interpretation of a situation can cause negative emotions to appear or to increase them more than necessary. Keeping this in mind to embrace and work with what this article exposes. Specifically, you’ll learn to identify negative beliefs that appear during your daily life. We’ll also take a look at how identifying your irrational beliefs can improve your well-being.

Has anything ever made you angry and, after some time has passed, you realized that it wasn’t a big deal? For example, maybe you felt sad because you thought your partner was going to leave you. Then, nothing really happened. Or maybe you had an argument with your best friend and you thought you’d never talk to each other anymore. But that didn’t happen either.

As you can see, sometimes your irrational beliefs play tricks on you and make you feel bad. However, there’s no real reason to back them up.

“You mainly feel the way you think.”

-Albert Ellis-

What are irrational beliefs?

Irrational beliefs are the ideas you have about yourself, others, and the world, that don’t correspond with reality. They usually manifest in the form of “I should” or “I have to”. Furthermore, you consider them as obligations you must fulfill.

woman with irrational thoughts

Irrational beliefs create discomfort because they impose conditions on a person’s worth and happiness that are impossible to meet. With this in mind, you can see why it’s important to learn how to identify them. By doing so, you’ll be able to modify them and adapt them to better and more realistic beliefs.

Now, all of us experience this type of belief to a greater or lesser degree. However, the important thing is to try to balance them in order to avoid generating discomfort, or at least diminish it. In other words, you must learn to become aware of their presence and meaning.

Thereby, you’ll be able to look at your situation in a more realistic sense. Although it may seem complicated, it’s a step forward to taking control of your wellbeing.

The twelve most important irrational beliefs

Albert Ellis, a psychologist, listed twelve common irrational beliefs. They are the following:

1. Need for approval

It’s the idea that it’s absolutely necessary to be loved and accepted by significant others. When you’re small, it’s normal. But, after growing up, you have to try to do things because of the importance they have for yourself, not for everybody else.

2. Guilt and condemnation

It’s the tendency to judge and condemn both others and yourself. Now, the reality is that you cannot control the behavior of other people.

On the other hand, when you’re the one who does something that you consider inappropriate, you should try to fix it or learn from it. But beating yourself up for it does little help to make you improve.

3. Frustration leads inexorably to depression

If something doesn’t go the way you’d like, you consider it a tragedy. So, echoing the previous point, if something frustrates you, you must try to accomplish your goals anyway. And, if that’s not possible, accept the situation.

“Even when people act nastily to you, don’t condemn them or retaliate.”

-Albert Ellis-

4. Human suffering is inevitable because it is caused by external events and other people

Your interpretation of events is what causes negative emotions to appear. Therefore, controlling your suffering is in your hands.

5. You must worry about potential threats and dangers

Constantly anticipating that something bad is going to happen will create anxiety. Instead, you must focus on the present. And, if there is any danger in the near future, you will face it in due time.

6. It’s easier to avoid than to face situations

As explained in another article, in the short term, avoiding could be the easiest option. But this doesn’t mean that the discomfort disappears. In fact, in the long term, it will be greater.

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

-Albert Ellis-

woman running and looking back

7. You need to trust others who are stronger than yourself

Social support is necessary, but this irrational belief generates excessive dependence on others. Ideally, you’d be able to learn to be more independent and to do things for yourself. In turn, this will help you feel more fulfilled.

8. Fear of failure and incompetence

Of course you’re not perfect and obviously, you make mistakes. But, keeping this in mind will help you feel better and become more aware and more realistic of your abilities.

9. The burden of past traumas on the present

If something has affected you in the past, it will always hurt you. A great example where you can see this a lot is in romantic breakups. People are left with that first painful experience and refuse to meet new people. However, the truth is that each experience is different from the last one and it doesn’t mean that they will lead to the same suffering.

10. You must have perfect control over things

Trying to control everything that happens around you will just create more discomfort. Namely, because it’s impossible to do so. Accepting this fact is essential to enjoy life and avoid frustration from taking over.

11. You can achieve happiness without effort, by inertia, or without doing anything

On the contrary. When something really motivates you and requires you to actively engage in it, it brings greater joy than what is handed to you.

12. You don’t have control over your own emotions and there are some emotions you can’t avoid

If this were true, what are you doing reading this article?

In some of these irrational beliefs, you can see a reflection of yourself. On the other hand, in others, not so much. However, the truth is that we all have them to a greater or lesser extent. Don’t beat yourself up, it’s normal! Knowing about them is the first step to change them and to feel better, little by little.