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Disqualifying the Positive

Alana Garcia

“I got lucky in that class and that’s why I got a good grade.”

“I did poorly in that class, so I’m just not good at that subject.”

Do you often find yourself having these types of thoughts? The stark dichotomy of the statements is usually something you’re not aware of and a perception of yourself you have been using to frame your narrative for a long time. You attribute success to an alignment of the stars and failures to your inherent characteristics.

Thinking about positive and negative experiences this way is a cognitive distortion known as “Disqualifying the Positive.” For some reason, good things “don’t count” because  “that was just an easy task,” or attributed to chance, or even “a mistake.” Bad things are deeply internalized as personal flaws.

Too often, we forget to look in our rearview mirrors to recognize all the accomplishments it took stacked together that led us to the present challenge. Think empirically. Is it really possible that all those past data points that summarized success were an accident? Does it really make sense that all your failures are your fault and your feats were not?

Success is rarely based on pure luck. Challenges are an opportunity to grow. To change your mindset, change your language.

“I did poorly in the class so I probably need to change my approach.”

“I got a good grade because I worked hard and earned it!”