Cognitive distortions


“They are looking at me!”

For this exercise to be valid, you should write down your answers.

Imagine that you go to a professional course of great prestige and the following situations occur:

1.- Upon arriving at the room where the course is taught you realize that a group of people you don’t know at all are looking at you, talking to each other and laughing. What do you think? How do you feel?

2.- During the course you see that there are two people who often look at you with a very serious expression. What do you think? How do you feel?

3.- In a group activity they ask you to make a proposal and suddenly you don’t know what to say. What do you think? How do you feel?

Once you have written your answers, review them and reflect on the degree of veracity of your interpretation of reality:

  • What I have thought is the reality and fits the truth or is it my way of interpreting reality?
  • Have those thoughts made me feel good or bad?
  • Are they cognitive distortions?

Keep in mind that in situation one at no time it is indicated that their conversation and their laugh have nothing to do with you, it just says that they look at you… the same goes for situation two.


  • Bad thinking habits that we often use to understand reality in an unreal way.
  • Instruments of pathological criticism against my self-esteem.
  • Evaluating and inaccurate, since they only show one side of the issue.
  • They are based on emotional processes, not rational. 

Pathological criticism is the toxic inner voice that attacks me and judges me, emphasizing my failures and forgetting my achievements. It is based on the “duties” that I set myself and which are my vital norms. It destroys self-esteem. This is one of his favorite messages: “I will never get it.”

Want to know more about cognitive distortions? Do the following exercise.


“My own distortions”


A general rule is taken out of a concrete fact: “I felt nervous in an oral presentation, I will always be nervous when speaking in public!”

Your example: ___________


Pejorative global labels are used to describe: “I am a disaster!”, “I am useless!”.

Your example: ___________


We only see some parts of reality, usually the negative ones, ignoring the rest: “I have answered a question in the exam wrong!”.

Your example: ___________


Take things to their extremes. Intermediate positions are not accepted, nor are they able to give relative valuations. It’s all or nothing: “If I can’t be relaxed, it’s because I’m anxious”, “If you are not with me, you are my enemy”.

Your example: ___________


You feel guilty about everything, whether it is or not your fault: “Everything is my fault, I’m sorry”.

Your example: ___________


Everything that happens has to do with me: “Surely they are talking about me”, “They won’t come, it’s because they don’t want to see me”.

Your example: ___________


It is based on the idea that everyone is like me, therefore they think like me, therefore I know what they are thinking: “They think that I will not be able”, “Everyone has realized”.

Your example: ___________


“The project has gone fatal, I should have planned everything”, “They are all against me, I cannot do anything”.

Your example: ___________


Interpreting reality based on our emotions. If I feel this way it is true: “I feel incompetent, therefore I am incompetent”.

Your example: ___________

10. Your turn:

Indicate three that you think you use most frequently:

1.- ___________

2.- ___________

3.- ___________

Reflect and decide: Do you want to change your way of thinking?

Choose one out of three that you use the most and do the following Cognitive Restructuring exercise.


“Cognitive restructuring”

This exercise intends to help you restructure your thinking, replacing those thoughts that mistreat your self-esteem with others that enhance it. It is not easy and requires time, dedication and perseverance.


  1. Search in your thoughts and in your language the statements that may correspond to the different cognitive distortions.
  2. Become aware of them. Analyze them and think about what type of distortion they correspond to. Identify what is the function of this criticism.
  3. Identify what they are reinforcing and try to learn how replace that function in a healthier way.
  4. Do not accept those thoughts. Stop them.
  5. Refuse them. Replace them with more constructive and truthful ones that help you feel better.

Simple example: “I broke a glass and I get in a bad mood” 

1.- Self-affirmation: “I am a disaster!”

2.- Distortion: Global Designation

3.- Refutation: “I am not a disaster. I am a valid and competent person. I have broken a glass by accident and this does not matter more. I pick it up and continue with what I was doing calmly”

What have I learned with this exercise?

Cognitive distortions influence our Self-Esteem, but beliefs have a much more relevant role. Read our next article on Beliefs and you will discover aspects of yourself that you may not know.

Discover yourself

Good self-esteem is the basis of personal success. It is essential to develop a healthy personality. It is a dynamic quality that is acquired and generated throughout our lives and therefore can grow or weaken.