Psychological science has a great term for understanding where we focus our thoughts: confirmation bias. Confirmation Bias is basically our tendency to search for, or interpret, information that confirms our perception. So, if you are having thoughts that you aren’t good enough, then you will pay attention to situations in which your thoughts are confirmed and ignore other situations. For example, you might really notice, and stay focused on, the negative feedback you got from your boss or your spouse on a particular occasion. But you DON’T pay attention to, or you don’t give much weight to, other things that suggest that your negative thoughts about yourself are not completely true. You might, for example, forget about the positive feedback that you got from your spouse thanking you for being so supportive, a good listener, and doing some extra things during a stressful season of life. Or perhaps you’ve forgotten about the card you received from a friend expressing their appreciation for your love, support, and kindness. While it’s really easy for us to fall into the trap of the confirmation bias, we need to pay attention to our tendency to think this way. Not only are our thoughts about ourselves not always true, but most of the time it’s just not helpful to focus on all the negative stuff. It’s easy to get discouraged if we only pay attention to some things and not other things. In Philippians 4:8 the Bible tells us “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” I wonder, how would we feel about ourselves and our situations if we were very intentional in trying to pay attention to things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? Sure, it’s easier said than done – when we are mad, depressed, or discouraged it’s really hard to focus our thoughts on the flip side of the coin. But if we look – REALLY look – we will find that there are things that are praiseworthy even in the hardest of circumstances and our thoughts have the ability to influence how we feel and how we act. So, next time you are having some harsh thoughts about yourself or a situation, see if you can look for the things you are doing right, or the things that are going right, and focus on those things.
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