Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Get Rid of That Magnifying Glass!

I love teenagers.  They are perhaps the most excited bunch of people in America.  They are also lots of fun.  Part of the reason they are so fun is that they tend to exaggerate things, and they can be terribly funny when they do it.

Magnification, “the mental mistake of exaggerating the importance of a shortcoming or minimizing the importance of a good quality” (Pucci, 2006) is one of those mental mistakes I see my teenagers making most often.  Have you ever heard a teenager say something like, “My life is ruined because I failed that test,” or “Everyone will look at me if I wear that ugly shirt,” or “That zit is so ginormous that I can’t go to school because everyone will look at me and I will be socially ruined!”?  These are examples of exaggerating the importance of a shortcoming.

We also tend to minimize the importance of a good quality.  A brilliant Julliard trained musician could sit at a keyboard, play for hours, and play just about anything by ear. He said that he could not have a career in music because he is a terrible public speaker.  Even though all his professors and peers said that he had great potential, this man limited himself in his belief that all of his talent didn’t count, and instead focused on how terrible he was at public speaking.

How can we avoid magnifying?

1. Ask, “Is this shortcoming really likely to interfere with me meeting my goals?” (Pucci)

2. Ask, “Does my shortcoming really affect me the way I think it does?” (Pucci)

3. Ask, “Might my strengths affect my situation more than my shortcomings?” (Pucci)

Accurately assessing our assets and abilities can be a great aid in avoiding magnification.

Pucci, A. R. (2006). The Client’s Guide to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: How to live a healthy, happy life… no matter what! Lincoln, NE: iUniverse.