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All or nothing thinking is often involved in self-sabotaging behaviour. This pattern of thinking is typical of perfectionists who use all or nothing thinking as a way to define themselves. If they fall short of their idea then anything less than 100% success is a failure. That leads to harsh and negative judgments.

That then sets up a cycle of feeling bad about themselves and needing to numb those feelings by engaging in self-sabotage. Perfectionism is stressful. The harder you work to be perfect, the more overwhelmed and frustrated you feel. 

This is why awareness is the key to breaking that cycle. Research suggests that all-or-nothing thinking stems from our brain’s survival strategy. Our brain likes to create unambiguous categories because it’s efficient and predictable.

Knowing that all or nothing thinking is a pattern means we can pay attention to when we are doing it and take time to question it. We can recognize that when our thinking shows up as all or nothing it’s not about accuracy.

When we know the automatic nature of our brain it gives us the capacity to consciously intervene because on a deeper level we lose a lot with all or nothing thinking—our confidence and our sense of self.

-Coach Liane

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