Why Can’t I Ever Get Things Right? & Why You Think This Way
From time to time we ask ourselves this common question – “why can’t I ever get things right?”
Why does it always feel like we’re trying to run up a mountain? Why can’t things just be easy for a change?!!
If this is you – I feel you.
I also can’t blame you because this is how we all feel from time to time. Things feel like they never go right, life feels hard and we never feel like we’re getting anywhere. So the next time you ask yourself – why can’t I ever get things right, just remember, it happens..
Why do I write this? Well, projectenergise.com is all about healthy mental habits and overcoming anxiety, but I also want to drill home a simple cognitive distortion that often interferes with our day to day. When we feel like we can’t ever get anything right, it’s important to understand cognitive distortions. These are the ways we see our reality. Our perception of what might actually be happening literally gets distorted and we feel like our lives are just one more mistake after another.
These distortions are important to learn because they might just make you say ‘hey, I do that all the time!’
Overgeneralization is often the cognitive distortion that forces us to think in a way that every single bad event in our lives is part of a never ending stream of bad things.
Do you ever hear people say ‘I’m so unlucky, nothing good ever happens to me.’
The thing is, these people (or us ourselves) only pick up on the bad that happens. Call these people pessimistic or negative but overgeneralization can affect us all at some stage in our lives. This course of thinking can be a spiral.
We can easily spiral into this type of thinking if a number of bad things occur at once. If this is the case, we are then primed to expect this to happen over and over again. Truth be told, it can be a huge task to end this cycle of thinking.
Overgeneralization forces us to put ourselves in boxes of ‘unlucky’ or ‘lucky’ When we’re suffering from anxiety or depression, we normally end up in the ‘unlucky’ category.
This black and white way of thinking is kind of like the ‘anti-mindfulness’ beast.
It’s a beast because we do not see good situations in a rational way. When we find ourselves in a good situation or experience, we are still bracing for the bad to happen or waiting for what bad comes out of this current experience.
It makes it incredibly hard to enjoy the present good experience.
How This Affects Our Daily Lives
Overgeneralization leads us to think that our lives are a never ending cycle of defeat. We think that we can never get things right and that we are the cause of all of our problems without being mindful of the fact that things happen, and situations come and go.
We lose focus of the fact that good things are happening to us all the time as well as so called ‘bad’ things. Worse still, we can’t appreciate the good when we generalise our whole day as bad.
Here’s how we might overgeneralise our lives without allowing ourselves to be mindful of the good;
- We don’t have many friends – think people don’t like us
- We miss our bus – bad things always happen to us no matter what
- We lose our wallet – I lose everything
- We don’t have our umbrella when it rains – I’m so unlucky
These seemingly irrelevant but frequent everyday events add up when we overgeneralise and cause us to see ourselves in a negative light.
Cognitive distortions come and go but for the overly anxious they can be a constant theme.
Another cognitive distortion is shoulds. Shoulds are the rules that we put in place ourselves. They may also make ourselves think ‘why can’t I ever get things right?‘ because we live by these ‘rules’. The truth is these ‘life rules’ are completely made up by ourselves and when we slip out side of these rules we can feel overly anxious and stressed.
As a naturally anxious person I’ve always lived by my own set of rules. They have always been the type of rules I’ve lived by so that I can feel like I’m in control of my emotions and actions. It took me years to realize I was doing this and only after realising was I able to change how I was behaving.
The problem with setting your own rules is they’re often unrealistic no matter how logical they seem to us.
Some basic rules we set for example are;
- I should really exercise but I’m too lazy
- I should really read more but I don’t have time
- I should really make time for my friends
- I should go for a walk at least once a day
- I should smile more or people will think I’m grump
- I should go out more or people will think I’m boring
The problem with setting rules for yourself is the guilt you feel when you don’t stay within them. These ‘rules’ are comprised of ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’.
When you think you should do something and you don’t, you can elevate your anxiety to higher levels. One ‘should’ that I put on myself as a teenager was ‘I should make more friends‘ because that’s what most people did.
We ask ourselves ‘why can’t I ever get anything right?’ because we see every occurance in our daily lives as being directed to us. Every experience seems to feel like it’s being aimed at us. We’re the ones with bad luck or we’re the ones who have done something wrong. We think this way because it’s how we think we’ve always thought.
Personalization forces us to compare ourselves to others and make us feel as if forces outside of our control are down to us and taking or not taking actions.
Like the other cognitive distortions on this list, personalization manifests quite easily. If you’re the person who people tell ‘Don’t take things so personally!’ then you could be under this distortions spell without even realising.
Here’s some examples of how this cognitive distortion can affect you in daily life;
- The bus driver starts driving away – you think that he did it on purpose to you
- You compare your body to someone else’s – They must think I’m unhealthy
- You don’t hit the football goal – you think your teams success is all down to you.
- Someone says something negative in an online group chat – you think that it’s only aimed at you
Personalization can be exhausting because we feel as if actions or words from others are constantly in some way directed at us. When you’re engaging in this type of behaviour, it’s easy to feel like you can’t ever get things right because you constantly feel like everything is your fault when in truth it is not.
Fallacy Of Fairness
We think we know what is fair and what is not fair. This could be because of how we were brought up by our parents or just experiences we’ve had over the years. Just like shoulds, we have certain rules of fairness.
Almost every situation we are in, we measure everything against our ‘fairness ruler‘. When something doesn’t match up with how fair we think things should be, it’s easy for us to become agitated, angry and upset.
There is a general rule of fairness for everything which stems from what is morally right and what is morally wrong. People who have their own ‘fairness ruler‘, often have extreme views on fairness and exhaust themselves when things don’t match up.
- Someone else gets the job you wanted – you think they must of cheated
- Someone gets a car that you want but you can’t afford – This makes you feel like life is not fair
- Someone lets the car go in front of you but does not let you go – You feel like this is unfair
- You are given perfume for your birthday and you sibling is given $50
The idea here is life is not fair. This is widely accepted however there are those who feel as if everything should be done fairly and when this does not occur, it’s a catastrophe. Being mindful of the fact life isn’t fair allows us to stop measuring our ‘fairness ruler against everything that happens.
Why Can’t I Ever Get Things Right? Conclusion
There are things that are in our control and of course there are things that are not within our control. The next time you feel like you can’t ever get things right, just ask yourself if you’re engaging in the above thought patterns. Really be honest with yourself about it. Chances are, you’re letting yourself be controlled by these cognitive distortions. These distortions can be stopped by simply being mindful of the fact that you’re behaving like this.
Life is not a straightforward path and it’s important to reflect and learn all we can about why we think in certain ways. With that in mind, I hoped this helped you in some way.
Here’s to your success – Sean