Stop Overgeneralisation to Build Self-Esteem

December 1, 2015 Fay Agathangelou

Overgeneralisation is a common problem that’s associated with low self-esteem, as well as other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety (Low Self-Esteem and Mental Illness). If you overgeneralise, you make assumptions or draw conclusions that are very broad and distorted. Note that overgeneralisation is not the same as seeing the bigger picture. Bigger picture thinking can be very valuable and healthy. However, overgeneralisation is a type of negative thinking that distorts reality; it is an unbalanced perception and an unhealthy way of thinking. It can magnify the negatives which can be damaging. The good news is that you can learn to stop overgeneralising and build your self-esteem.

Examples of Overgeneralisation That Relate to Self-Esteem

Before you can stop overgeneralisation, you first need to recognise that you do it. Take a look at the examples below, and see if any of them are familiar to you. I encourage you come up with your own examples and add them to the list.

  • “I’m no good at this, therefore I’m not good at anything.”
  • “I made a mistake therefore I’m a bad person.”
  • “I never get it right.”
  • “I’m terrible at everything.”
  • “He doesn’t like me therefore nobody likes me.”
  • “She didn’t say hello therefore she doesn’t like me.”
  • “I’m a failure.”
  • “I’m ugly.”
  • “I’m useless.”
  • “I’m worthless.”
  • “It didn’t go perfectly therefore I failed.”
  • “That always happens to me.”
  • “Everything is terrible.”
  • “My life is terrible.”
  • “Nothing good ever happens to me.”

Some words can be signs of generalisation. Specific words to watch out for might be "always," "everything," "everyone," "nobody," "nothing" or "all." Any self-talk that is excessively negative is a warning sign, too. Black-and-white, or "polarised" thinking is a form of overgeneralisation.

How to Stop Overgeneralisation to Build Self-Esteem

  • Catch yourself overgeneralising. Listen out for overgeneralisation and notice it happening. Stop it when you can, and counter it wherever possible. It may take some getting used to, but you’ll get better with practice. If you’re finding it hard to notice your overgeneralisation, it may be helpful to get support from a trusted friend or a therapist.
  • Stop labelling. Labels hurt people, including yourself, so don’t do it. Stop labelling yourself as "bad," "useless," "worthless" etc. Overgeneralisation is associated with low self-esteem and other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Learn how to stop overgeneralisation.
  • Be specific and temporary. For example, “I didn’t do my best that day but I learned things that will make me better next time.”
  • See the positives in yourself and your life. It’s important to see the positives and get a more balanced picture. Your mistakes, imperfections, achievements or possessions don’t define you, and nobody is perfect. People are complex and everyone has strengths and weaknesses (Stop Being Ashamed of Who You Are to Build Self-Esteem).
  • Stop blaming yourself. You’re human and you’re not perfect. You’re on a journey of learning and growing and it’s expected that you will make mistakes. Additionally, there will be people who reject you and it’s not necessarily your fault. While you need to accept responsibility for some things, it’s important that you don’t automatically blame yourself for everything.

Getting out of the habit of overgeneralisation is something that can be learned and improved over time. You will get better with practice, and your self-esteem will improve when you develop healthier ways of thinking. Stop the overgeneralisation and build your self-esteem.

You can find Fay Agathangelou on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and her website.

APA Reference
Agathangelou, F. (2015, December 1). Stop Overgeneralisation to Build Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Fay Agathangelou

December, 4 2015 at 12:36 am

No eyes ever came my way.
I went to meetings. People greeted and presentations were done. People talked. They shooked hands and smiled. But,
No eyes ever came my way.
I sat and listened and tried to get conversation. People walked and talked as they knew whom to talk to, but
No eyes ever came my way.
I sat and listened. At breaks, I walked around and talked to few. I grabbed coffee and chatted. But not much listening. People knew where to go. I felt lonely. I am me, but
No eyes ever came my way.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Fay Agathangelou
December, 7 2015 at 8:52 pm

Thank you for sharing your feelings John, I'm sure many people can relate to that. It's normal to experience uncomfortable feelings when you're doing something new and I'm sorry to hear that you felt lonely. These are the sorts of issues a therapist can help you with - no matter how lonely you feel, you don't have to do this alone. Well done on showing up, give yourself credit for challenging yourself because that's a great achievement.

December, 1 2015 at 7:43 pm

Sometimes you just got to feel free. By not feeling free, we are then chained to something. A good self worth and self esteem are good starts. Yes, and stop blaming yourself for everything. The reason you blame yourself is because you have a conscience, while the guiltless have no conscience. Be free and go.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Fay Agathangelou
December, 1 2015 at 8:39 pm

Thanks for your comment John, I agree. Freedom to be yourself is empowering while the opposite is entrapment. Self-respect is a good start :)

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