7 Irrational Thoughts That Disrupt Your Life

Steven Aitchison
Written by Steven Aitchison

A lot of us suffer from irrational thinking which can affect our lives in a dramatic way. It can seperate the successful people in life from the unsuccessful ones, it can mean the difference between loving someone and hating someone, it can be the difference between peace and war. All wars, Yes I mean ALL, are caused by irrational thinking.

In this post I will look at seven common irrational thoughts and hopefully if you suffer from irrational thinking it will help you to change.


1. If someone criticises me there must be something wrong with me

There are many reasons why people criticise each other but it does not mean there is something wrong with you if they do criticise you.  It means they have a differing opinion to you which is fantastic as without differing opinions in the world it would be a terrible place to live.

2. I must always seek approval in order to feel good about myself

Many people have thought this at one time or another in their lives, however it becomes damaging when it is an entrenched belief.  There is no way you can please everybody all the time so there is no point in even trying.  Seek approval from yourself and if you’re happy and feel good that’s all that matters.  Yes it’s nice to have other people’s opinions but don’t go out of the way to please other people.

3. I won’t try anything new unless I know I will be good at it

Many people suffer from these types of thoughts.  Trying new things in your life is a way for you to grow and learn more about yourself.  You don’t have to be good at everything in your life but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy new experiences even if you are not good at them.

4. It’s not my fault my life didn’t go the way I wanted

I have news for you; it is your fault.  This doesn’t make you bad and it doesn’t mean you are a failure.  You have control over your thoughts and therefore your actions.  You thoughts and actions will determine your life.  If you constantly blame others for the way your life has turned out you have given all your power away to other people.  Take the control back and take responsibility for your thoughts and actions.

5. I am inferior to everyone else

That’s just the way you feel, which doesn’t make it true.  You have qualities that nobody else can touch and other people have qualities that you can’t touch.  Recognising your strengths will build your self confidence recognising others strengths will build their self confidence but don’t put yourself down when recognising that somebody else is better than you at something.

6. I was rejected which means there is something wrong with me

This is over generalising like the person who was rejected in a relationship, they think it always happens to them and they must somehow be unworthy of love.  People reject others due to differing ideals, just like you do, but it doesn’t mean you are in any way unworthy it just means your ideals don’t match someone else’s ideals.

7. If I feel happy about life something will go wrong

Another common irrational thought.  You deserve all the happiness you make for yourself; your past is your past, if there are still issues lurking from your past that is blocking you to feel happy about today speak to someone about it.  Do not tinge your present and future thoughts with bad memories or else your present and future thoughts will get infected and your life will always stay the same.

How to stop your irrational thoughts

Simple! Just catch yourself every time you have an irrational thought or self defeating thought and replace the wording of your internal thought.  For example:

You are driving on a beautiful day and a bird decides to shit on your car.  You might think:

“that always happens to me, why do they always shit on my car”


“It’s about time I got the car washed”.

Look for the keywords in there “always”, this is an untruth.  If birds always shit on his car his car would be floating in the stuff.  So catch yourself with untrue statements such as:

“always” e.g. I always get caught in the rain (If that were true you’d be a fish)

“I never……………………” e.g. “I can never get a parking space.” (If that were true you wouldn’t be able to go anywhere in your car without stopping).

“I couldn’t……” e.g. “I couldn’t walk a mile”  (have you tried?).

“I’m hopeless at……………”e.g. “Oh, I am hopeless at talking in a group.” (usually said whilst talking to a group of friends).

“It’s terrible……” e,g. “Isn’t it terrible that it’s raining?” (Eh! No, it’s not terrible).

There are a lot more irrational thoughts out there and you have to be conscious to catch yourself thinking them.  I hope this article helps you to catch your irrational thoughts and brings your life into perspective.

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  • […] I believe a lot of your happiness is down to positive thinking.  Now there are lots and lots of books and courses on this subject and I am not even going to attempt to explain it here in this post.  But what I will say is change your thoughts and your life will change dramatically. There is a post here that you may like to look at Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life. […]

  • In my line of work I deal with people who are really struggling with negative thought patterns, but the majority of the time these stem from deep seated limiting beliefs (many of which go back to our childhood, so they’re not even our beliefs they’re our parents or carers!).

    There are many easy (and completely natural) ways to overcome these patterns and it doesn’t have to be a long complicated process. Thank you for sharing this post.


    • yes, i totally agree, they r deep seated limiting beliefs, unconsciously given by parents, carers etc!

  • Thanks so much for this post – it’s nice to see the principles of REBT out in the big bad world :) For those of you who want to know more, I encourage you to read any books by Dr. Albert Ellis. Ellis developed REBT, so he’s the “source” so to speak.

    If you are interested in using REBT to help you manage any addictive behavior, you’ll be wanting to visit – it’s a non-profit, free to attend, peer-support group, similar in purpose to 12-step programs, but significantly different in approach. If you’re in the Phoenix, Arizona area, you can visit our local site:

  • Very nice article indeed. This helped me clear out some thoughts as I am planning to write about happiness and self-esteem for a longer period. Sometimes we all get in bad mood, this article is helpful in overcoming that. Great job.

  • Well its been some very interesting reading,thankyou so very much ,im seeing a difference already…Catch yourself!!!!! and yes im very aware of it,catching myself seems to work with me.Hope to continue with the positive thinking.Thankyou so much.

  • Number 4 strikes a nerve with me, as the abuse I was put through was NOT my fault or my responsibility. I refuse to be told that I should not act the victim…I AM a victim of a very violent situation. As with most victims of domestic violence/abuse, we are already blaming ourselves and believing we somehow deserved it. So according to number 4, I am supposed to take responsibility for being abused? I have EVERY right to blame my attacker for what he did to me and the state he left me in! It is not my fault that this is where my life is…it is the fault of the man who beat me up when I tried to leave his physical presence. He took the power from me, I had no control over those actions at all.

  • I love the idea of doing first and apologizing later.

    So many people want to tell you how it’s done, tell you not to try it or give you negative feedback before you ever begin. The problem with this is it creeps into your mind so you will never succeed.

    Part of this problem is you become afraid to fail in the eyes of others or have them bite at you if you make a mistake.

    Instead, do everything you want now – if something goes awry, apologize later. You’ll never be able to start if all you accept is no. It’s easier to apologize than to get someone’s approval.
    .-= Murlu´s last blog ..A Crash Course On Holding Your First Blog Contest =-.

  • Thank you for all your articles. I like how they are logically laid out, and kind of take a fresh perspective on things. Thank you. I’m personally trying to overcome depression, which I think comes from my Asperger’s Syndrome (which I have self diagnosed myself with).

  • WOW! This is a subject that I am really passionate about! I see way too many people fall subject to these self-limiting thoughts!!!

    Of those that you have mentioned I most struggle with 1 and 2. I have worked to overcome them but sometimes you still have to sit back and re-evaluate and remember that there is only one opinion of yourself that matters…and it’s your own.

    It’s amazing to me also, how few people understand that they have to take full responsibility for their lives… no matter how good or bad. You can’t just let life happen to you… you have to take it by the horns and make it happen the way you want!

    Incredible stuff Steve!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Tribe Syndication Community: How They Work & How They Multiply Your Online Presence =-.

  • I admit, I have done the irrational thinking, the irrational phrases and statements, I have done it and my husband corrects me while showing sympathy- but enough is enough! You are absolutely right Steven. The exaggeration is unnecessary and the truth is that we can dispel those negative thoughts with your simple awareness and clarification exercise. I will become more conscious of what I say – and the real truth – and close the gap :)! Thank you!

  • I use to be one that thought that anytime somebody criticized me it meant that there was something wrong with me. But I later realized that it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with me. And you reaffirmed this for me. Thank you because I found this to be very helpful for me!

  • Hi Steve,
    Great articel i’m loving youre writings to a great deal. I have a man in my life that could grat benifit from youre readings. I wanted to add to this by saying i dont know if it helps anyone reading. But changing negative thinking is one of the hardest things i think a person can learn. I found it so dificult that i created a dragon in my head that just eats them. And for me it was that easy. It is however up to me to replace the thought. I do this with a word game. Insted of difficult i use different. Things like that.
    Hey keep writing.
    Thanks, Kristina

  • re no 4.

    My life didn’t go as I expected it to and It wasn’t my fault or if it was I’d like to know how.

    I gave birth to a handicapped child.

    Which one of my thoughts or actions was responsible for that?

  • I would also add that money can lead to irrational thinking. If one is always consumed with thoughts of having more money, the finer things in life can really become dampened, such as family, love, progress, growth, and action. I agree with the first commenter – these are limiting beliefs that many don’t even know are limiting them, and such is the quest to try and help these folks see a better life.
    .-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..Introducing The First Wizard, Lisa Irby =-.

  • Hai

    Steven.. Your articles are awesome, i really love to read it! Now i came to know what are the things that i need to do, to get ride of my difficult life!!
    Thank you very much once again, and i hope to see more of of your articles soon!!

    • Great question. There are two references you may want to look at:

      For a really good resource read “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” by Dr. David Burns. He discusses the range of negative thoughts (“cognitive distortions”) that have negative impact on our lives, and gives some precise methods of recognizing and overcoming them.

      I have posted some articles on the topic, as well as on changing limiting beliefs on my site as well (Steve, I apologize if this seems like a shameless plug – I just think these are relevant to the question).
      .-= Chris Akins´s last blog ..Book Review: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life =-.

  • Excellent post! Some of those thoughts ring so very true for me, I do tell myself “they criticized/rejected me therefore there is something wrong with me”. Ugh. I have read that it is important to notice self-defeating thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts – however, it is important that the thoughts that you use to replace them are believable/true. eg.

    replacing “it’s TERRIBLE that it’s raining” with “Argh, it’s raining, oh well – doesn’t really matter, my lettuce garden will grow better” – instead of “I LOVE it when it rains :) :) :) “. Because we need to be able to believe the thoughts we are thinking.

  • Great article. I tweeted it, so that is when you know I really enjoy it. Sometimes our irrational thoughts can be so subtle that it is hard to detect. That is why we have to constantly practice mindfulness of our own thinking. Being aware of the origins of our attitude, and finding ways to improve it and make it more pragmatic.

    I will definitely bookmark this blog and keep it in mind for future reading. Thanks for your time!
    .-= Steven Handel´s last blog ..Six Aspects Of A Well-Balanced Person (Part 1) =-.

  • Among the list, I like #3. Humans actually prefer to do things that they are already good at and not try new things. This reinforces who they are. Ironically though, they’ll never learn anything new if they carry this approach with them through life.
    .-= Richard Cummings´s last blog ..SEO: Error Traffic Control =-.

  • […] Steven Aitchison writes about how to change your thoughts for a better life at his own blog: Change Your Thoughts. If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his feed, follow him on Twitter or read one of his most popular articles, 7 Irrational Thoughts That Disrupt Your Life. […]

  • […] Steven Aitchison writes about how to change your thoughts for a better life at his own blog: Change Your Thoughts. If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his feed, follow him on Twitter or read one of his most popular articles, 7 Irrational Thoughts That Disrupt Your Life. […]

  • […] Steven Aitchison writes about how to change your thoughts for a better life at his own blog: Change Your Thoughts If you enjoyed this article, you may like to subscribe to his feed, follow him on Twitter or read one of his most popular articles, 7 Irrational Thoughts That Disrupt Your Life […]

  • this is probably the most encouraging post. what you listed are not only theories but also many useful tips for us. absolutely to change thoughts is difficult but it will change your life if you could do that.

  • thanks for the owner this blog, after I read your artical.
    I fell prefer it so much and I think it’s useful for deloping
    to another blog&website too.

  • At one point or another in our lives – probably most of us have to deal with this kind of limiting/negative thoughts and beliefs. The sooner they are dealt with and left in the past (where they belong) – the better

  • At one point or another in our lives – probably most of us have to deal with this kind of limiting/negative thoughts and beliefs. The sooner they are dealt with and left in the past (where they belong) – the better. Some might take time, lots of searching, even studying and coaching – while some are easy or non existent. I’d guess those last ones were solved in one of the previous lives… :)

    Daria’s great blog post..Regeneration of Cells – CBS Cutting News

  • 1. “If someone criticises me there must be something wrong with me”

    > That may be true — or not.

    “It means they have a differing opinion to you which is fantastic as without differing opinions in the world it would be a terrible place to live.”

    > If two opinions differ, that means that at least one of them is false.

    2. “I must always seek approval in order to feel good about myself”

    > Approval is (albeit no proof) an strong indicator that your thinking is right.

    3. “I won’t try anything new unless I know I will be good at it”

    > Right, but there must be a niche where you one of the best to accomplish anything meaningful in life. So you better start learning early.

    4. “It’s not my fault my life didn’t go the way I wanted”

    > We are only 50% responsible for our output. The other 50% is determined by our surroundings.

    5. “I am inferior to everyone else”

    > Not much need to speculate here. Compare your earning to others, and you have your relative worth for other people.

    6. “I was rejected which means there is something wrong with me”

    > I’d take it as feedback — which worth I would determine according to the qualities of the person giving it.

    7. “If I feel happy about life something will go wrong”

    > There are ups and downs in life. One should prepare in good times for the bad ones.

    Alexander’s great blog post..Die Grundsätze eines friedvollen Kriegers

  • much to ponder on !!
    many of these thoughts pass through my head on a regular basis,
    changing my internal communication seems such an easy concept to take on board, how easy it is to actually accomplish …..
    time will tell.

  • My problems with irrational thinking are the complete opposite. I frequently tend to overestimate my capabilities when it comes to getting things done in a given time period. In other words, I tend to bite off more than I can chew and wind up becoming overwhelmed all less productive all-around.

    Do you have any suggestions for combating irrational thoughts of this nature?

    Fat Lester’s great blog post..WhyPark Aquired by

  • This is a good article. Although all of the points hold water, several of them are not conscious thoughts that play out in my inner monologue.

    So, how do I change thoughts that I never really consciously have? After all, I can’t just change the wording on something like “I never try something unless I know I’m going to be good at it”.

    My answer is that I change my actions and those subconscious thoughts usually follow suit. I pick up a guitar, drop my ego, and accept that to become a good guitar player, I am going to have to suck at first.

    And I have no qualms about using the word “suck”. It will turn some readers off, and it will forge a deeper connection with other types of readers. Informal and familiar yes. Bad? I argue no.

    That’s just my two cents.


    Derek’s great blog post..Now We’re Cookin’ With Gas

  • Good article, another way that I use to stop myself jumping into irrational thought patterns is to ask myself the question “what else could this mean?”. Any situation can take on a number of meanings depending on your perspective, look for 2 or 3 different possible meanings and choose the most empowering.


  • Steve:

    Wow, this is an awesome post! I get a lot of these irrational thoughts from time to time. Thankfully, I’m getting a little better being aware of them. Some of these have been eradicated, but others (such as seeking approval and not trying something I’m good at) I tend to repeat. Again, I think the first step is awareness and I think I am on my way.

    One thing I wanted to share…at my last job I received a not-so-great review from my boss the first time around. I felt bad, because I didn’t think I was that bad. But I was – I needed improvement. At that moment, I could have let his criticism really get me down. But rather than withdrawing and taking it out on myself, I used it as motivation to get better. Needless to say, I did get better and my last review was more positive. All of us have a choice in how we handle criticism (and other thoughts). I have a feeling that I am going to be referring to this post in the future. Thanks!

    Tim’s great blog post..Deep Thoughts: Soul Pancake

    • Yes, i agree … awasome post. Building self esteem and realize that we have to spare my special time to reflect what should i do then. I have feeling that I need to do more than before. For my self and of course for my environment. Thank you

  • I can always hear the irrational thinking no.7. Usually, people will say that if you are very happy, something bad will happen that will make you sad. Sometimes I thought of this before that’s why I never express my happiness fully so as not to counter-which I know was very wrong. And you said it right here, I like the way you explain these irrational thinking. Right now, I am always thinking positive no matter the circumstances. But human as I am, I sometimes feel my “nervous breakdown” runs over me.

  • Sometime your inner force and inner thinking force you to go down and these kind of thinking and thoughts which you have mentioned above is the perfect example of that.

    Interesting thing is you know about this but however you could not control them.

  • Hi Kelly

    I have to say you are correct about this, my wife always says this if I swear in posts and I usually take it out. It doesn’t sit right however I do use swearing as a form of expression and think it can be appropriate when trying to convey humerous situations. Will leave it out in future.

    • Hello Steven,

      In response to swearing, I work with a very hard to reach and challenging client group and I find that an occasional (so as not to lose impact) well placed expletive can really serve to underline a point and can jolt someone out of an apathetic reverie. It can also demonstrate, when used with sincerity rather than for effect or worst to try to mimic another’s street language (cringe!, than I am communicating with them on a genuine level rather than being too ‘editorial’ in my words. I have to balance that with pro social modeling obviously. However, what I will also say is that I have a robustness of character and swearing does not offend me in the slightest when it is not directed at a person as verbal abuse. Your use of the word shit does not in any way lower my opinion of you as an author nor does it invalidate your advice. ‘Shit’ is exactly what goes through my head when I see a big ol’ splodge of it on my car. Best wishes, kate

  • Thanks for the commetns everyone, always appreciate it when you join in the conversation.

    Alien Talk – I’ve read about this before whereby the mother is extremely protective over their baby. Just a suggestion but I would leave your baby with a trusted family member for 15 minutes a day and you go out an do something, yes you will feel anxious but when you come back and you know your baby is okay there will be relief each time. Then for the next week leave the baby for half an hour. Eventually you will get used to the baby being left in someone else’s trust and you will start to trust the world around you. It would be difficult to do this at first but I think critical to the babies development, remember they can pick up on your anxieties and you can pass your anxieties onto them — just a suggestion.

    Thanks Dragos, it is hard recognising and acknowledging these irrational thoughts, but you have hit the nail on the head here – you recognise them which is the first part of changing them. Thanks again.

  • Well, Steve

    I had the chills on my back while reading this because I had almost all of the irrational thoughts you’re describing there. Takes courage even to go through them as you did, not to mention the actual action to eliminate them. Thanks for a great resource, I truly enjoyed it :-)

  • Most people have experienced these thoughts at one time or another. One thing to keep in mind is that you can only hold one thought in you mind at a time. When those types of thoughts enter your mind, replace it with a positive, constructive thought.

  • some of these are examples of real paranoid thinking but if you approach one fault at a time and force yourself to break these bad habitats i think it can be very helpful.

  • I have irrational thoughts that harm is going to come to my baby when we are out, like a car running into her buggy, or being stabbed, I also think she is going to die in her sleep, she is 7 months old and I these feelings are getting stronger.

  • Most of these points can be put into one area, and that is an area of being negative about yourself, which in most cases started in childhood.
    We are all equal, no one is better that anyone else, it is just some people do things better, and are more positive that others.

    Make a new start, how you felt in the past has now gone, finished, never to return, it is now the time to be the person that you dream of..why not, it is only your self belief that is stopping you..

    Very often it is these people who really are the great ones, far better than most.

  • Hey Steve, nice article.

    These thought patterns are typically based on deeply rooted limiting beliefs. Symptoms like low self-esteem, lack of confidence, and feeling undeserving can be eliminated by changing the underlying belief that fosters them. Replacing a limiting belief system with an empowering one can quickly reverse a persons whole perception of their own abilities, and their sense of self-worth.

    • I would really enjoy hearing more about replacing a limiting belief system with an empowering one!
      I am suffering periodically with self-doubt in my relationship.
      I find myself going to unnecessary extremes to ensure my fiance will never stop loving me and leave me.
      These fears are controlling and make my stomach turn.
      How do I stop?
      How does someone exchange insecure thoughts with something healthy and keep it from happening again??

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