Dear Dr. Phil,
My husband tells me that I am always exaggerating my problems. I know he is right but I can’t stop myself from looking at the negative side of a situation.
In all honesty, I know I am blessed, but I am constantly nit picking and grumpy.
Negative in Washington, D.C.
We all are guilty of exaggerating a problem from time to time to prove to ourselves that we care, or that we feel wronged in some way. Unfortunately, this often ends up only hurting ourselves. We make ourselves feel important by our exaggerations. But, we can also make ourselves miserable. Please let me give you an example.
Mary came into my office and growled, “I’m having a terrible day. People are sick at work and I’m picking up all the pieces. On top of all this, my back is killing me, I keep thinking I probably have liver cancer or something.”
When I talked with Mary about the specifics of her “terrible day” it turned out that in reality she had three-five minute problems that she really believed were “terrible” over the course of her day. She had 15 minutes of “terrible” in her 480 minute workday.
When Mary evaluated the day honestly she said, “Four hundred and eighty minutes? Huh… I guess 15 minutes of crap wasn’t so bad.”
With her new honest evaluation of her day, Mary’s shoulders lifted along with her spirits.
When we use hyperbole, exaggeration to prove a point, we can accidentally beat ourselves up from the inside. By always focusing on the negative, we teach ourselves to only see the negative. By honestly evaluating our day, we have a greater chance to see the normal ups and downs of life.