Confirmatory Bias: The Killer Of Self-Esteem

It always amazes me how talented and intelligent people spend a lot of their time trying to convince themselves that they are the opposite. This is not to mention the amount of people who obsess about body issues and how they think they look and other people perceive them. In a process called confirmatory bias, evidence is collected to prove that these global labels need to be believed. It is in doing so that we intentionally forget to listen to any input or positive aspects that could bring about a balanced view.

People with healthy self-esteem can recognise and maintain this balanced view of themselves and the abilities, accept what they cannot change and work on the things they can. People with low self-esteem concentrate only on the negative aspects of their character and personality and what they cannot do. Confirmatory bias consolidates this thinking by keeping the mind concentrated on these negative aspects. When this concept takes hold, the inner critic and other influential negative parts of our thinking can keep us stuck in a cycle of negative self-talk.

The term is used in all walks of life to describe a thinking process that dictates that only a part of the information available is considered. It is the basis of propaganda, predjudice, biased decision-making, superiority and inferiority complex. However, in emotional situations like low self-esteem, it can have a devastating effect on the sufferer’s life.

How does this happen? We have to go back again to our early experiences (again) with our primary caregivers and the parenting style they adopted. Sometimes, for children, it is not always easy to tell the difference between being told that something they did was bad and that they are bad themselves. It is a common thought that dysfunctional parents steal their children’s self -esteem by not actively making this difference clear. This is where the process of confirmatory bias starts. If children firmly believe they are bad and worthless, they will constantly look for the evidence to prove it, affecting self-esteem badly.

Changing this takes awareness and adhering to a process of reprogramming and reframing. Being willing to counter negative arguments with balancing positive counterparts, avoiding global labelling and describing in detail and factually and confronting and disputing events in childhood are just parts of the process. My next two posts will look at this process with exercises to help improve self-esteem.

Dr. Nicholas Jenner

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a therapist offering online therapy globally.

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