Do you have evidence or do you have assumptions?

Disclaimer: while I may put words and the teachings I’ve learned into my therapist’s voice, it’s always going to be my personal interpretation of my sessions. Don’t be fooled by any appeals to authority, that’s accidental manipulation right there. Get your own personalised therapy where possible!

Something I have learned in therapy (cognitive behavioural therapy, the fix it one rather than the talk about it one) is that while I can trust my mind to return facts I know most of the time, if I’m in a heated moment or excessively stressed out I can start making assumptions of the world (to save time and think faster?) - sometimes these assumptions are wrong.

Basically the therapist taught me to be less like ChatGPT, haha. I can express my assumptions and opinions of course, but I should note (at least to myself) where something I claim is an assumption I’ve made rather than a fact I know.

This was primarily for my low self-esteem and imposter syndrome feelings, but it works for pretty much everything.

Side note, it turns out actual imposters don’t have a mental portfolio of projects to hand that are actually really impressive when listed off in one sitting, haha

“oh yeah I tinkered on a project for a weekend while bored which went on to (indirectly) help raise millions for charity that one time”

If you also suffer from this I’d recommend making a “brag bin” - This is a tub I store complements and success stories that I can later go through when I’m feeling useless. This I adapted from (my systems use individual cards rather than documents)

Update with a few more weeks of pondering, in regards to fighting anxiety:

Cognitive behavioural therapy, specifically for this: evidence vs assumption.

Making assumptions is part of life, but it is important to verify a lot of them. The system responsible for keeping you out of danger fires in a “better safe than sorry” manner. If you never train this response then it’ll be inaccurate and it’ll fire off all the time and you get anxiety. Likewise if the system has been trained by an entire school career of bullying or negativity it’ll need recalibrating (are you going to get bullied as an adult for standing out? At least it’s much less likely)

For example I wasn’t going to go to a meet-up because I thought I wouldn’t like it, or fit in, or whatever other reason - I was feeling anxious.

Looking back at actual times I’ve gone beyond my comfort zone in this way I realised that most times I end up a better person, with a new friend, or at least enjoyed doing it. Worst case I didn’t get harmed in any way. Evidence overrules the assumption.

You don’t want zero assumption of course, feel free to assume jumping off a cliff without anything to stop you hitting the floor at high speed will be a bad time, but for things other people are able to do without harming themselves or others at least give it a quick pros and cons check before bottling it.

Unfortunately it needs it real world experience. Think of it like working out; you won’t get ripped just because you know how to use the machines, you’ve gotta use them too. On the positive side every time you push yourself successfully - and these don’t need to be massive, the snowball effect works here - it’s more evidence for next time. I now write down my thoughts and feelings before and after so I can actually go back and look at them in future if needed.

I’d highly recommend nerdy types try out CBT if it’s a possibility, especially if they don’t feel like the “how does that make you feel?” type of therapy is worth doing (I need ideas and solutions, not a soap box!). It works really well for me anyway, it’s like debugging my brain.

Standard disclaimers: Don’t use this as an alternative to medical advice. What I know may not be what the therapist taught me, this is my interpretation of that information. This isn’t the only thing I’ve learned in CBT but it is pretty foundational for it to work well. As far as I know so far. Works on my machine.