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Challenge Confirmation Biases to Combat Negative Self-Talk

"Confirmation bias is the most effective way to go on living a lie" - Criss Jami

Confirmation bias comes in many forms and may be applied to a variety of situations and topics. Let's examine, here, how confirmation bias may reinforce negative self-talk.

For me and many individuals I've heard speak about their views of themselves, confirmation bias has crept in to confirm our own negative beliefs about ourselves and our abilities.

Here's an example- in residency, I often compared my abilities to an experienced attending. I'd feel incompetent, and in order to prove my utter incompetence to myself, I would compare my abilities in my areas of weakness to the abilities of this attending's perceived strengths.

Problems with comparisons is a whole other topic, so keeping in the context of confirmation bias- My thoughts were centered on observations and interpretations of situations that reinforced my thought that "I am incompetent." I cherry picked moments where I felt this thought was validated while ignoring other facts that may challenge my inner preconceived belief. I was committed to believing "I am incompetent" and finding the evidence to prove it.

I ignored thoughts and evidence to the contrary which may have sounded like "this attending has more experience than me, I just learned this new skill, I am trying to be perfect at something before I even learned the skill or have had time to practice the skill, and I have received feedback provided by others that demonstrates I am more competent than I feel". All true and reasonable thoughts, but they went against my belief that "I am incompetent," and thus I chose to ignore those thoughts and pieces of evidence that would jeopardize the conclusion I had already established.

As a researcher in the scientific community, I would throw that study out as the strategy is flawed from the start. But I digress...

As you can see... confirmation bias can be great at confirming our own inner critics. When we have a preconceived belief of what we want to prove, we often look for and interpret new evidence in a way that validates our existing beliefs or theories.

We can combat confirmation bias by seeing the bigger picture and actively seeking evidence that disproves our initial biases.

Also- if you relate to my former thoughts that I should know everything before I learned it, embracing the growth mindset does wonders. When the thoughts creep back in that I feel like a failure or incompetent, it's been much more productive to appreciate that I have found areas where I can grow, and it has become very natural to always be seeking areas to disprove my own beliefs. I highly recommend these mindsets.

When we stop to identify where confirmation biases may be taking effect, we can become intentional about challenging them. Do you have confirmation biases that are reinforcing your negative self-talk? If so, it's time to challenge them. <3

Much love,


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