Learn about the underlying theory of minimization, discover its causes, and explore tips to stop it.
Why do we minimize something remarkable as if it is not worthy of praise or discussion? In this article, we’ll define minimizing, discuss why we minimize our experiences and events, and explore what we can do to stop minimizing.
American Psychological Association (APA) defines minimizing as a “cognitive distortion consisting of a tendency to present events to oneself or others as insignificant or unimportant” (APA, 2022). A cognitive distortion alters reality in our minds, making something out of nothing, or, in this case, making nothing out of something. In other words, minimizing is when we frame something to be lesser than it is by denying or dismissing its significance.
Minimizing is quite common, and many of us minimize our experiences, emotions, or the effects of events on us. Moreover, we minimize both the good and the bad. Here are a few examples that you might find in daily life.
● Manuel was standing between two isles in a convenience store when a robber barged in. The robber held the store employee at gunpoint as he emptied the cash register. Manuel carefully approached the robber from behind and knocked him unconscious with a case of soda. Manuel was declared a hero when the police and the local news crews arrived. However, Manuel refused to take credit for his bravery and declared that anyone would do the same.
● Albert was recently promoted at work. At a party, many people congratulated him and commented that he’s always been a hard worker with high standards. Albert shrugged off these comments and insisted that his supervisors must have confused him with someone else who actually deserved to be promoted.
● Carmen attended a family event a few weeks after her miscarriage, where her relatives kept telling her how sorry they were. Carmen sighed and told them that it was early in the pregnancy anyway, and her situation was nothing major compared to other parents who have lost their children to cancer or other chronic conditions.
“A minimizing accelerator: removing duplicates”
Although minimizing something every once in a while isn’t necessarily bad, frequent use of minimization may be a sign that you avoid dealing with your emotions. Furthermore, when you always minimize your role in situations, you may appear avoidant, indecisive, or unconfident. The more you minimize the importance of your accomplishments, the more likely you will perpetuate a self-fulfilling prophecy. For instance, when it comes to your career, you might be passed over for promotions or salary increases you actually deserve.
1. Ask yourself why you minimize. Sometimes we minimize everything as if we are on autopilot because we don’t see ourselves in a positive light. Maybe we avoid dealing with our emotions or are conditioned to appear modest. Once you figure out why you minimize, you can address the root causes. For instance, if you suffer from low-self esteem, you can work on strengthening your perception of your self-worth.
2. Use positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are supportive statements about ourselves that can shift our mindsets toward positivity. Whether you are conditioned to be modest or lack self-esteem and confidence, positive affirmations such as, “I deserve success” or “I am proud of myself,” can help you see yourself in a more positive light.
3. Change your responses. You might need to do a spring cleaning and replace the minimizing words and phrases with those that aren’t dismissive. You may say, “thank you for your kind words” instead of “I don’t deserve all these compliments,” or “thanks for noticing my efforts” instead of “I didn’t really do that much.”
Minimizing is a cognitive distortion characterized by the tendency to reframe events to reduce their significance. Minimizing can help us cope with situations and emotions that may be hard for us to accept or deal with. We all use minimization once in a while. However, persistent minimization may make us appear avoidant or unconfident. Understanding the underlying causes of why we minimize in certain situations can help us address these causes and develop strategies to stop minimizing.
● APA (2022). APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved 2 May 2022.