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You Must Be Exaggerating!

Updated on June 6, 2018
denise.w.anderson profile image

An Education Specialist, Denise teaches the principles of Emotional Health for the establishment and maintenance of high quality families.

When we make more of a matter than there really is, we end up creating more problems.
When we make more of a matter than there really is, we end up creating more problems.

How often do you exaggerate?

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"This is the worst storm we have had in decades!"

"I have no time whatsoever!"

"She really blew it this time!"

We exaggerate to make a point, unfortunately, exaggeration often turns small matters into big ones. and we end up with negative emotions to boot.

When distorted thought patterns are a problem, exaggeration is the seed that sprouts the biggest weeds. It frequently turns into anger, embarrassment, disappointment, worry, and stress. Before we know what is happening, we are drowning in a typhoon of negativity.

Where does exaggeration come from? Why is it such a problem? How can we recognize it? What can we do once we realize that we are using it? The following paragraphs give us some clues.

“Exaggeration is the kissing cousin of both truth and lie.”

— Khang Kijarro Nguyen

Where does exaggeration come from?

We use exaggeration in both literature and speech to accentuate a point. Used sparingly, it has its place, and gives others a better understanding of the meaning we are trying to convey.

We use words when we exaggerate that make things seem bigger than they really are. For example, if we caught a large fish, we might say, "The fish I caught was as big as a shark!" even though it really wasn't. We want people to get the idea that the fish we caught was a big one.

The problem occurs when we take our exaggeration to the extreme and use words such as never or always. These polarize our minds, and used frequently enough, convince us that they really are true. The following statements are examples of exaggerations that easily trigger negative emotions:

"I always do everything wrong!"

"He never calls when he says he will."

"I don't have any friends."

The words listed in bold are the red flags. Technically these absolutes are simply not true. We are taking a single negative experience and making a blanket statement based upon it. These types of exaggerations undermine our feelings of self-worth and set off a domino effect inside our brains. They become the assumptions that are the basis of our core beliefs, coloring our entire world with shades of negativity.

When we exaggerate a difficult experience, in our minds, it becomes a tragic event.
When we exaggerate a difficult experience, in our minds, it becomes a tragic event.

Why is exaggeration a problem?

The quote by Nguyen gives us the key. Exaggerated statements are half-truths. Initially, they are based on truth, but exaggeration stretches the truth to the point that it is unrecognizable. Therefore, it ends up being a lie.

When we base our decision making processes on exaggerations, we are building our house on an unsure foundation. Truth is a solid rock. It does not change, no matter what happens. Lies shift and move. Just like sand that is displace by the wind and the waves, they do not stay in one place.We cannot depend upon them.

Allowing ourselves to get caught up in the whirlwind of exaggeration leaves us exposed to the elements of emotional change. There is nothing to hang on to, and we find ourselves being whipped around, our core feelings of self-worth stripped and beaten in the process.

Exaggeration in and of itself is not an issue, it is what we do with it that is problematic. Difficult experiences plus exaggeration equal disaster. We are allowing ourselves to board an emotional roller coaster with no end in sight, and no one at the controls to stop the ride!

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

— Matthew 7:16-17 (KJV)

How can we recognize exaggeration?

We quote the above scripture often when speaking about our deeds.This principle also applies to our thoughts. Thinking upon truth and avoiding falsehood purifies our desires, emotions, and beliefs.

Our emotions are the direct result of how we think about our current circumstances. Thoughts feed our core beliefs, desires, and actions. When emotions well up within us, rewinding our thought processes allows us to see where the red flags are, and how we can change them.

Difficult experiences often take us down the path of thought distortion. We are quick to find fault, complain, have doubts, and exaggerate to protect our delicate feelings of self-worth. We don't realize that these are the very things that escalate our emotional state as well as destroying our worth at its very core. The table below illustrates this principle:

Exaggerated Thought Examples

Resulting Belief
I always do everything wrong.
I am such a failure.
He never calls when he says he will.
He must really hate me.
I don't have any friends.
No one likes me.

When our thoughts are exaggerated, our self-esteem takes a hit as we assume the worst rather than hoping for the best. In the table below, the exaggerations have been removed. With realistic thought processes, our self-esteem remains strong, and we are able to resolve the issue with little difficulty.

Realistic Thought Examples

Resulting Action
I made a mistake.
I will correct it.
He didn't call.
I will go and see what happened.
I feel a bit lonely today.
I will find someone to hang out with.

Once we recognize the red flags in our thought patterns, we can do something about them. It is necessary to replace them with words that keep our emotions on an even keel. Rather than the river of our thoughts being dammed up with negativity spilling all over our lives, the river continues to run, feeding all the land around it with the life giving nutrients needed for daily living.

Looking to God in our difficulty enables us to recognize exaggeration and other distorted thought patterns before they have a chance to bring us down.
Looking to God in our difficulty enables us to recognize exaggeration and other distorted thought patterns before they have a chance to bring us down.

What can we do once we realize that we are using exaggeration?

The brain automatically brings forward memories of the way things were in our past experience. It takes extra effort to change our thought process from these automatic defaults. The following steps are key:

  1. Awareness - recognizing that we have distorted thought processes is the first step in getting rid of them. We do this by writing down our thoughts and how we feel as we think them.
  2. Identify the Key Phrases - Once we write down what we are thinking, we can pin point the key phrases that indicate we are exaggerating. Just like in the examples shown above, we see the fallacy in the extreme nature of the thoughts.
  3. Remove the exaggeration - re-write the thoughts without the exaggeration using a more realistic view of the situation. Determine a course of action that preserves feelings of self-worth reflecting faith and hope that things will work out for the best.
  4. Experience the feelings of peace and calm - when we change our thought processes to a more elevated plane, we feel better about ourselves, and we are able to be happy in our relationships with others.

Exaggeration doesn't have to bury us alive. When we recognize that we are using it, and take the necessary steps to change our thought processes, we live a more productive, happy, healthy life. Choose today to keep exaggeration at a minimum!

© 2016 Denise W Anderson


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    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      It is interesting, JP, that cultural differences can be noted in the way we talk and express ourselves with our emotions. We could all use a bit more "medyo" in our lives, then exaggeration would not be such a problem! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      He'll there Denise, this is an eye-opening topic. Not many discuss this probably because it has become part of the culture. But it has its detrimental effects if not used sparingly. We Filipinos have the habit of using the term "medyo" and this can be loosely translated to "a bit" or "moderate". I suppose we do this to avoid exaggeration. Or perhaps to just avoid a polarized answer and avoid confrontation.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, Chitrangada! Exaggeration can really be problematic in our lives, especially when it turns inward and we overreact to difficult experiences that we are having. How much better if we would minimize these problems, and go forward with faith, knowing that things will work out for the best, rather than exaggerating and making them worse. I appreciate your comments.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Excellent thought provoking hub and you handled this very well.

      Your explanation of the 'Exaggerated thought examples' and 'Realistic thought examples' is very clear.

      People do exaggerate and most of the times it is to draw attention. You have made some valid and valuable points in this hub.

      Thank you for sharing this!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That is the best way to be, Devika. That way, you keep your on thoughts in check and don't have to worry about leading others into misunderstandings.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I keep things direct and proper. I like this hub and so true about exaggeration.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Dr. Pran, you have hit the nail on the head! We exaggerate for attention from others. Whether we are doing it so they will feel sorry for us, or because we simply want to point the spotlight at ourselves does not matter. It is like the boy who cried "wolf." Sooner or later people will turn their attention to other matters, and we will be left having to handle our difficulties alone. It is far better to ask for help when it is needed, and keep things in proper perspective.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That sounds like a great resolution, Dora, to be more intentionally positive! We can all use more kudos in life. The negative is automatic. It takes time and effort to accentuate the positive! Thanks for sharing that with us!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, Denise, it is a hard habit to break! It starts with awareness, though. Now that we know we are doing it, we can catch ourselves and develop better communication skills, both with ourselves, and with others. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

    • Dr Pran Rangan profile image

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      5 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      It is true that most of us exaggerate most of the things. I do agree with you that it begins with distorted thought process that needs to be checked.

      Many a time, we exaggerate as a way to show off that has become the norm in modern society. It also reflects to some extent that the individual who exaggerates often has a low self-esteem.

      Thanks for sharing such a nice hub.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Denise, this is so timely for me. Part of my unspoken (now I'm saying it) resolution for this year is to be intentional about speaking positively. Thanks for the push.

    • lctodd1947 profile image

      Linda Todd 

      5 years ago from Charleston

      Great and complete information regarding our often exaggerating the lowly things of life when may or may not happen or which may have happened which does not matter.


    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 

      5 years ago from Fresno CA

      This is so helpful. I often exaggerate and consider it literary effect... but in truth nothing is as bad as I paint it when I exaggerate like that. I know it is a problem but a hard habit to break. Thanks for this... making me aware.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Sorry, Bill! We all do it! To some it is an innocent play on words. To sensitive people like me, it makes a world of difference! Our thought processes come from our speech patterns, and we frequently find ourselves doing what we tell others not to do! I think that you will be okay, but be careful when you are talking to Bev..... Take care!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, Glenn. I had the same problem. I was pointing this issue out to others, not realizing that I had three fingers pointing back at myself! It is easy to fall into the habit of exaggerating, especially when we have difficult things happen and want others to feel sorry for us. It is interesting how distorted our perception of the future can become! I appreciate your comments!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      All right, Denise, you caught me.

      Bev is extremely literal. I am not. I exaggerate often and she follows that with a literal interpretation and, well, it gets interesting at times when we are having conversations. :) But for me it's really just a speech emotions are usually rock-steady and my view of life is the I think I'm going to make it just fine. :)

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fantastic article. Right to the heart of our thinking. Why the negative thoughts when life is so great? Really good stuff here.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I like the term you used where you said "thought distortion" - this is a really good way to describe the problem with exaggerating.

      Before I completed reading your hub, I thought about the way I avoid exaggerations when describing something to someone. But then as I read on, I realized that I do it to myself...

      There are occasions in our lives when we hope for improvement of whatever is not fully to our satisfaction. This is where we distort our view of the future. Hence: thought distortion!


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