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Does your daughter have A.N.T.s: Automatic Negative Thoughts?

This past Friday night, I attended our local high school's first football game of the season. It was heartwarming to witness the high schoolers hanging out with their friends; the palpable excitement and butterflies in the air were infectious. Admittedly, I observed their social dynamics more than the game itself – though I know that our team emerged victorious!

As I watched these interactions, I couldn't help but wonder about the inner thoughts of these teens following their moments with friends. Sometimes, body language can be a revealing storyteller, hinting at those instances where Automatic Negative Thoughts might have crept in after their interactions.

Stepping into a brand-new school year, the whirlwind of change and the rapid shifts in our surroundings can sometimes trigger automatic negative thoughts.

In this Blog, we're on a mission to unpack some of these typical thinking patterns that we might come across. Getting a handle on these patterns can give us the superpower to spot those moments when we – or our kiddos – get tangled up in this less-than-sunny way of thinking.

Here are the top nine A.N.T.s I see in my middle and high school clients.

1. Catastrophizing:
Catastrophizing often leads us to believe that the worst-case scenario is inevitable. For instance, think about not receiving an invitation to a social event. Someone caught in this distortion might say, "I didn't get invited to her party. She probably hates me now, and I'll never have friends."

2. Magnifying the Negative:
When magnifying the negative, we focus only on the downsides of a situation. Consider not receiving an immediate response to a message. A person stuck in this distortion might think, "She didn't reply right away. I must have annoyed her, and she's definitely mad at me now."

3. Mind Reading:
Mind reading occurs when we assume we know what others are thinking without any concrete evidence. Imagine a friend's curious look during a conversation. Someone caught in this distortion might say, "She looked at me weirdly. She probably thinks I'm boring and don't belong here."

4. Fortune Telling:
Fortune telling involves predicting negative outcomes without any factual basis. For example, imagine feeling nervous about joining a group discussion and predicting, "I'll mess up everything I say, and they'll all think I'm clueless."

5. All-or-Nothing Thinking:
All-or-nothing thinking is when we view situations as either completely good or completely bad. For instance, after a minor disagreement, someone might think, "If we had a disagreement, our friendship must be over. I'm a terrible friend."

6. Labeling:
Labeling involves using extreme, negative terms to describe ourselves based on specific instances. Imagine making a mistake during a conversation. Someone caught in this distortion might say, "I stumbled over my words. I'm so stupid; I can't even talk properly."

7. Negative Comparison:
Negative comparison happens when we measure our worth against others' perceived successes. Imagine comparing yourself to a more outgoing friend and thinking, "She's so much better at talking to people. I'm just boring."

8. Spotlighting:
Spotlighting is when we believe everyone is paying close attention to our actions. Imagine tripping while walking and thinking, "Now everyone is staring at me and laughing. I'm so embarrassed."

9. Social Perfectionism:
Social perfectionism involves setting unrealistic standards for ourselves in social situations. Imagine feeling the need to be perfect during a group activity and saying, "I have to be flawless, or they'll all think I'm not good enough."

 Have you noticed these sneaky Automatic Negative Thoughts creeping in, affecting you and your child?

Good news – our upcoming course, 'Survive & Thrive in Middle School,' addresses automatic negative thoughts head-on in both the parent and daughter sections. I would love for you to join our Waitlist to be notified when the course goes live in September. Together, let's navigate middle school with confidence and clarity! Join The Waitlist

The Brave Girl Tribe is an online resource for your 5th to 8th-grade daughter. There are many lessons, a community page, and weekly coaching calls. Click here to learn more.

Unleash the math superstar within your 5th to 8th grade. Join us on September 10th at 7:00 p.m. for this free exclusive workshop with Private Prep's founder, Steve Feldman. Let's make this school year the best one yet! Click to register for this free workshop. ✨🚀


This was one of my favorite podcasts I listened to this past week, and I feel this is an important one to listen to as the school year begins. It is all about confronting the toxic achievement culture and when our kids feel not enough. Click here to listen.

I hope you have a wonderful week, and if I can help you in any way, please feel free to reach out. You can schedule a complimentary call with me by visiting my calendar.


Laura Hayes
Founder of The Brave Girl Project
Life Coach to Tween & Teen Girls
[email protected]
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