Did you realise that everything you believe is only true for you because you decided it is? You have effectively built your life around a set of rules, given to you by someone else, which you at some point decided to accept as your own – often without even questioning!
There are things so very dear to you, that were I to suggest they may not be true to everyone; you may well take offence at my statement. Obviously my intent in writing this article is not to offend anyone, I would however like to make you think a little today.
Where Did Your Beliefs Come From?
Let’s go right back to when you were born. You were, like every other baby, a blank canvas. You didn’t know or believe anything. The people around you who shared your life had their own sets of beliefs and you will have experienced these through your interactions with them. Your family, your peers, your teachers, all those who shared your days, consistently showed you and told you what was right and wrong, good and bad, true and untrue through their words and actions. You absorbed all this information and from very early on began to accept and reject their offerings to form your own set of beliefs and values.
The key thing to understand here is that all these things are only true because people, you included, decided they were. We are not talking about scientific provable facts here, nothing as trivial as that! These are the tenets around which we build our lives.
Of course, on top of the input from all these people, you also have the media to contend with in all its forms and this plays a bigger and bigger part in our lives and in influencing our beliefs.
Some of the beliefs you hold will stand you in good stead. Some are widely held and enable us to live in dense populations in a reasonable peaceful way – things like ‘it’s wrong to steal’ or ‘what goes around comes around.’ Many of the regulations which hold society together are only possible because we are taught to believe we should obey the rules of society. We park, smoke, eat, walk and travel where we are told to for example and though the threat of a financial fine is a deterrent, most of us follow these rules because we have been conditioned to hold the belief that we should. What parent hasn’t been angered by a childless driver parking in the space designated for ‘parent and toddler?’ Yet if you think about it, all this person is really doing is not adhering to a rule of society because he doesn’t believe he has to!
You may also hold beliefs about yourself which are helpful to you. Positive affirmations about aspects of yourself you like, or things you feel you are good at. These may have been instilled unconsciously or you might have deliberately created them through some form of self development. If you are fortunate they will have been helped by positive or cognisant people when you were a child.
Unfortunately, most of us also hold unhelpful or limiting beliefs about ourselves. These might be thoughts about how we look, how intelligent we are, what we can expect to achieve, what we deserve to have, do or be. Some are low level beliefs which may crop up from time to time, others are so fundamental to us that they will influence everything we do and think.
The most important message of all where beliefs are concerned links back to the start of this article. You were born without any of the beliefs that you now hold. In other words you have learned them. More often than not we accept these thoughts into our belief library at an unconscious level, completely oblivious to the fact that we didn’t hold them before or that they are not actually true. They are only true if you allow them or want them to be. Anything you have learned you can change!
Changing Unhelpful Beliefs
If you would like to change the things you believe about yourself and in so doing the way you feel about, see or value yourself, there are some really simple techniques I have developed and used to great effect. You can do as little or as much as you can make time for, as long as you do something you will have a positive effect.
- Think about the things you believe about yourself. Write a list of them and for the ones which are not beneficial to you find three examples which disprove each one. If you don’t have much time you could pick one a day.
- As the days go by, begin to consciously notice the things which you do and say which either reinforce or undermine unhelpful beliefs and note them down.
- When you are consistently spotting the things you do which reinforce these beliefs, start challenging yourself. Stop the thoughts in your head and replace them with more positive ones. To begin with you might go from ‘I can’t do it’ to ‘I might struggle before I do this’ or ‘I’ll need help to do this’ and that’s fine. Rome wasn’t built in a day!
- As time goes by make your challenges to yourself harder. Make the new statements more aspirational and even more positive. Push yourself to think great things about yourself even if you don’t believe them yet.
- Once you find you can think great things about yourself without feeling anything negative – in other words when you can say them comfortably – go back to your first list and see which beliefs you no longer hold about yourself.
- Keep going until you no longer hold unhelpful beliefs about yourself at all!
They say that it takes 10 days to install a new behaviour, so get cracking with that list and change the way you behave in your thinking about yourself. Your beliefs are your business. You can choose to believe whatever you like so why would you pick anything except great things which serve you well?