We go through life believing certain things about ourselves and about the world around us. We can convince ourselves of all kinds of things: That we’re unlucky, we’re not as smart as everyone else, men can’t be trusted, women always cheat, the world is a dangerous place… the list goes on.
But where do we get these beliefs from?
We usually develop these ‘stories’ over time. I use the term stories because that’s all they are, they aren’t facts, they’re totally subjective and aren’t necessarily true. They are simply beliefs we’ve often put a lot of time and effort into creating – and they’re not always helpful! Once we unpick them, the good news is that we can change them. We simply have to be open to noticing what ‘s going on.
Let’s look at an example:
Story: “People think I’m stupid and they’re right.“
Where has this belief come from and how can you un-believe it and believe something different instead? Let’s start by looking at how we develop these beliefs in the first place…
Part 1 – Planting the seeds of your belief
This belief could have started to develop years ago. Perhaps your brother repeatedly called you stupid growing up. Then you failed exams at school because you didn’t study hard or listen in class. You saw friends open their exam results and delight in their grades and you remember the disappointment and embarrassment of seeing your results. Maybe not even consciously, but you decided there and then that you must be stupid because you didn’t get the grades you wanted. Perhaps your brother was right all along…
Part 2 – Collating evidence to support your new belief
You say something silly at a party and people laugh at you. You use this as further evidence that you are in fact stupid. That’s now three pieces of evidence you put into your metaphorical bag to carry around with you. Then you fail your driving test because the nerves take over and you made mistakes you wouldn’t usually make. This also becomes evidence that you are stupid. You pop this evidence into your bag. It’s getting heavy now. With all this proof building up you must be stupid right? Wrong. Finally, you go for a job interview. There are loads of other applicants with more experience than you and you don’t get the job. You use this as further evidence that you are stupid. It’s undeniable!
Your bag is now weighing you down so heavily that you can’t carry on moving with as much energy and enthusiasm as before. You become less ambitious, stop applying for well paid jobs as you don’t think you’re worthy of one, you avoid conversations with people, as you think they’ll be judging you – and start to take things people say the wrong way, always assuming they’re speaking down to you. You are so busy spinning this story about who you are that you have tunnel vision and only see things that support your belief that you are stupid. You miss the vital evidence to the contrary. You missed that a friend saw a piece of artwork you did and complemented you on your creativity. You failed to notice that you contributed the most answers in the pub quiz, which your team won. You also missed that you came up with a brilliant strategy for a task at work and got promoted off the back of that. And you didn’t recognise that you put across some very intelligent and well reasoned arguments over a dinner debate. It’s time to let go of your story and put the bag down.
Once you’ve unpicked a story you can replace it with a new one, something more positive that serves you well – and find evidence for that instead. For instance believing that you’re a smart and engaging person. You have to believe things about yourself and the world around us so why not believe things that feel good and encourage you to live a full life and experience great things? Stop the negative stories and instead find evidence for, and embody a new and better belief.