Changing Beliefs

In the the very first entry on this blog, I talked about the importance of belief, particularly what we believe about ourselves. Belief shapes everything.

Belief is not the same as fact. Not at all. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize that belief about who we are rarely has much to do with fact. I know this because I see wonderful, amazing people who believe they are not what people on the outside know they really are.

I see beautiful women who think they are ugly. I see successful men who feel they never measure up. I see artists who think they have no talent. I see…. well I don’t need to go on and on. You get the idea. And you know people like that too – people with loads of positive things about them, who just don’t see it in themselves.

Why is that?

It is, because most of us form our beliefs about who we are by what people tell us. It starts when we are children and our parents and teachers and the other kids in the class tell us what they think of us. We are smart, dumb, cute, plain, fat, thin, They tell us and because we are kids, we believe them, trusting them somehow more than ourselves.

This pattern goes on through high school, college, and into adulthood. People tell us what we are and aren’t and we absorb it like a sponge, letting it soak in until those things they tell us become us. Or we become them.

The problem is, we are never taught to really look at those outsider’s view of ourselves to see if they are correct. We just go with it. Other tell us what we are, then we compound the impression on our own minds by repeating what they tell us over and over again, creating a belief that is hard to overcome, but may be very, very wrong.

Let me give you a simple example from my own life.

As a kid, I was probably a terrible frustration to my dad. My father was very good at doing things. He could fix cars, build things, repair things. Honestly, if it involved a hand tool, he could do it.

Me? Not so much. I never seemed to get it right. I couldn’t hit a nail to save my life. I was slow with a screwdriver. I just never seemed to “get it” when I was working with him, and he was quick to tell me I was clumsy, or “no good at this.”

And I wasn’t.

He told me I was lousy at doing things a lot, but honestly, I repeated his mantra over and over and was far more effective in convincing myself that I couldn’t do handywork than anything he ever said to me. A lot of us are that way.

So, for the most part, I never tried to be handy.

Until I got married and we bought a house. Suddenly there were projects everywhere, and no money to pay someone to do them. So I tried. I was slow. but I found I was actually pretty good at handywork. Over the next few years I built out the basement of my house, learned to do a lot of basic work on my car, built and wired a tool house and porch. The projects went on and on and have now continued through dozens of projects and four houses.

My belief was that I am not good at handywork. But that was not the whole truth. Now I get it. You see, I am legally blind in one eye. It’s not something glasses can fix and really, it’s not a big deal. but it means I have poor depth perception, so for close up work, or hammering a nail, or fitting a screwdriver in a screw, I have to take more time. When I can do a project with little time pressure, I do a damned good job. And I enjoy it. But that little issue, and my unawareness of how it would affect things, was at the heart of my problem.

Most of our beliefs are so ingrained in us that we don’t ever examine them.

So if we are going to change our lives for the better, we have to first examine our beliefs. So go ahead now, make a list of some of the things you believe about yourself. Good and bad. Write them down. Take your time. This page isn’t going anywhere….

So, do you have your list in hand?  Good. Now, pull out the positive about yourself beliefs. Oddly, those tend to be more true than the negative ones. (don’t ask me why, I just know it’s true for most of us.)

Now you have a list of negative beliefs. These are the ones we have to change to move our lives to a newer, better place.

If you are like me, and most people….

Wait a minute? Did I just say “most people”?  I did! And that is because most people wrestle with some of the same negative beliefs and fears you do. You are not alone. We are not alone. The only reason we think we are is because we’ve kept things hidden for so long, afraid people will find out that we are not perfect.

This is actually good news. If so many people have wrestled with these same things, then there are answers out there, things that work, and we can find them. A lot of those people are no smarter, no stronger, no better than you or I. But they have found a way to change their beliefs.

There are whole books on changing beliefs, and I am not about to challenge them for completeness, but in general, here is the process.

  • First, you examine the belief. Where did it come from? Is it true or just someone else’s perception? How long have you been telling yourself this?
  • Second, start thinking about how life might be different if that belief was not true? What if you wouldn’t die of embarassment, or fear, or whatever? What if you could learn a skill you don’t have?
  • Third, start changing what you say about yourself.

That third one is important. It’s generally called an “affirmation”. In other words you replace your negative self talk with positive self talk.

Why is this important? Because for a lot of years, you have been telling your brain that you were  (fill in your negative thought here.). YOU convinced your brain this negative thing was true. Others may have started you on the journey, but you did the rest of the work.

But the good news (and yes, there is a lot of good news) is that in the same way, you can convince yourself of positive things too. You don’t have to lie, just look at yourself and pull out the positive things. Repeat them to yourself. Over and over. Daily. For a month or so.

Why a month?  Because one thing we know about the brain is that it takes about 21 days to ingrain a habit. Being a little cautious. I tell people to do it for about a month.

Brain scientists can explain what’s happening and often call this “reprogramming” as we program our brains to think differently, more positively. There’s a ton of science behind it.

Law of Attraction people will tell you that as you think positive thoughts, the universe (or God, or whoever you want to give the credit to.) re-arranges things to make the more positive things become true.

It seems that every book has an explanation for why self affirmations work. I really don’t care why. I just know they do. And everyone from psychologists to sociologists to pastors to new age gurus say it works. When that many people from that many walks of life agree, it merits paying attention to.

So look at your beliefs. Examine them. Claim the good ones. Focus on the good ones. Make sure the bad ones are true (they probably aren’t.). And start telling yourself how great you are.

One, because you are. And two, because telling yourself will change your beliefs. And that is the start of something amazing in your life.

Take care, Journey wisely,

Tom

Lesson 7

2 Replies to “Changing Beliefs”

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