Beliefs are the assumptions we hold to be true. They are based on real life experiences. As human beings, our values and beliefs affect the quality of our life, our work, and our relationships. Since what we believe is what we experience, we tend to think that our beliefs are founded on reality, when in fact, it is our beliefs that shape our experiences.
Our beliefs are an essential part of our identity. They could be religious, moral or cultural; but they are part of us and reflect who we are. Beliefs are broadly classified into two categories: rational beliefs and irrational beliefs.
So, where do your beliefs come from?
Whether or not you believe that when we are born, we are a ‘clean slate’, it is certainly true that from a very early age we absorb beliefs, opinions, views of the world from the environment around us. As we get older, our environment expands from our parents/caregivers to other adults, teachers, friends, classmates etc.
We automatically begin using these beliefs as a template for interpreting ourselves, others and the world in general. These beliefs might be positive, flexible . However, a lot of beliefs take the form of automatic negative thoughts which are often rigid, inflexible and pessimistic. Fortunately, though it is possible to change our beliefs.
The beliefs that we hold are a critical and essential part of our identity. They could be religious, moral or cultural; but they are part of us and reflect who we are. Beliefs are broadly classified into two categories: rational beliefs and irrational beliefs. These irrational beliefs are often called limiting beliefs, because they ‘limit’ what we can do.
How do your beliefs run your life?
In Psychology Today Juliana Breines says there are 3 ways your beliefs can shape your reality.
1. They can influence your behaviour
This makes sense because if you believe that you’re capable, competent, and deserving of your dream job, you’re probably more likely to notice and seek out opportunities that could help you get there. You’re also more likely to perform well in an interview. Whereas if you have low self-esteem, lack confidence in your abilities and believe you don’t deserve to get your dream job, you are less likely to find or apply for that job. So, your belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and your belief is reinforced.
2. They can influence other people’s behaviour
Other people will respond/interact with you according to their beliefs about you. Juliana Breines describes a well-known experiment where men who believed the woman they were talking to on the phone was attractive elicited from that woman more friendly, likeable behaviour than men who were told the woman was unattractive.
3. They can impact your health
In one study, middle-aged adults who held more positive beliefs about aging lived an average of 7.6 years longer than those who held more negative beliefs, even when controlling for current health and other risk factors.
Recognising Limiting Beliefs
Limiting beliefs are where negative self-talk stems from. They are deep rooted beliefs or assumptions that we hold about ourselves, other people and life in general. Most often, such beliefs are incorrect and completely unhelpful. As we know, we usually learn these beliefs from our parents, peers, teachers, and the larger society that we grew up in. Most people tend to take these beliefs for granted and don't even realise that they're beliefs at all. We just assume that they are true! What limiting beliefs are you holding on to?
Examples of limiting beliefs
· 'Life is a constant struggle.'
· 'I should always act nice no matter how I'm feeling.'
· 'I am nothing unless other people love and approve of me.'
· 'I am not important. My feelings and needs are not important.'
· 'I can’t cope with scary or difficult situations.'
Do recognise any of these?
Limiting beliefs that you hold about yourself and 'the way life is' are the root cause of the anxiety you experience and also play a big part in self-sabotage and other destructive behaviours. Choosing to let go of such beliefs will help you to feel less worried, stressed and unhappy.
Limiting beliefs hold us back from the things we want in life. For example: 'I can't afford to have what I want.' 'I don't have time.' 'I don't have the talent.' Are common beliefs that stop us from doing what we want to do.
At an even deeper level is the belief that 'I don't deserve to have the things I truly want.' Believing this means that you won't even try to get what you want, which is actually the surest way to guarantee that you won’t!
Changing your limiting beliefs
We all have limiting beliefs of some sort and the key to changing them is firstly to become aware of them. A good way to start is to notice your negative self-talk. You may be able to recognise a recurring pattern and identify the underlying limiting belief. Identify which of your beliefs are merely assumptions, which are conclusions you came to at an early age and which beliefs you were ‘taught’ by others. If you are willing to question your beliefs, you can change both your belief and your life. The very first belief to change is “I can’t change”, then you can begin to change one belief at a time and replace them with beliefs that empower you.
Sometimes though, the belief is so ingrained that we just can’t ‘see’ what we are thinking. This is when another person, such as a coach, would be able to help you move forward, by helping you to identify and challenge the beliefs. When working one to one with clients, I use techniques from NLP and EFT ( a form of energy psychology, also known as ‘tapping’) to help release those deep-seated beliefs.