Your beliefs hold you back despite your abilities.
As children we are born with the desire to learn about our family, and the world around us. We bravely set out to explore and learn; we are not concerned with how people see us. However, as we grow and learn, some of life’s lessons impact our bravery, dampen our innate curiosity, or teach us to hide our authentic selves.
We all learn things in childhood that aren’t true (e.g., I’m lazy, stupid, ugly, etc.) and, for many, grow up and live with them as if these beliefs are true. If you have ever felt inadequate, alone, unwanted, unloved, invisible, powerless, or like you don’t belong, these misbeliefs are your chains. If you don’t speak up, ask for help and be accepted as you are, these chains will hold you back.
We learn to not trust ourselves and our own thoughts, even though we would benefit from doing so. It can lead you into jobs that make you miserable and relationships in which you lack confidence in yourself.
Your beliefs affect the way you perceive the world, which changes how you act, which leads to a self- fulfilling prophecy. It makes you feel small and your world becomes small.
You are what you believe
What we believe can affect how we interpret and react to the world around us. Social psychology research backs this up. In a study performed by Dartmouth College researchers had an ugly (make-up) scar placed on participants’ faces. The participants were then sent into a room and told to have a conversation with the person in the room. Participants were asked to pay attention to and report on how the person responded to them. Here’s the twist, right before a participant left the experimenter said, “hold on a minute, we just want to touch up your scar a bit”, rather than touch it up they removed it entirely. So unbeknownst to the participants, they went into the room looking completely normal. Despite this, they came back and reported how awful the conversation was, how the person avoided making eye contact and that the person was tense and uncomfortable during the conversation. The participant’s belief that the scar made them ugly led them to see and believe things that weren’t really there and to misinterpret the meaning of innocent behaviour. Their beliefs created their reality.
Other studies show the same affect.
Highlight an Asian woman’s Asian identity before a math test-she’ll perform better; highlight her female identity – she’ll perform worse.
Lead a group of men to believe that an athletic task is diagnostic of sports intelligence – white men perform better, lead them to believe that it’s diagnostic of athletic ability and black men will perform better.
Give someone a white coat and tell them that it’s a doctor’s lab coat they will perform better on an attention task than when they are told it’s a painters’ coat.
In all of these examples it’s the same people, same task – different beliefs. And in each case, it was their beliefs that raised or lowered their performance.
How you perceive your circumstances will affect what you see, how you act and what occurs as a result. It’s almost as if our beliefs put a virtual reality headset on ourselves. A headset that allows us to see things that aren’t really there and sends us into a false reality. We believe what these headsets show us, even when they are miles from the truth.
Our headset have us living a false reality and we all have a different false reality depending on our history. We respond according to our own history. Sometimes our headsets get in the way of our relationships and lives.
But, just as our beliefs can hold us back- they can also propel us forward. Let’s go back to the scar study, imagine that the researchers place something on the participants face that led to believe they looked beautiful and then remove it before going into the conversation. How do you think the participants would behave differently? What difference does it make if you think you are beautiful or ugly, good at math or not, good at sports or not? Research shows it makes a big difference.
How Can I Change my Beliefs?
You have to be willing to fail or willing to get it wrong to get it right. When you are challenged to let go of your chains you will be astounded – liberated. You will come to realize that maybe you shouldn’t believe everything you think. Take your headset off. To take it off you just have to realize that you have it on and the chains will be broken!
New beliefs lead to new actions, trust yourself that you can figure it out, sometimes you will take wrong turn, but you no longer need to let your beliefs hold you back/down. You will find what you have lost for so long – a more powerful voice. This won’t happen overnight-each new process builds your new reality one step at a time.
Stay open to multiple options, gather information, test things out by experimenting until you find the best way forward.
What makes us amazing as children is that we live in a world before chains: in a world before what’s known; in a world where it’s possible; in a world before “I can’t”; in a world before falling and staying down; when we fall and get right back up again undeterred; in a world in which nothing is holding us back from achieving our full capacity.
Let this article plant a seed that gets you to question what you previously accepted as true, makes you more aware of your chains, and helps you see that they were always yours to break.
No matter who you are or where you are – in this moment there’s the life that you can be living if you break your chains. You get there one new thought at a time. One new action at a time. Until one day you find yourself in a new reality.