Are Your Beliefs Working For You Or Against You?
“Life is very, very simple and easy to understand, but we complicate it with the beliefs and ideas that we create.” — Don Miguel Ruiz
Your beliefs have the power to set you free or keep you trapped in a self-imposed prison. A belief has immense power, assigned through our thoughts and emotions. When repeated often, it occupies space in our mind, producing powerful emotions. Beliefs are formed between the ages of two and six, which is an impressionable time in the life of a child. It is the meaning we ascribe to the events, not the event itself, that fuels the belief. For instance, if your parents criticised you when you were young, you may have formed the belief: “I’m not capable.” However, this is only one version of the truth based on your interpretation. I’m not suggesting it’s your fault to adopt this belief, yet we are meaning-making machines and create meaning through our experiences to make sense of the situation. Your mind searched for the meaning behind the criticism and concluded you mustn’t be capable. But is this ‘the truth’ or one interpretation? I contend it is an ’interpretation’ of an experience, but not the meaning behind it.
Many people hold similar beliefs through adulthood, which keep them trapped in a mind-made prison. Consider this: if you want to run the latest software on a new computer, installing the Windows 2.0 operating system (released in 1987) is impractical. Modern day computers are equipped with technology far advanced for software designed three decades ago. Yet, why do you give thought to the same beliefs based on one interpretation of events that took place as a child? Can you see how pointless it is? You’ve outgrown your childhood environment, yet you still carry the same beliefs as an adult. I’ll say it again: your beliefs have the power to affect the quality of your life. They colour your experience and if you don’t believe me, consider being in an intimate relationship harbouring the belief: I’m not worthy. How long do you think the relationship is likely to last?
However, people with unworthiness issues go in search of a partner to feel worthy. It soon backfires and they’re back where they started: single and miserable. Expressed differently: you are the storyteller of your life, the director and producer of your destiny. Your beliefs influence your choices, whether they’re right or wrong. Therefore, I invite you to reflect on your answers to the following questions: Are your current beliefs influenced by others or through events that took place long ago? If so, who: family, friends, work colleagues, teachers, sports coaches, ministers, or the collective society? Are they serving you? Consider the beliefs you cling to. What is the quality of your life in that area? Not the quantity measured by material possessions. Do you wake up feeling happy and satisfied to seize the day? If not, you could be perpetuating limiting beliefs that impose on your day-to-day life.
For example, I was indoctrinated with religious views throughout my catholic upbringing. I attended a boy’s catholic school and read at Sunday mass. As an adult however, I realised my beliefs at the time were not my choosing. Whilst I don’t denounce religion and am grateful for my experiences, I realised this was not the path I wanted to take. So I questioned my beliefs and adopted more of a spiritual or worldly view. The following are four steps to change a belief as outlined by author Ray Dodd’s book The Power of Belief:
Question Your Beliefs
“The most confused you will ever get is when you try to convince your heart and spirit of something your mind knows is a lie.” — Shannon L. Alder
1. Practise Awareness:
This requires dissociating from the beliefs you formed as a child that no longer serve you. You might challenge the inner voice that insists this is the way it’s done, as ego reinforces its control through such thoughts. These voices arise when you challenge an existing belief. For example, repeat the belief cited earlier: I’m not capable and note the emotions that arise. It might remind you of an incident when you were young and sense tightness or constriction in your chest, throat or stomach. This is your body informing you the belief is still active in your emotional body. Other limiting beliefs include: I’m not worthy, I’m not enough, I don’t matter, etc.
2. Give Up The Need To Be Right:
Abandon beliefs that no longer serve you. In surrendering them, you suspend the need to gather evidence to justify you’re right. Through gained awareness, how does the need to be right feel? Is there a feeling of spaciousness in your mind-body as though a voice within invites you to let go? By not gathering evidence, you release your attachment to your old story. In intimate relationships where there’s low self-worth, the person is likely to use evidence to justify they’re right if they are abandoned. Do you want to be right or happy? You can’t be both at the same time. “To change beliefs, we must learn to perceive them as abstract ideas separate from the world,” writes author and self-mastery expert Gary van Warmerdam.
3. Love Yourself Without Limits:
To disempower a belief, stop reinforcing it. My belief as a six-year-old, terrified of swimming in deep waters, was, “I am weak and will never amount to anything.” This is because I compared myself to other children who could swim in deep waters. As an adult, I realised it was imprudent to pay attention to a six-year-old, yet that was the predominant inner child speaking within me. Whilst it took me longer to learn to swim, I became proficient at it. Moreover, I embraced myself irrespective of my fears, because I saw myself as whole and not broken or damaged. I invite you to practice self-compassion despite your beliefs.
4. Create A New Dream:
Design a new agreement which re-works the old belief. After you challenge the outdated belief, compose a new one in line with your Truth. Following on from my earlier example, my new belief changed to: “I stand in my own power and know my true worth.” It includes attributes for living in alignment with my authentic self. Gather evidence to support your new belief. Live it, breathe it and be it. In your new loving relationship, you might reframe your unworthiness to: “I love and approve of myself unconditionally.”
People often ask me: how do I know whether my new beliefs are working for me? Look at your reality, which is a powerful indicator of whether you are in alignment with your highest values. What do you need to pay attention to in your life: career, relationships, health, finance, family, etc? You needn’t carry worn out scripts from childhood any longer. As you form new beliefs, the outdated beliefs will fade away. Your authentic self lies submerged beneath the rubble of outdated beliefs. If you don’t reconcile them, you remain trapped in a self-imposed prison.