Are Your Beliefs Harming Your Success?
By now you've probably seen Derren Brown's Netflix hit; Miracle and if you haven't I urge you to go and watch it. In the show, live on stage, Derren cures blindness, heals long-term pain or health conditions and talks an audience member through the process of eating glass without any injury.
Derren insists it is not through the ‘holy power of the Lord’ that he created these miracles, but instead; it was through BELIEF in the story he was telling them, that the audience healed themselves. The message he was trying to put across is that we are being held back, every day, by the stories that we believe about ourselves:
“This is the one life and the one body we have. We can tell ourselves a different story about it at least….We can be kinder to ourselves and therefore to others as well because we are all doing it…We’re all telling ourselves those unhelpful stories, all of us….Everyone you meet is dragging around their own heavy case of bricks”
— DERREN BROWN, MIRACLE
We tell ourselves we’re not enough of one thing, or too much of another; stories which we truly believe from years and years of conditioning and which are ultimately holding us back from trying new things, taking risks, fulfilling our true potential or reaching for true happiness.
These stories are known as ‘limiting beliefs’ and there’s science in this: there is a system in our brain know as the Reticular Activating System (RAS) which sorts through all the information our brain receives on a daily basis. The filtering system works according to the guidelines we give it, which are based in our beliefs. What happens is that the RAS works to find information which proves our beliefs right, and discards information which challenges our beliefs. This means that the more we tell ourselves a particular thing is true, the more the world around us appears to prove us right.
Here’s an example:
As a child I grew very quickly. I became gangly and couldn’t quite control my limbs for a few years during puberty while everything else caught up. As a result, I fell over a lot, tripped over my new big feet and was told that I was ‘clumsy’. The more I tripped, the more I believed I was clumsy. Now, as an adult, I believe I am clumsy. Even though I don’t actually fall, or trip that often any more, when I do, my RAS triggers and I tell myself it’s ‘because I’m clumsy’ rather than any other possible reason it could be. I notice my clumsiness more than I notice all the times I am not clumsy and believe my clumsiness is greater than anyone else’s around me.
Because my story is now ‘clumsy’ I tend not to put myself in situations where I might suffer from clumsiness: I don’t wear heels often, I would never try ballet, or any other activity which requires poise or grace because, quite simply ‘I’m clumsy’ and I believe I will probably hurt myself if I try.
Now of course, this is just a small example which really doesn’t affect my daily life or hold me back from my dreams (I don’t daydream of wearing a tutu and performing Swan Lake) but is simply there to give you an idea about how these limiting beliefs can settle into your life and start to hold you back.
Maybe you think you’re not ‘smart’ or ‘creative’ or ‘strong’ or ‘flexible’ enough to do something, or you think you’re ‘too loud’, ‘too quiet’, ‘too messy’ or ‘too old/young’ to achieve something you’d like to be able to achieve. Limiting beliefs can range from small things that you don’t even notice, to much larger baggage that you have identified already, but no matter what, they all influence what we tell ourselves we can and cannot do.
When considered in the context of our career & business success, our ability to form meaningful relationships, or cultivating raw talent, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we can, or more importantly cannot achieve are hugely impactful.
So what can be done? There are ways, through the practice of self-inquiry & mindfulness to identify limiting beliefs and start to flip the narrative:
Starting a journal is an amazing way to keep a track of your inner stories and narratives, and be able to look back at them with fresh perspective. Write about the areas in your life in which you feel stuck, or uninspired and just keep writing. Why do you feel held back, what do you wish you could do, what is the first step you need to take and why can’t you take it? Look back in a day or two and highlight the negative stories, or things that look like the limiting beliefs I have described above.
Be someone else
Talk to yourself as if you’re a separate person, offering advice from an outside perspective. Every time you scold yourself or are negative about your abilities or being ‘too much’ of something, respond to that negativity as if it were a friend saying the same thing about themselves to you. How would you change the narrative, bolster them, and make them feel better?
Notice the people around you
Are the people you are close to bringing you down? Are they telling you that you’re ‘too young/old/loud/bossy/clumsy’ to do something? Maybe it’s something as simple as believing in Murphy’s Law (what can go wrong, will go wrong) which is making them see the negative in everything? Are you using their comments to create stories about your own life?
Once you've identified the stories you are telling yourself, it's time to change the narrative; to practice gratitude and recognise that you are not our thoughts. That you have talent, you're not 'too' anything and it's not too late. Confront those limiting beliefs and achieve things you did not think possible!
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