Our thinking habits, attitudes and beliefs influence every aspect of our lives - our mood, our emotional resilience, stress levels, performance, relationships, and the potential to fulfill our goals and ambitions. But where do they all come from – how do they develop?
Your beliefs are generalisations about the world, formed from all the things you have been told about yourself and the world around you from the minute you were born, and based on your limited experience of life. So in a nutshell you have created an image of yourself based on the opinions of other people, or what you perceived those opinions to be. Initially they were based on your interactions with parents, teachers and other 'grown-ups'. The problem is that when we are young we don’t have the intellectual ability to question the things we hear, so we accept them as the truth.
As we go through life we continue to create our image of ourselves, effortlessly nourishing and reinforcing those beliefs, and behaving in a way that fits with that image - a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. We search for evidence to support those beliefs, and we often don’t notice any evidence to the contrary – evidence that might show us how ridiculous that belief is.
When I was young I remember my mother once introduced my sister as “the pretty one” and me as “the clever one”! The truth is I can’t even be sure it actually happened that way at all, but that’s how it lives in my memory. So of course all my life I wanted to be the pretty one (the ‘clever’ bit didn’t register at all) and I guess my sister wanted to be ‘clever’ – instead Mum often called her “airy fairy”.
We get into the habit of ignoring all the positive things people say about us, choosing to focus on one small negative comment, because it fits with some irrational belief we have about ourselves. We almost search for the evidence to support it, ignoring the evidence to the contrary.
Our beliefs create our unique perspective on the world, and as we grow and develop these beliefs form ‘filters’ through which we see everything around us, often blinding us to other possibilities. They’re such an integral part of the fabric of who we are that we don’t even really see them, let alone question them!
Remember that your perception of what is true is not the same as something actually being true!