In my work, I help people see how their beliefs drive the way they interpret an experience, generate their emotional responses, and ultimately interact with the outside world.
It’s a really useful tool to understand ourselves, and start to gain a sense of power over our choices and behaviors.
Here’s an example to show what I mean.
If I believe I’m capable at work, and someone challenges me, I’ll interpret that challenge as a question that’s asked for clarity or reassurance. If I have any emotion, it might be something like invigoration, because I get to explain what I’m doing and show my abilities. I might also view it as a sign that people are interested, and perceive that everyone is on board. I might then build connection with my team, because I’m getting my point across and they’re with me. I’ll respond from that place and keep moving ahead.
Sounds great, right?!
But if I believe I’m not the right person for the job, somehow so incapable that if I make a mistake I’ll be fired, then when someone challenges me I’ll likely interpret that challenge as judgment and critique. I’ll experience fear that I’m messing up, feel insecurity creep in, and maybe some embarrassment and shame too. I’ll respond from that inner experience, and might react defensively, or shrink back. Either response creates a situation in which more challenges arise because I believe I’m the problem.
So – same challenge at work, but two very different experiences based on what I believe about myself.
Let’s dig deeper now.
That belief about myself affects the meaning I attach to the challenge … and it also determines my response to it, right? Invigoration and excitement versus embarrassment and defense.
So if that’s the case, why not look to the things we believe as starting points for change? Because while we can’t control how many people might challenge us at work, for example, we sure can control how we manage that experience with our beliefs!
My first question to you, then, is … do you know what you believe? It’s a big one (I know!), so I’m going to offer you some ways to explore:
- What do you believe about how the world works? These are general beliefs, like: good will always win, follow the rules, or hard work pays off.
- What do you believe about yourself? These are things that only have to do with you, like: I’m a bad person, or I matter.
- What do you believe about relationships? These are things that reflect dynamics between people or places, like: always put other people first, or defer to authority.
My second question is … where did your beliefs come from? Another big one, so here’s some more to consider:
- What did you learn about the world, yourself, and relationships from how you grew up?
- How did your caregivers impact your current beliefs about these things?
- How much of their beliefs did you reject to create your own, and how much of them do you still hold?
Here’s where we get into the change part. This is what I really want to encourage you to consider.
The beliefs you hold today may not only be someone else’s – and no longer align with how you see the world. They also may not be true!
Even if this feels really uncomfortable to consider, I’d like to offer that this is actually great news. Because if you can change your beliefs to align with who you really are and how you see the world, as well as challenge their veracity and adjust them accordingly, then you will inevitably change how you feel and act.
And – big bonus! – your feelings and actions will be rooted in your authentic self, your current experience, and the truth. Which means you won’t be perceiving a challenge at work as proof you’re incapable … because you’ll know the truth of the matter (which you developed from looking at, let’s say, your performance reviews and consistent raises) is that YOU ARE MORE THAN CAPABLE!
I invite you to take time to examine your beliefs and see if they’re accurate. And if they were, but no longer are, consider if you’d like to change them. Once that happens, your healing and growth will follow.