Do you carry any limiting beliefs that you don’t realise are jeopardising your thoughts, relationships or even success?
Many of us do not think there is anything wrong with our beliefs until we start challenging them or when others start questioning what we think were true.
It was not until recently that the thought of debunking my own limiting beliefs would cross my mind. How many times would we think about challenging what we already know?
Someone close to me joked, “If I challenge my own beliefs daily, I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all! Do I challenge if I should be thinking what I am thinking every moment? ”, which is true is some sense but what happens if the beliefs we are challenging will help us in the long term?
For instance, if we hold the belief that the world is a dangerous place filled with people who want to take advantage of you, would you still want to give help willingly? Would you still trust easily?
While there are times when we would learn a lot about ourselves, be it through self-reflection or learning about it through feedback from others, most times we would not be aware until something unhappy or negative happens.
For instance, you might realise that you tend to be triggered by certain words or actions of others after you get into a fight, without being aware of it. Or in another situation when you would behave a certain way that negatively affects others but you don’t realise them until you fall out with each other.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
These were the thoughts that crossed my mind when I was trying to think of what I could do to improve myself as a person when I recently learned about my weaknesses and flaws, to learn more about what I don’t already know.
For a long time, I thought I had done a lot of inner work with myself. However, knowing that we are all work in progress, I constantly reflect and think about my past reactions and behaviours which have unfortunately cause hurt and inconveniences to people around me. Sometimes the consequences were obvious, but other times, only through repeated reflections would I be able to really uncover that it was my actions or words that affected others. When such times occur, I would cringe with guilt, regret and sometimes anger towards myself for my lack of sensitivity, awareness and knowledge in the past.
Sometimes the consequences were obvious.
Other times, only through repeated reflections would I be able to really uncover that it was my actions or words that affected others. When such times occur, I would cringe with guilt, regret and sometimes anger towards myself for my lack of sensitivity, awareness and knowledge in the past.
As I tried to work on my past issues, I found it hard to identify what the real root of the problems was. I was constantly disgruntled or unhappy for reasons I could not point out.
Until I learned to break them down, I was constantly feeling frustrated at not being able to move forth. Additionally, such events and emotions would constantly recur and I would be reacting the same way and regretting later on.
So I sat down with a piece of paper, and spared an hour of my time with myself and did the following steps.
Build Your Awareness.
“You won’t know you have an issue until you realise it for yourself,” I thought to myself.
The first step towards identifying what you want to work on is to be aware of who you are, the situation or event you were in, and what you experienced and felt. Only then would you be able to work on improving, and better yet, change for the better.
Observe Your Self, Thoughts and Actions
Do you see patterns in your behaviours, thoughts or actions?
For example, do you find yourself comparing and competing with someone else on automatic mode? Do you constantly complain or worry too much? Are you always trying to please others and feeling disgruntled later on?
Do certain words or actions from others trigger your emotions? Do you tend to get into quarrels over petty issues with people who care for you? Are you constantly grumbling or even silently talking back to your superiors or teachers? What are you unhappy about in your life right now?
Sometimes, we don’t even realise it even after someone has given us feedback.
Even then, we need to have the courage to be able to acknowledge, accept and agree with the feedback and criticisms.
It is not uncommon to want to defend your point of view or stand or actions, but when you step back and try to look at these issues or opinions of others objectively, what do you realise? Are there some truths in what others say about you? If not, that’s fine. But if it is true, these are truly gems because only people who care about you would tell you where your problem lies and save you the time and trouble from working it out all by yourself.
Do you find yourself feeling angry, frustrated or negative about certain issues, matters or thoughts? For instance, when you get caught in the traffic jam or when someone overtakes you out of a sudden, what would your usual reactions be?
Do you tend to procrastinate? Do you avoid facing your problems and trying to sweep them under the rug hoping that these problems will disappear? Are there any events that you failed in, lacked confidence in or gave up on?
Think about the times when you felt anxious, stressed or even frustrated. Think about the times when you felt anger, disappointment or even defeated.
What can you observe from others’ interactions with and around you?
Do you feel drained after spending time with certain people? Or do people tend to be more sceptical and less enthusiastic around you?
Whatever issues or emotions you see surfacing, list them down. The list could be a long or a short one. Some examples could be as below.
– worrying too much about failing
– over thinking about your problems
– procrastinating too much / always planning but taking little actions
– wanting to achieve something but never really follow through your goals
– having trouble losing weight, saving up or maintaining your friendships
– failing in your ventures, projects or work
– feeling stressed because of money issues
– habitual complaining
– feeling disgruntled at work
– always getting into quarrels with people you care about Then, pick one major issue you want to work on, especially one that is recurring and causing you a huge amount of stress and unhappiness.
Do a Debunking Exercise.
From the issue you want to work on, ask yourself why do you feel or think that way, behave or react a certain way.
There will be numerous reasons and justifications for your feelings, thoughts and actions. It is not possible to be fully aware of all of them unless you pen them down. At times, within seconds, you might find these fleeting thoughts and emotions appear and disappear. Take your time to recollect and write them down immediately the next time they resurface.
List down all the thoughts that are running through your mind, especially those that you don’t actually realise were there.
Debunk or Counter Your Initial Beliefs.
There may be events that occurred in the past that would serve to be reasons strong enough, or there could be certain personality traits or character that you think you possess.
Consider your own beliefs about yourself, and counter what you already know about you.
Ask yourself: Are what you think (about yourself or what happened) TRUE?
Most times, this is the most difficult part to identify with because we grew up with a set of beliefs that have been continuously reinforced over the years.
If you are overweight and have family members who are, you might think that it is in your genes, blood or bone. For a long time, I told myself and others that I come from a ‘heavy-boned’ family. I didn’t put in too much effort to improve my diet and lifestyle when I was overweight because that was what I believed in until I lost 18kg.
I also avoided doing many activities such as dancing, skating, blading, swimming and even playing the piano because I thought I lacked coordination skills. But was it true? Was it true that I lacked coordination skills? Was it true that I will fall flat on my face with my two left feet? No, not really. Later on, I realised that all I need was the constant practice.
These beliefs about myself that were limiting myself from fully experiencing new activities were not necessarily true.
Until we realise we are the ones holding ourselves back with our limiting beliefs, there is no way we can work past them.
Are you really a failure in everything? What about that time when your teacher or supervisor complimented you on your good work, your attention to detail or your punctuality? How about your own hard work that led your team to complete the project? What about the arts and crafts that you have beautifully created?
Think about the times when you have made yourself proud, completed something with your own efforts, achieved goals that you have set.
If you constantly think that you are not smart enough or not good enough (and sometimes even people around you say that about you), you would probably not give too much effort because you think you already know the outcome.
How true are what you think about yourself? How true is what others saying about you? Even if you agree with them, and you want to change and improve for the better, what can you do to improve or change for the better? What can you not do to prevent yourself from jeopardising your own progress?
Resolve to Respond, instead of React, in Future Events
Once you have identified what you can and want to do the next time a similar event happens or the same thought pops up, choose to consciously take a step back and breathe before you react.
Choose to respond to these thoughts and events instead of reacting.
The difference between reacting and responding is when you react, you allow yourself to think and do in automatic mode. If you are angry, you lose your temper (and possibly regret later on).
However, when you choose to respond, you will think if losing your temper will help, and you would be able to respond in a less hostile way or even with a better reply.
It is important to note that when you face similar situations in future, you might fall back to your old behaviour, and it is completely normal for the simple reason that you have been conditioning yourself and reinforcing who you are today for many years. It would almost not be possible to change immediately. What matters is you maintain awareness of your behaviour and thoughts in similar environment and situation the next time and remind yourself to choose what you said you will do the next time.
An example of working on a personal issue.
For instance, if you felt anger or disappointed at yourself for not being able to follow through what you started till the end?
Ask yourself why do you feel or think that way.
Why don’t you follow through on your goals? Why do you give up halfway?
Think about what happens in each event and identify what led you to give up?
Examples may include feeling not good enough / you have failed many times in past attempts / you are impatient / you lack discipline / fear of failure / you don’t really want what you were pursuing/having too many or too big goals.
For each of these reasons or justifications, ask yourself again if they are true.
Are you really not good enough? Do you always fail in whatever you do? Is it true that you are incapable? Do you believe that you will fail eventually? is it true that you cannot be a better person anymore? Do you really want the goals you set or do they seem nice on paper? Are you really impatient or indisciplined?
What can you do about them, if these are true? How can you better yourself or improve on your weaknesses? Perhaps you value teamwork and are better focused on the big picture. How can you seek help from others on that aspect? Do you work better with support from your friends or family? How can you then throw in accountability to keep yourself disciplined? Would you have a buddy to work on your goals together?
If your goals are too big and too many, pick a few that really matters to you and break them down into steps so small that you can easily take them today.
Resolve to Respond and not React in future situations.
Say you have a new project coming up. How can you stay accountable and see your own work through to the end? Would you ask to review your progress with your superior every two weeks? Would you keep a journal or tracker to monitor what you have done?
How do you keep going when it gets tougher and harder when you face problems during the course? Does being focused on the end goal or result help? Would remember WHY you started the project in the first place help? Would you even consider putting up a reminder of WHY you need to complete this project and not give up halfway?
Then, do what you said you will do, not for anyone, but for yourself. Prove to yourself that you can do what you set out to do, that you can overcome your own stereotype about yourself, that you can change your own limiting beliefs.