What are beliefs?

Few people ask themselves what are my beliefs? In fact, what are beliefs? We think they go under many different titles, such as, self-beliefs, concepts about who I am, who I think I should be, who I want to world to think I am etc. Some self beliefs are restrictive and limiting, whilst others may be inspiring and motivational. Either way, what you believe tends to heavily influence what you get from life.

Beliefs and perceptions seem to go hand in hand, for example; when you have a belief that a certain thing will happen, your perceptions look for evidence to support that beliefs – therefore, be-careful what beliefs you hold in mind as they are likely to come to pass.

Our beliefs underpin our happiness

The beliefs we have about ourselves are fundamental to our happiness and the things we achieve in our lives. Whether they are self-beliefs that are positive or whether they are self-limiting beliefs, either way, they will impact our lives, our emotions and our relationships.

Our values and especially our beliefs need to be monitored and worked on if a profound change in behaviour is to be achieved. In my experience nothing is more important than exploring your beliefs, holding them up to the light and asking “do these beliefs about who I think I am serve me well? And, “are they actually true?”

You can read more about values and beliefs here….

Changing self-beliefs is key to finding more calmness

The beliefs we have about ourselves are fundamental to our happiness and the things we achieve in our lives. Whether they are self-beliefs that are positive or whether they are self-limiting beliefs, either way, they will impact our lives, our emotions and our relationships.

Our values and especially our beliefs need to be monitored and worked on if a profound change in behaviour is to be achieved. In my experience nothing is more important than exploring your beliefs, holding them up to the light and asking “do these beliefs about who I think I am serve me well? And, “are they actually true?”

Diagram showing how self-beliefs trap or free us

Take a moment to explore how beliefs work. In reality, our beliefs about ourselves are quite a folly, at a certain level of personal development they are no longer important, however, if you are in a dark place through anxiety or depression self limiting beliefs can be very destructive and keep you in negatively thinking loops where you only see evidence to support the belief and ignore any evidence to the contrary!

What are beliefs?

As you can see from the diagram above, all day long everything we see, hear, touch, smell, taste and experience is gathered and stored in our short term memory, then, as we sleep at night (loosely speaking) all that data is either sent to our long term memory or thrown into the bin (forgotten).

How we decide what to keep or what to forget (a better word might be ignore) is mainly decided upon by our beliefs. If we believe we are unlovable, then we are (unconsciously) only looking for evidence that confirms our existing  beliefs about ourselves and any evidence to support the fact that we are unlovable is stored in our long-term memory, any evidence that does not support it, such as, a person telling us that they love us, may well be ignored and forgotten.

Therefore, we quickly build a mind full of evidence to support the old belief that we are unlovable – so we continue to believe it even though there may be oodles of evidence to the contrary. Everybody else knows we are lovable and often they get a little frustrated because they say “I told you 10 times yesterday I love you” and all they hear in return is “no you didn’t, you just said I was annoying…”  The ten  nice statements that were not inline with the belief (I’m unlovable) went into the bin and the one statement that (theoretically) supported the belief was kept!

This is why some people see the glass half full, whilst others, see it as half empty – it is all dependent or your beliefs and what you unknowingly choose to store as evidence.

Common self-beliefs that limit our potential for change

  • I am not lovable enough, caring enough, good enough (learned beliefs)
  • I am too fat, thin, tall, small, pretty, ugly  (body related beliefs)
  • I am not clever enough, funny enough, chatty enough, interesting enough (intelligence related beliefs)
  • I can’t do it, it always goes wrong, there’s no point trying (competency beliefs)
  • I’m not like that, I would never do that, they shouldn’t do that  (judgmental beliefs)
  • That’s just wrong, how dare they (moralistic beliefs)
  • That always happens to me, I won’t get it anyway (victim beliefs)
  • I have to look after them, I can’t let them down (pleaser beliefs)

What are beliefs? The list goes on and on…… Can you begin to see how restrictive they might be? What if you discovered they weren’t true? What if you just believed they were true? Sometimes that is scary, because if they weren’t true, you would have to go out into the real world and start really living.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”                                       “Our Deepest Fear” by Marianne Williamson

That just about sums it up…….

Where do beliefs come from?

Our beliefs are given to us, babies do not have any beliefs at all!

We develop / adopt / pick-up / are given / fall into / erroneously latch onto / beliefs through the people and events of our early life. We are “domesticated” by parents, siblings, school, religion, society, friends, governments so that we can “fit in” to the world (from their point of view), we are taught what to do to get reward and what to do to escape punishment – these learned behaviours become ingrained in our thinking and thus make our beliefs, which define our thoughts, which direct our behaviour, which determines our outcomes, which influence our feelings – which then confirm our beliefs, and the cycle starts again.

We worked with a lady who when young loved to paint and draw, yet as an adult (who was depressed) kept on telling us that she “just couldn’t express herself or her feelings.” We asked to draw how she felt, and she replied “oh, I haven’t drawn since I was as a child, I’m rubbish at drawing.” As it turned out, she was wonderful at drawing! We explored her belief (that she was rubbish at drawing) in more detail, only to trace it back to a time at school where her teacher had criticised her painting in front of the whole class – saying it was rubbish. She remembered that painting was an expression of how she felt rather than the bowl of fruit. Yet that moment set up a belief in her that she was a bad painter and because she felt so bad and embarrassed in that moment in front of her peers, it felt true. Because she didn’t want to feel that way again she believed that belief and adopted it as her own!

What if her teacher had said “Wow, that is fantastic you are really talented?” Who knows? Either way her beliefs about herself would have turned out different, thus her behaviours would have been different too. It works the other way as well, for example, we have all seen performers on X-Factor who really shouldn’t be there! They have beliefs that they are brilliant, because they were domesticated to believe they are good enough.

It’s all about balance, questioning to see is that belief mine or did I inherit it, is it a learned behaviour? And importantly, is it serving me well at this time in my life?

Changing your self limiting beliefs

Upon inquiry and detached observation it is possible to articulate your values and beliefs and once they stand before you, you are able to hold them up to the light and see them for what they really are.

What are beliefs

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One of the most important facets of the The Calmness in Mind Anxiety Treatment Program is the process of teaching you how to identify and change your self limiting and old out of date beliefs. This process of understanding ‘what are beliefs‘  is core to all human emotional growth and a fundamental stepping stone on the path out of anxiety and depression.