Everyone once thought the world was flat. Want to know how we learned the world was round? We challenged that belief. Well, one brave soul challenged that belief and eventually used logic and science to convince everyone else. Imagine how ridiculous our world would be today if no-one had ever challenged anything.
A lot of my clients struggle with limiting beliefs. They don’t think they’re good enough, or they think they’re mean if they put themselves first, or that the world will end if they aren’t available at a moments notice to water their neighbour’s plants when they go out of town. These beliefs can make life really hard work. The funny thing is, most people don’t know that they get to change them.
Newsflash people – you’re an adult now, you probably have been for some time. You get to CHOOSE your beliefs. You don’t have to continue to believe what your parents or teachers or siblings or friends or loved ones told you was ‘right’. You get to make up your own mind now.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is kind of ‘in’ right now. The NHS use it, so it must be good. CBT is one of a variety of techniques I use with my clients, but it terms of changing beliefs, it works pretty well. Here’s the idea – you learned something once upon a time, like when your mum continually told you big boys don’t cry. If you learned that big boys don’t cry, you can unlearn that big boys don’t cry. You can also learn something new, like big boys are adults and can cry any time they damn well want.
How do you change your beliefs?
Let’s start simple – do you know what your beliefs are?! Step one is to start becoming aware of your feelings. So, any time something doesn’t feel good to you, look at that and see what that feeling is. Is it guilt, shame, anger, feeling trapped? Get a notebook and start to notice what triggers these sorts of feelings and what the feelings are.
Next step – dig deep and find the ‘should’. Normally with most bad feelings, it’s because we’ve gone against a belief we hold. There’s a belief saying we ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ do something we’ve just done and so it feels icky. Find that belief. It may surprise you. Find it anyway and write it down.
Step three is challenging that belief – look at it and ask yourself if you want to still believe it. If you do, cool, but if you don’t, challenge it. Why does it have to be right? Is it right in every situation? Try testing it. If that’s a rule, what else does that mean?
Here’s an example I get A LOT from clients:
Trigger: Having a lie in.
Weird belief: If I’m not doing something super productive it means I’m lazy. I should always be doing something productive. All the time.
Challenges: Does that mean everyone who has a lie in is lazy? Can I think of anyone who finds time to relax and gets their chores done? Why do you always have to be productive? Where does rest and relaxation fit into this? Am I supposed to work until I drop dead? How do I feel about work / life balance? What does it mean for me to relax? Why is relaxation necessary for me?
Most importantly: Is this belief working for me currently: do I feel good living my life this way? Would it be nice to relax without feeling guilty? Why is it important for me to keep believing this?
This is a practice makes ‘perfect’ kind of gig. That means that the brain is a muscle and we have to work it out, just like we would if we wanted to learn pull ups. Things aren’t going to change overnight – you’ve likely had twenty plus years of your old beliefs for them to get nicely bedded in to your subconscious. Be patient and kind with yourself and allow yourself to gently challenge and correct as often as you can. Gradually you’ll see changes and shifts as the brain gets used to your new way of thinking.
I’d love to hear if this was helpful for you, and if you want some support making changes get in touch and have a chat with me – I offer thirty minute free, no obligation alignment calls to see how we might work together. You can book one here.