Do you know what it is to live feeling unsure of yourself or a situation? Do you know what it feels like to be anxious and worried about your relationships, the well-being of people in your life, your choices and decisions, or how you‘ll handle a given situation?
The list of things we worry about could go on and on, couldn’t it? Too many people live burdened by feelings of insecurity, uncertainty and fear. Most people don’t know that these feelings are not the result of how scary and uncertain “the world out there” actually is, but of beliefs we have about it and ourselves that were formed before we even realized it.
Many of us were raised with messages steeped in fear, pessimism and victimization:
- “Things probably won‘t go right, so don‘t get too excited”
- “Don’t get your hopes up – I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed”
- “You have to be careful out there – the world is not a safe place!”
- “There are lots of nasty surprises in life, including people, disease, accidents waiting to happen…”
- “Don’t do that – you might get into trouble!”
- “People can’t be trusted” …or even…
- “You should be doing better [in school, in your career, etc.] – you’re such a disappointment”
Do any of these messages sound familiar? How many of them do you still live with, or argue about with the people in your life? How many have interfered with your personal level of happiness, and/or your assessment of your professional accomplishments?
Many people come to realize that the messages they grew up with continue to cause them problems today, but they don‘t know that these messages can be changed!
Belief Systems Are Insidious
Being stuck or risk-averse comes to feel so normal and natural that most people stop thinking about why they‘re stuck in their lives and not moving forward, or not happy and fulfilled. Almost always, at the root of all our problems are fear-based beliefs. It may show up as feeling bored, blaming others for your misfortunes, or being unable to “catch a break” in your life – but it’s fear that’s really ruling the day. What are you really afraid of?
Beliefs are formed because of things we’re told by people we need, love or respect (because, I mean, why would they lie to you, right? They love you!), or as a result of impactful experiences we’ve had – either positive or traumatic. We hold these beliefs as truths not because the belief remains functional or beneficial, but out of habit – “I keep living according to this belief and I’m still alive, so it must be true!” We think they keep us safe or enable us to make sense of the world.
For example, you may have learned not to challenge your parents for fear of their disapproval. This belief may have carried throughout your school years and is still in full force today in your career – so you continue to be afraid of challenging anyone in authority. The message to “not talk back” and just accept what’s dictated may mean that you stifle your own thoughts, feelings and ideas out of this old fear of challenging authorities. This fear became a belief that you are not allowed to speak up, that you don’t deserve to speak up, or that your feelings just don’t matter.
While that belief may have been helpful to you as a child in your parents’ home, the question you get to ask yourself today is:
“Is that learned, fear-based belief helping or hindering me NOW?”
All the negative messages you grew up believing, and hold as truths in your life, can be looked at and assessed for their validity and value to you today. YOU get to decide if they are messages worth continuing to hold as truths and keep repeating to yourself.
Your parents didn’t know any better – they learned the same “truths” when they were growing up, and believe they kept them safe. But today, you have a choice!
What beliefs do you hold that keep you stuck, limited, depressed, unmotivated or feeling like a victim? What fear-inducing messages pop into your head when you want to embark on some new adventure, take on a new responsibility, or speak up for yourself or others?
Whether about religion, lifestyle, or self-image, the filters provided by your belief systems deserve critical examination. If you believe that you are not good enough, or doing something would mean you’re a “bad person,” or that you are not important, or that great success brings greater burdens, you will interpret all events and situations in your life through that filter, believe what it tells you, and stop yourself from taking what seem like risks.
Just because you believe something does not necessarily mean it is “the truth!” It may be one possible option, but it is not the ONLY option. Starting today, practice challenging the beliefs you hold that feel uncomfortable, punitive, debilitating, or undermining.
Start to ask yourself, “What if I didn’t believe this? What might I believe instead, that would support me having more happiness and success in my life?” Choose a new, self-empowering belief, then insert that into your self-talk as a replacement script every time the old one wants to rear its self-limiting head. Don’t worry that you can’t “prove” that the new belief is “true” right away; to quote Wayne Dyer, “You’ll see it when you believe it!”