Where Our Beliefs Come From
Did you know we can change our beliefs in a fraction of a second? Sometimes we can have beliefs that we hold for an entire lifetime. Let’s talk about some of the fun ones first.
So I might believe that I’m a single man and of course the moment that ring slips on my finger I’m now a married man, so now my belief about myself has completely changed, but it changed in a very short period of time. I could see myself, what’s the acronym—the dinkys, the dual-income, no kids yet—so I see myself as a married man but the moment the child is born I’m now a father. Again my identity has changed, my belief about myself has changed, or it might be that I see myself as an only child but my sister or my brother is born and now I’ve got a sibling. Yes, I’m not on my own anymore so again my belief has changed.
There are many things that can happen to us, or that happen in our lives, that cause our beliefs to change and there are other things where, despite them happening, our beliefs stay the same throughout our lives.
If we look for the sources of those beliefs: some of these beliefs are instinctive, some beliefs come from parents, and some come from situations. So some things imprint on us. The imprinting phase I think psychologists would say is from birth to seven years old. The wide-eyed baby takes everything in and so, not surprisingly, our beliefs would tend to mirror those of our parents. From the age of 7 to about 14 is what’s called modelling, and this is where you see the little boys carrying around tools following daddy or girls in mummy’s high heels and wearing pearls and all of these things. This is called the Modeling age.
In my own case, I’m smiling because I can remember my daughter when she’d seen me or mum polishing shoes and decided that she would have a go but of course, most of the polish went on the terracotta floor tiles and not on the shoe! but that is modelling. That’s how they learn, by copying, so don’t scold your child for that. Praise them for the learning and then maybe show them how to do it properly so that they learn better. That way you avoid traumatizing your own children.
Other places beliefs can come from in society is from peer groups. After the modelling age, we go from 14 onwards to socialization where we might adopt the beliefs of the groups that we belong to. Obviously one of the drivers of the beliefs we hold is this whole acceptance-rejection dynamic, so we might tend to hold beliefs that make us more acceptable by the group that we want to belong to. We won’t consciously think that’s the reason, we believe that we are just fitting in but we’ll be doing so automatically with no real thought as to what’s really going on.
One powerful group of influencers in our early lives are our teachers. I get quite a few clients who can talk about events involving teachers. In my own background, I can think of some amazing teachers, really amazing human beings, most of whom have passed on now, but I can still remember their names, their faces and some of the things that they taught me. I was very fortunate to be taught by those people. At the same time, there’s one I can remember who was definitely at the opposite end of the scale. He must have had his own challenges. I noticed with children too, their beliefs about a particular subject at school will be coloured by whether they like the teacher rather than whether they like the subject.
I often get clients coming who’ve had a bad experience—so a teacher will have said you’re stupid or you’re this or you’re that. Labelling from a person in an authority position can be catastrophic in terms of someone’s self-esteem, their self-confidence and their beliefs about themselves. So if you don’t feel particularly good about yourself and you have a belief that you’re no good or you’re not worthy of love or success or whatever it is, have a think about where that comes from? Is that belief really yours or is that baggage somebody else’s? if a teacher needed to tell you that you were stupid is that really how they feel themselves or were they just exasperated by having to manage 30 unruly kids in a day? Do you need to take that thought, given to you by them, with you for the rest of your life?
There’s a great story in one of Jack Canfield’s, Chicken Suit For The Soul— I think it was the equivalent of a traveller family in the U.S and the teacher had asked the children to write down their dreams. This little boy had a dream about owning a big ranch and lots of horses and when he’d finished his homework the teacher said, “Well this is completely unrealistic for you. I’m going to give you an F grade”, but if you want to go home and rewrite it and make it more realistic I’ll give you a better grade. The kid went home to his father and his father said well how badly do you want the dream son? And the kid went back and got his f grade. Later on in life there were busloads of kids going to see the ranch and the teacher thanked the boy for not listening to him! \what a lesson!
Never let someone else limit your beliefs about yourself. If that’s already happened and you’d like to shake off that belief, start with remembering when and where did you make that decision, to hold that belief. Go back to that time and place in your mind and ask your older self what advice would you give your younger self about that situation. Hopefully, not to hold that belief! If you need more professional help to shift your beliefs do please get in touch.
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