Changing our limiting beliefs can be a tough process, because they’ve been part of our thinking for so long, that we just start to believe they are true.
- I’m just not good at math.
- I’m not a social person.
- I don’t like my hair.
But, these are simply observations about ourselves. Some of our observations we might like and want to keep and some of them we may not… because the things that we believe about ourselves and our surroundings, create the reality in which we live.
Our Brain Wants to Be Right
You see, our brain wants to be right. It is one of the ways it likes to conserve energy. It is more efficient for the brain to compile more evidence for what it believes to be true, rather than find a new option of something to think.
And here is what is interesting… it does this at the expense of us feeling terrible. A client I coached recently had this thought… “People think I’m kind of ridiculous.”
When she thought this, she felt terrible. But, her brain was scanning, scanning her life and interactions and finding every opportunity to reinforce the thought. Her brain had compiled a LONG list. It was stuff that her roommates had done. She told me ways that old mission companions had behaved. And from her view point, her boyfriend sometimes thought she was a little ridiculous, too. In her mind, even interactions with her family brought up the same belief.
Viewing Life Through a Lens
She had been thinking this for so long that soon, every single interaction and experience was viewed through the lens of her belief, “People think I’m ridiculous.”
I like to think of our primitive brain as section in an old library. (PS – Oh, my goodness. I just LOVE old buildings). Well, remember those old card catalogs? I picture that we have rows and rows of card catalogs, one for every belief.
Drawers Full of Evidence
As we experience our lives, new cards, or examples to prove the thought, are added. Sometimes drawers get full, so new rows of drawers are added, until our brain has so much evidence, that the belief just feels true to us.
When it comes to our primitive brains… the old saying, “You find what you look for,” is spot on. Even if it’s a hurtful belief, your brain likes to keep thinking it. Again, it’s so much easier to add little cards to the drawers, than to get rid of the entire card catalog.
After further exploration with my client, and looking at how this belief was manifesting in her life, it became very clear that this wasn’t only a belief that she thought others had of her. She also viewed HERSELF through the same lens. She actually believed that she was a little ridiculous, too.
How to Change the Belief
Once we realize that we’ve had a long standing belief, it allows us to slowly remove the card catalog from our life. We can start changing our limiting beliefs. Our first instinct might be to quickly change the label on the card catalog from, “I’m ridiculous,” to a new labeled that is something like, “I am smart, and competent.” But, as you might be able to deduce from the analogy, with the evidence your brain has compiled, the new belief might be a difficult sell to your human brain. So first, I recommend just observing the card catalog instead… and with so much compassion.
You should know that if this thought had not been serving you in some way, your brain would not have chosen to believe it. So, how has this particular belief served you? Maybe it kept you protected? Did it keep you from exploring and trying new things? Maybe it kept you in your comfort zone?
Next, I recommend setting up a new belief card catalog. It should actually sit pretty close to the original catalog. Maybe the catalog is labeled something like, “Sometimes I feel a little ridiculous, but that’s ok. It’a part of being a human with a human brain.” See how we are just trying to coax our primitive brain to look at this new catalog that is close by?
“We Aren’t Thinking That Anymore, Remember?”
Now, when something comes up… your brain is going to want to fill out a card and put in the old catalog labeled, “I’m ridiculous.” It’s been doing this for a long time. It’s the easy route. Your brain will want to go search the past evidence.
But, now that you have awareness, you can choose not to open the drawers of the old card catalog anymore. I like to tell myself, “No. We aren’t thinking that anymore, remember?”
Instead, take that card and question how it fits as evidence into the new card catalog. See if you can find a place for it in there.
Now remember, this process of changing our limiting beliefs takes time, so be patient! It will take retraining, and redirecting your brain to look for evidence of your new thought. But, if you keep working on it and continue to find new evidence, the new belief system will become as true to you as the old one was.
The old “I’m ridiculous,” card catalog will be sitting there, but you’ll hardly notice it. Except for the times when you think…
“Oh yeah. I remember when I used to buy into that belief about myself. Look how far I’ve come!!”