Re-Creating Your Self by Christopher Stone
Last time, we began another major step in the Re-Creating Your Self process: examining and evaluating the beliefs that create your life and all of its conditions.
We looked at Principal and Supporting Beliefs, Positive Beliefs, and Negative Beliefs.
I pointed out that Negative Beliefs are frequently more difficult to recognize than Positive Beliefs because so many of us mistake them for the irrevocable “facts of life.” My former student, Shelley, was one such person. When I asked her to write a factual self-profile, she very quickly scribbled, “I’m an unattractive woman of 25….I’m a college graduate, but I guess I’m not very bright because I’m always making the wrong decisions….”
Shelley whole-heartedly believed that her harsh self-appraisal was factual, and nor belief based. As she put it, “I’m just telling it the way it is.” In truth, Shelley’s unflattering self-description was a combination of facts and personal beliefs that she mistook for facts. Read Shelley’s self-description once again. Can you discern the difference between the facts and her personal beliefs?
The facts: Shelley is a woman; she was 25-years-old at the time, and she is a college graduate.
Shelley’s personal beliefs: She believes herself to be “unattractive,” “not very bright,” and “always making the wrong decisions.”
Just for openers, Shelley needed to learn the difference between her personal beliefs and the unalterable facts of life. After making progress, she examined her beliefs: “I’m unattractive…not very bright…always making the wrong decisions.” Exploring these attitudes, she discovered that their original source was not in her personal experience. Eventually, Shelley remembered that she had first accepted these beliefs from a jealous older sister, “who constantly put me down!”
After Shelley discerned the difference between the facts of her life and the negative ideas she had blindly accepted from an envious sibling, Shelley began to change them. Eventually, Shelley re-created her self-image in a more positive, factual light.
Some negative beliefs are so widely accepted that they’ve become enshrined in cultural clichés. How many times have you heard one of the following “truisms”?
* It’s a dog-eat-dog world.
* Money is the root of all evil.
* The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
* You can’t fight City Hall.
* You can’t know happiness until you’ve known sorrow.
* You can’t have everything.
* In life, everyone has a cross to bear.
Those bleak bromides are beliefs, not facts of life. Nonetheless, for as long as we mistake them for facts, and they remain prevailing cultural attitudes, we will, en masse, create the “reality” of a dog-eat-dog world in which you can’t have everything.
A negative belief is like a prison sentence: It severely restricts your freedom, limits your experience and condemns you to a life of hard labor in the area where the belief is held.
Contradictory beliefs are ideas you maintain that are the antipode of other beliefs you have accepted. Because they represent conflicting attitudes about “reality,” contradictory beliefs produce mixed results in the areas where they are held.
The person who believes,”I deserve the best things money can buy,” but also believes, “Money is the root of all evil,” holds contradictory beliefs. The woman who believes in a perfect Creator, yet believes herself to be a flawed creation, has contradictory beliefs. The spouse, who simultaneously believes he should be a faithful husband and that he’s incapable of fidelity, holds contradictory beliefs.
A belief held without contradiction, whether positive or negative, is a powerful creative force.
An outdated belief is one that once worked for you, but now works against you. In other words, an outdated belief is one that has out-lived its usefulness. If you suspect a belief of being outdated, re-examine and re-evaluate its impact on your life. Is the belief in question still creating experiences that you want? If the answer is “no,” the belief needs to go.
To take an extreme example, as a young child, you may have believed that you needed a parent to assist you in dressing for the day. If you are a healthy 20-year-old and still believe you need to be assisted when you dress, then you are holding an outdated belief. It was a valid belief when you were three; at 20, it’s an absurd.
A more common, realistic example is the healthy adult who still believes that s/he needs others to make decisions. Those others may be parents, friends, lovers, co-workers, or even an organization. As a child, this person was helped by having others guide important decision-making. In adulthood, the same person is crippled by an outdated belief in the inability to make his own choices.
A Re-Creating Your Self Thought: For as long as you hold contradictory and outdated beliefs, you will never succeed in becoming the person you want to be, living the life you desire.
Next Time: The Quality of Your Beliefs
Copyright 2008 by Christopher Stone