Life & Stuff · Mental Health

Question Your Beliefs

*Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Super Soul Conversations (Oprah’s podcast) episode: “The Curiosity-Driven Life“*

 

We all have beliefs and values, whether we know them or not. They sit within us and create our outlook on life. Our perceptions, perspectives, thoughts and feelings, and interpretations will mostly come from our deep-rooted beliefs.

If this is the case, shouldn’t we be taking our beliefs more seriously? I think so.

But do you actually know what your beliefs are? And if you do, have you ever thought to question and challenge them?

Well, you should…

 

Beliefs about the world and life

All of us have beliefs about the world, knowingly or not. A belief that our country is dominant over others. A belief that the world is cruel and unfair. A belief that money isn’t something that we can ever personally obtain. A belief that we have no place in the world, and so on.

Beliefs about the world and life in general have a huge impact on how we operate in the world. Who we interact with, who we love, what we do, what we see, and so on stems from the beliefs we have.

Pay attention to what your attitude is when you watch the news. Pay attention to who you associate with. Pay attention to your outlook and mindset when out of your home or travelling. These will give you an insight into the deeper beliefs that are always at play for you.

The saying goes, “you don’t see people or things as they are, you see them as you are.” Which means that whatever’s going on inside, manifests on the outside and obscures your view.

 

Beliefs about others

This ties into the aforementioned point. Our beliefs are shaped by experiences and knowledge. It is for this reason that things like racism or sexism or homophobia (etc.) is only ever down to experiences and upbringing.

Say someone had a bad experience with a Black person early in their life. They may then form a negative belief about Black people, which then creates a strain on their relationships and encounters with Black people as a consequence.

On the other hand, someone could be brought up by racists, sexists, or homophobic parents or carers. They are told this lie and that lie about certain groups of people, which then creates a belief in their minds that the person is simply certain is true (of course it is, my mom said so).

If we never question our beliefs, we can live our lives with very false and downright idiotic beliefs about groups of people.

 

It’s not just about prejudices or discrimination, though. Beliefs can cause us to judge people generally, too. To believe that how they live their life is wrong. Beliefs can make us choose our friendships or interactions with care, being selective of who we talk to. This isn’t great.

We deprive ourselves of special and surprise encounters and friendships or connections when we do this. Instead, better to open your mind and be curious about all types of people from all walks of life. Old or young, rich or poor, educated or not, creative or sporty, veggie or meat-lover, and whatever else.

Everyone has value, and they just might surprise you.

 

Beliefs about yourself

This one is perhaps the worst. When we allow our self-beliefs to go unnoticed, we allow ourselves to run on autopilot. Our thoughts, feelings, relationships, pursuits, and life in general just runs on a track that we never question or fix.

Big mistake.

Knowing yourself is massively freeing, useful, and beautiful. We can never learn to love ourselves and trust ourselves if we don’t first know ourselves. And knowing yourself includes recognising your core beliefs.

Beliefs are very powerful, but even more so when they are about ourselves.

 

Imagine that you believe you are ugly, you will look in the mirror and see a tainted image of yourself that isn’t the real you.

Imagine that you believe you’re a bad writer, you will continue to self-sabotage and procrastinate and hide your work.

Imagine that you believe you will never find love, you will subconsciously seek out the wrong people for you, or push people away, or never try at love at all.

If you have low self-esteem, a poor life situation (that’s within your control), or no dreams or goals or interests at all, you must look at your beliefs.

 

Question the things you think you know about the world, others, and yourself.

 

Our beliefs are the foundations of who we are. They supply the groundwork for everything else that we build for our lives. But unlike buildings, we are able to change our foundations (our beliefs) and begin living differently.

How?

By first questioning them:

  • Journal – Just write and see what crops up; free writing my thoughts and feelings has helped me to realise a lot about myself
  • Meditate – Being too busy and always on the go does not allow time to stop and look within; meditation (among other quiet activities) gives us the time and mental space to get clear on what’s going on inside of us
  • Walk – Same as meditation
  • Pay attention – Don’t just do and speak without being aware of what you’re doing and saying; paying attention and being more self-aware will give us an insight into our belief systems and what they’re making us do…

 

And then challenging the beliefs:

Once you begin to see some evidence to what your beliefs may be, it’s time to challenge the unhelpful or wonky ones…

  • Evidence – Make time to find evidence for or against your belief; this is an activity that my therapist once gave me; pay attention when out and about and see what comes up to prove your belief is true or false (but you must be careful of negativity biases and false perspectives when doing this)
  • Perspective – Take a moment to actually gain some perspective on a situation or encounter with someone; did you prejudge them, did you act out of emotion, did you assume something that wasn’t true, have you put yourself in their shoes? Take a step back and look at the bigger (true) picture as a whole
  • Talk It Out – It can be hard to talk about our beliefs, but doing so can help to change the way you look at things; speak to someone you know who’s open-minded or who holds different views to you and allow yourself to truly listen and take on-board what it could mean for your life
  • Journal – Again, journal it out! Take an idea or belief and jot down why you think you have it, what it means, and whether it is serving you or hindering your life
  • Act – In order to really change a belief, you will need to act on it regularly; it will fight you because this belief is likely to be years in the making; your actions are trying to undo years of growth, so chip away at it slowly and patiently but with truth and a desire for better
  • Authenticity – Always try to see the truth, no matter how ugly; always try to craft the life you want and the beliefs you need to bring that life into fruition; and replace wonky beliefs with solid, beautiful ones.

 

Personal Example: I had a core belief that I was boring (which contributed to my Social Anxiety). I questioned this and realised it is not true. I went to find evidence to prove it wasn’t true e.g. someone laughing at my jokes or reading my work. And then I replaced the belief with the truth, which is “I am a worthy person with a lot to offer; the right people will see that and love me and enjoy me for it.”

 

Our beliefs are important. They are shaping our lives every day. They are the lens through which we see the world. They are the limits or freedom of our minds and spirits.  Beliefs can make you ill or make you well. They can send you to success or push you to failure.

Not happy with your life? Look to your beliefs. Got a scarcity mindset? Look to your beliefs. Poor relationships or interactions with others? Beliefs, beliefs, beliefs…

 

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