How free are you? Limiting beliefs and how to modify them.

In my article Why do we undermine ourselves? And what can we do about it? I noted that too often, as people, we do a great job at undermining ourselves.

I spoke in that article of the relationship between our emotions and our cognitive processes, and how we undermine our own self-worth through such things as becoming fixated on what is wrong with us or our situation (where our focus goes our energy flows), or seeing our self-worth dependent on what we get from others (not feeling good enough and needed validation), or placing others needs above our own (but actually coming from a selfish need to escape potential conflict).

There were three tips offered (1) Change your inner dialogue and the questions you ask. (2) Start offering yourself treats in recognition of your own self-worth. (3) Put your (true) needs first.

This is all very good, but the question this has raised by many of you is ‘how’.

How do you go about putting these three tips into practice?

(1) Change your inner dialogue and the questions you ask. 

To start this process off you could pose a number of new questions:

  • Do I complain about things not being fair?
  • When was the last time I blamed someone else for my problems?
  • What didn’t I take responsibility for?
  • Do I own my problems, or wait for someone else to fix them/me?
  • Can I link my behaviour to the outcomes I am getting?

This process is by no means easy or comfortable (see my article How to better connect with your inner voices). If our desire to change is not stronger than our desire to stay the same we will not see through this discomfort. We will stay in our comfort zone.

However, if we are committed to taking responsibility for our own lives and determined to grow, these questions will set us up to be able to progress, asking:

  • What have I come to believe that makes this a problem?
  • What have I come to believe about me that makes this a problem?
  • What have I come to believe about the world that makes this a problem?
  • What choices am I making today?

This set of questions open us up to better understanding our own beliefs and limiting beliefs (those beliefs that imprison us to being less than we can). Once we are clearer on our limiting beliefs we can start to modify them (and this is the true meaning of freedom).

(2) Start offering yourself treats in recognition of your own self-worth. 

There are various notions of the self, from self-worth, self-esteem, self-image and self-concept. It is important we recognise the differences between them.

Self-concept is the vision we have of ourself, who we would like to be, our ideal version. Self-image is who we see ourselves as right now, through the stories we are currently telling ourselves (see my article How story telling works). Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves right now. This is transient and fleeting. Self-worth is our intrinsic value. This is the core of who we are.

This will determine whether we believe we are good enough or not. 

Self-worth determines how we feel about ourselves (self-esteem) and how we see ourselves (self-image), which in turn limit the vision of who we can be/come (self-concept).

It is at the level of our self-worth we need to work if we truly want to make lasting changes.

(3) Put your (true) needs first.

Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs shows us there are two levels of needs. Deficiency needs, such as food and water, safety and security, love and belonging, and self-esteem. We all require these needs to be fulfilled. However, if we focus solely on these needs our ife becomes stagnant and self-orientated (selfish).

The second level of needs are our growth needs, such as, cognition, aesthetics and self-actualisation. This is were we start to mature and master our lives, moving beyond our comfort zone. The purpose of this second level is to reach self-transcendence, where we focus more on how we are for others, being the best version of who we are for other people (selfless).

However, to be able to do this we must first know who it is we are, for how can we transcend a self we don’t know?

The key question then is, who are you?

This is where many people can get lost, focussing on what they are and how they live their live, rather than getting to the nub of who they are.

What we are is what we do. Many people equate what I do and how well I do this, to my self-worth. This is great if you want to be a human doing and not a human being.

This approach is back to front. What we need to realise is who I am, determines how I choose to live my live, which in turn determines what I do.

Broadly speaking:


Bringing it all together

The key is to clarify your current beliefs so you can determine what future beliefs you would like to hold. But can beliefs be modified? Yes, absolutely. You need to determine how you wish to behave. This can only come out of first clarifying your truth/values, for it is your who (ie, your truth/values) that will determine your how (ie, your behaviour) and your what (ie, the things you do).

Once we have accepted our own truth, and behave accordingly, our self-worth is no longer dependent on the validation of others, and we become free to be the best versions of us we can.


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