Your beliefs will set you free or keep you trapped in a self-imposed prison.
A belief has power, assigned through thoughts and emotions. When repeated often, it occupies space in your mind, producing powerful emotions.
Beliefs are formed between the ages two and six, an impressionable time. It is the meaning we ascribe to the events, not the event itself that fuels the belief. For example, if your parents criticised you when you were young, you may have formed the belief, I'm not capable.
Though, this is one version of the truth based on your interpretation. I'm not suggesting it's your fault to adopt this belief, however we are meaning-making machines. We look for meaning in events to make sense of the situation.
Your mind searched for the meaning behind the criticism and concluded you mustn't be capable. But is this "the truth" or one possible interpretation?
Many people hold similar beliefs through adulthood, which keeps them trapped in a mind-made prison.
"Thinking is a surface-level activity, while beliefs are embedded in our mindset and run automatically," affirm author Gary van Warmerdam in MindWorks: A Practical Guide for Changing Thoughts, Beliefs and Emotional Reactions.
If you want to run the latest software on a new computer, installing the Windows 2.0 operating system (released in 1987) is impractical. Modern day computers are equipped with technology too advanced for software designed three decades ago.
Yet, why do you give thought to the same beliefs based on one interpretation of events that took place as a child? Can you see how pointless it is? You've outgrown your childhood environment, yet you still carry the same beliefs as an adult.
I'll say it again, your beliefs have the power to affect the quality of your life. They colour your experience and if you don't believe me, consider being in an intimate relationship harbouring the belief, I'm not worthy. How long do you think the relationship is likely to last?
However, people with unworthiness issues go in search of a partner to feel worthy. It backfires and soon enough they're back where they started - single and now miserable.
Gary van Warmerdam states, "Our beliefs determine the meaning we give to an event which in turn influences our emotional experience of the situation."
You are the storyteller of your life, the director and producer of your destiny. Your choices are influenced by your beliefs, whether they're right or wrong.
Reflect on your answers to the following.
Are your current beliefs influenced by others or through events that took place long ago? If so, who: family, friends, work colleagues, teachers, sports coaches, ministers or the collective society? Are they serving you?
Consider the beliefs you hold strongly. What is the quality of your life in that area? Not the quantity, measured by material possessions.
Do you wake up feeling happy and satisfied to seize the day? If not, you could be perpetuating limiting beliefs that impose on your day-to-day life.
"Some of our strongly held beliefs are based on plausible notions that we either read or heard, but many of our most firmly held convictions are not based on concrete, verifiable fact or proof," states author Edward B Burger and Michael Starbird in, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking.
I was indoctrinated with religious dogma through my catholic upbringing. I attended a boy's catholic school and read at Sunday mass. As an adult however, I realised my beliefs at the time were not my choosing. Whilst I don't denounce religion and am grateful for my experiences, I realised this was not the path I wanted to take.
The following are four steps to change a belief as outlined by author Ray Dodd's book The Power of Belief:
1. Practise Awareness: Dissociate from the beliefs you formed as a child that no longer serve you. Challenge the inner voice that insists this is the way it's done, as ego reinforces its control through such thoughts. These voices arise when you challenge an existing belief. Silence the endless chatter that interprets your thoughts and actions. A limiting belief is recognised by your emotional response. For example, repeat the belief cited earlier, I'm not capable and note the emotions that arise. You might be reminded of an incident when you were young and sense tightness or constriction in your chest, throat or stomach. This is your body informing you the belief still exists in your emotional body. Other limiting beliefs include: I'm not worthy, I'm not enough, I don't matter, etc.
2. Give Up The Need To Be Right: Abandon beliefs that no longer serve you. In surrendering them, you suspend the need to gather evidence to justify you're right. Through gained awareness, how does the need to be right feel? Is there a feeling of spaciousness as though a small voice within invites you to let go? By not gathering evidence you release your attachment to your old story. In intimate relationships where there's low self-worth, the person is likely to use evidence to justify they're right if they are abandoned. Do you want to be right or happy? You can't be both. "To change beliefs, we must learn to perceive them as abstract ideas separate from the world," states Gary van Warmerdam.
3. Love Yourself Without Limits: To disempower a belief, stop reinforcing it. My belief as a six year old, terrified of swimming in deep waters was, I'm weak and will never amount to anything. I compared myself to other children who could swim in deep waters. As an adult, I realised it was imprudent to pay attention to a six year old. Whilst it took me longer to learn to swim, I became proficient at it. I embraced myself irrespective of my fears, because I am already whole. I invite you to practice self-compassion despite your beliefs.
4. Create A New Dream: Design a new agreement which re-works the old belief. After you challenge the outdated belief, compose a new one in line with your Truth. Following on from my earlier example, my new belief became, I stand in my own power and know my true worth. It includes attributes for living in alignment with my authentic self. Gather evidence to support your new belief. Live it, breathe it and be it. In your new loving relationship you might reframe your unworthiness to: I love and approve of myself unconditionally.
How do you know whether your beliefs serve you? Your reality is an indicator. What do you need to pay attention to more in your life: career, relationships, health, finance, family, etc? You needn't carry worn out scripts from childhood any longer. As you form new beliefs, the outdated beliefs will fade away.
Your authentic self lies submerged beneath the rubble of outdated beliefs. If you don't reconcile them, you remain trapped in a self-imposed prison.