THE FALSE BELIEFS THAT HOLD YOU BACK
We all have limiting thoughts about ourselves that stop us from improving our health and my job is to help you uncover those thoughts so that you can consciously decide if you would like to change them or not.
Often when we encounter resistance to what we think will make us happier or healthier it is because we have a limiting belief that is blocking us in some way.
What you believe represents the truth as you see it about yourself. Whilst it’s said that the truth can set you free it is also the case that some of the truths about ourselves are so imperfect that instead of freeing us they bind us.
YOUR BELIEFS ARE JUST THOUGHTS YOU KEEP THINKING
Even though we act and live every day in accordance with what we think is true about ourselves most of us do not consciously decide what we are going to believe. Instead, we just accept our thought patterns that have built up over long periods of time rarely questioning them until we become so uncomfortable, or so limited, that we need to break free of them.
Bringing your unconscious thought patterns out into the open so that they can be seen for what they are is actually very easy. In a moment I’ll be introducing you to a simple mind mapping exercise that you can use to uncover some of your more deeply held convictions that might be blocking you from better health. The exercise below will also give you a very good idea about what might be stopping you from achieving your goals. Do try it; you may discover some very interesting things about yourself.
ACTIVITY: FIND THE LIMITING BELIEFS
Consider some of your potential health goals, especially the ones you might be procrastinating about and then fill in the blanks in the following sentence:
When I… then I will be able to…
For example: When I’m no longer suffering from [x] then I will be able to [exercise regularly/eat more healthily/go out more/etc.]
Another example might go something like this, “when I’m more settled at home, then I’ll be able to lose weight,” or whatever is relevant for you.
Now look back at your answers. What did you write in the first blank space? The chances are that this reflects some very real and limiting thoughts that are keeping you from moving forward. Don’t worry we all have them. The trick is to recognise that these beliefs are false so that they can no longer compromise your quality of life.
Now, look at what you wrote in the second blank space. What you wrote here usually indicates important and valuable activities you need to address or set goals to achieve, whether or not you actually achieve what you wrote in the first space.
This is an excellent way of uncovering some of the more limiting beliefs that you may hold about your wellbeing. The question is would you be willing to sacrifice some of them in exchange for greater wellness?
WHAT DID YOU LEARN AS A CHILD?
As young children we all learned about ourselves from the behaviours and reactions of the adults around us. If you stop to think about this for a moment you will probably be surprised at how powerfully the medical history, ideas and experiences of those closest to you have directly affected your own beliefs about your health.
Occasionally our thoughts don’t just hold us back, they can be potentially damaging too. For example, in my own case, because I felt so close to my mother and had been told so many times how alike we were, I came to believe that I would end up suffering the same health challenges as she did too. Given that she died at quite an early age from a heart attack, this was clearly a limiting belief that I was better off without. Another less serious example might be, “if I go out in an icy cold wind I’ll catch a cold.” Not so serious you might say, but still not helpful either.
Here are some more common comments that I hear on a regular basis. Use them to help you think of your own examples:
- I always get colds in the winter.
- I’m always slow to heal.
- I’m going to grow up just like my mother/ brother etc.
- Everybody suffers from [x] in our family.
- I don’t deserve to be different/have more choice/be better than my parents.
- Everything needs to be perfectly in place before I begin.
- I don’t have the strength to do this.
- I can’t/don’t know how to change.
- We are all like this in my family.
- I’ve tried all this in the past and it didn’t work for me.
Sadly, most people think these beliefs are also their truth, but they are not. They are just thoughts, not the real you and you are free to change them with just a little bit of effort.
ACTIVITY: WHERE LIMITING BELIEFS COME FROM
What ideas might you have picked up from the people closest to you about your own potential for good health?
MAPPING YOUR BELIEFS
We all act and live in accordance with our thoughts and self-image and your body is an excellent mirror for your inner templates. There is now a wealth of good quality research proving that your body is constantly reacting to your thoughts and feelings. So although your beliefs may not be the whole story in terms of your health, they will certainly be a part of the story, and that story is always worth uncovering so that you can make changes if you want to.
As you may have already discovered from some of the other exercises, a great self-help technique is to turn anything that you want more intuitive or insightful information about, in this case potentially limiting thoughts, into a picture. This works so well because it helps you create a bridge of awareness between the left and right sides of your brain enabling your creativity to be accessed more easily.
Use the mind mapping exercise below to give you an idea of some of the obstacles, be they real or imagined, that may be getting in the way of you reaching your goal.
ACTIVITY: “I DON’T DESERVE…
Take a blank sheet of paper and draw a circle in the middle of the page. Inside this write a few keywords to reflect a limiting idea about yourself that you would like to change. For example, if you are not quite sure that you deserve to achieve whatever your goal is, you could write, “I don’t deserve” in the middle of the circle. Then mind map, brainstorm or simply write some notes around this central theme to uncover why you might be holding this belief.
Here is what a recent client wrote about why she thought that she didn’t deserve to lose weight:
- I don’t deserve to be as thin as my sister.
- I don’t deserve to look and feel sexy.
- Being thin is for other people.
- If I lose weight I’ll need to become more confident and I don’t know how to do that.
Let yourself write freely, and you will probably be surprised at the number of thoughts you have that either slow down your progress or perhaps stop you from attempting to change at all.
Ideally, this should be an exercise that you come back to more than once, especially as it can be quite challenging to complete. So be gentle and give yourself time to come back to your notes again at a later date. You will probably see some themes emerging which will give you a clue as to what might be holding you back. Then you can decide if you want to change those thoughts and ideas into something altogether more helpful. You’ll find lots of ways to do this later on in this book, but for now, just be pleased with yourself for having uncovered some of the thought patterns that may be getting in your way of success.
We all have negative messages about what we are worth and what we deserve and these thoughts can often be severely limiting, or even harmful to our wellbeing. Fortunately, they can be changed, one thought at a time, simply by shining the light of your awareness onto some of your more habitual thinking patterns. This isn’t always easy, or comfortable, but it is immensely worthwhile.
So be gentle and persistent and each time you come across a negative thought, know that it is just that, a thought that you have practised thinking over and over again until you eventually believed it was true. Best of all know that you are not your thoughts and with just a little bit of effort you can begin to change them into beliefs that truly support and nourish you.
Jack was a 47 year old musician who had recently been diagnosed as diabetic. This diagnosis was a huge shock to him and he was struggling to come to terms with the many adaptations he now needed to make to his lifestyle. By nature, he was a tremendously creative and expressive person and he hated the apparent limitations and restrictions that were now being ‘forced’ upon him. Rebellion became his second name.
It soon became clear that Jack had a bad relationship with the medical team caring for him, he felt helpless and hated what he called the ‘paternalistic approach’ of the staff at the diabetic clinic.
It was only when we did some belief mapping together that the true reasons for his discontent began to emerge. Jack soon realised that much of his irritation at being treated this way stemmed from his early childhood, much of which was spent with his grandparents whilst his parents were working away. His memories of this time seemed to be dominated by being told what he could and couldn’t do and of not being allowed to play freely. Soon enough, he came to believe that being told what to do in ‘that paternalistic way’ was always something to fight against. This was an interesting revelation for Jack because on the one hand he could see how this belief was causing him so much difficulty with his medical care but on the other hand, he also realised how his need to express himself without constraint had also lead to a brilliant career as a composer.
Armed with these new insights Jack began to take charge of the situation. He spent hours researching his condition on the internet and within self-help groups and the next time he went to the clinic he took the lead by giving a clear account of his progress and making his own suggestions for the next steps in his care. He came away from that appointment feeling as though he had regained some control and self-respect. He no longer felt powerless or as if the staff were talking down to him.
The staff hadn’t changed of course, but Jack had.
“We are like those well meaning people who visit a garden and believe in talking encouragingly to the blossoms when the real trick lies in talking to the roots.
Down there is where the real work is done.”