What is a belief system and why does it matter?
A belief system is a set of beliefs or thoughts that you hold to be true (often despite the evidence) and that shape and give meaning to your experiences. These beliefs can be limiting or empowering, and as such they will hold you back or propel you forward as you deal with challenges and opportunities in your life.
We speak of a system because they tend to support one another and end up creating an integrated system of beliefs and thoughts that over time can lead you to lose the ability to see things from a different perspective.
As an example, think of what happens in you when an idea of yours is shot down by someone you know well or not at all. This could be at work or at home or with friends. Some people react by shutting down as they give in to the belief that their ideas are never good, that nobody cares for their input and that they just aren’t worth much. Faced with exactly the same situation others react by leveraging their belief that every feedback, good or bad, is a learning opportunity. This pushes them to review their idea, take in the feedback and come up with a new version of the original idea that they are happy to sumbit again.
In the first case, the limiting belief triggers feelings of inadequacy, fear and insecurity that not only lead to pulling back at the time but will also influence character and attitude over time.
In the second instance, the empowering belief leads to trying again from a different angle and boosts resilience, confidence and attitude that can and will be leveraged over and over again in the future.
So where to beliefs come from?
In essence, they are the product of a complex set of factors including innate character traits and above all early experience and education during the formative years. In this sense beliefs are learned and embedded in your way of thinking and being as a mechanism to protect you from negative consequences. You may, for instance, have been severely punished as a child for venturing away from your garden or block and getting lost. As such you may have developed a belief that taking on risks will always lead to bad outcomes.
But don’t think that this means that if your beliefs tend to be of the limiting sort you are doomed. It’s never too late to change even though you are no longer a child. The good news is that as an adult you are fully in charge and control of your personal development process and you can decide to assess and change your beliefs to make them more empowering and less limiting.
Although there are many limiting beliefs they all stem from three basic inner fears that are common to all human beings to a greater or lesser degree. These are:
1. The fear to fail
2. The fear of not being worthy
3. The fear not to be liked/loved
If you think carefully and honestly about this you will find that whatever limiting beliefs you may have they can all be mapped back to one or more of these three fears above.
The reason why people typically don’t like to speak in public or dance is that they are afraid to fail and make a fool of themselves. Some believe that they aren’t worth much and therefore they don’t take on challenges, or do so only halfheartedly, because they don’t truly believe that they could ever deserve to make it. Finally others are so afraid about what people will think of them if they decide to challenge the status quo and try something new, that they get used to stay put in their current condition. They do so in the belief that it is the only way to preserve that little connection and love that they have with their peers.
Any of this sounds familiar?
In the next post I will explain how to go change all this.
As usual stay tuned.
Until then remember that you give meaning to what happens around you, not the opposite.