So our minds are very subjective. They have these very strong assumptions. Filters that color your world. There is no simple way to take out all these filters. It's just the way your mind is set, the way you believe.
Only by deep meditation or by the scientific method can you bypass your biases. But that's of little use in daily life. The best we can do is recognize our beliefs and slowly transform them into beliefs that better our lives. Beliefs that make us see and be a better us. Biases nonetheless - but positive ones.
- Perspective on your beliefs
- Recognizing your negative beliefs
- Identifying positive beliefs
- Embracing new mindsets
1. Perspective on your beliefs
Beliefs are internal models of how you think the world and you work. To illustrate how relative they are, let’s take a look at The Circus Elephant anecdote.
As elephants in circuses (used to) grow up, they are chained to a stake in the ground. Imagine a cute enslaved baby elephant wanting to walk away. But stopping in her tracks, because she is stopped by the chain connected to the stake. The stake is too strong. She will try and try, but eventually, give up.
Years go by, and the elephant grows up. She now has the mass and strength to crush cars and break through walls. So it should be easy to pull out a little stake. But she doesn’t even try. Because she has created a deeply ingrained belief, that the stake is too strong! But of course, it isn’t anymore!
It is an acquired belief.
The same goes for your own mental stakes! No matter how you think you are chained, you can break free!
2. Recognizing your negative beliefs
To grow into positive mindsets, we first must recognize and acknowledging our current negative and limiting beliefs. But how do you find these sweeping statements about yourself?
2.1 Conflicting motivations
First find those situations that you have a conflicting motivation. Think about it. For example:
- You want to talk to your crush, but you feel too shy and anxious
- You want to join a group conversation, but don't know what to say
- You want to talk to your boss about a raise, but you feel not worthy enough
Conflict. You feel two ways, and unfortunately you follow the latter.
2.2 The underlying argument
So when you follow your anxiety, shyness or other emotion - what do you tell yourself? What is the argument behind it? Observe that. So in the examples:
- I can't talk to her, because I'm just too shy
- I can't walk up to that group, they don't think I'm cool enough
- I can't ask for a raise, I'm don't work good enough for more appreciation
2.3 Distilling the belief
Within these arguments is your negative belief. You just have to filter it. Take a look at that argument, what are you generalizing about yourself. Make it as clear as possible. What do you belief about yourself?
- "I'm the shy guy"
- "I'm not cool enough for others"
- "I'm unworthy"
In one form or another these beliefs fuel your negative emotions and thoughts.
Grab a notebook or worksheet and fill in how these apply to you. You can probably find your personal patterns. How the circle keeps ongoing due to the behavior you display.
Now you've clearly identified your negative belief - your know what to change.
3. Identifying positive beliefs
So we know what our limiting negative beliefs are. So now let's think about what are positive mindsets to replace them with.
3.1 Growth mindset
The first belief I want you to look at is the growth mindset. The basis for self-development. The opposite of a fixed mindset. You need to see, that what and how you are now is not set in stone.
He who says he can and he who says he can’t, are both usually right”
- Henry Ford
3.2 I am the actor
Second belief to change: your victim role.
You are not just a ball tossed around by forces. You are an actor – playing your chosen role in the world. Determining your way and your reactions to the stage and fellow actors.
You actively take part in your own life, your choices shape your life. Don’t think you are a victim of the whims of the gods, but take responsibility for your life.
Of course, there is a lot in the world you can’t influence, don’t focus your energy on that. But take responsibility for your choices and the consequences. Be responsible for what you do and how you react. Be the actor, not the victim!
Thirdly be grateful for all the good things you already have in life. Don’t take it all for granted. For that matter, grab your notebook and write down what you are grateful about.
Just do it now. Write 10 things down. Let me help you get started.
- I have internet that allows me access to everything.
- I have a roof over my head which is pretty nice,…
Now write down the remaining 8! I’ll wait.
You see, there is loads of stuff you can be grateful for. Remember that! Keep thinking about all these blessings, you normally take for granted.
3.4 People like you
Lastly – assume people like you – instead of believing the opposite. You probably have the weird illusion that people don’t like you. Unfortunately, it is because you don’t like yourself. (But we are working on that.)
The belief others don’t like you is something you’ve got to change. No matter what your past experiences are, they don’t define your future. From now on you just assume people like you!
3.5 More positive beliefs
What other beliefs would be for you? Believing you are confident? Believing you are kind? You name it. Just make a list of 4 more beliefs that will make you feel better and be a better person
4. Embracing new mindsets
4.1 Write them down
That’s cool and all, but how do you implement new mindsets. Well, there is no one definite way. But let’s do this. Make a paper, poster, or digital sticky now. Write down the positive beliefs you want to embody.
So we've got the first few. You add the rest:
- I can develop into a better me by taking action
- I am the actor not the victim in my life
- I’m grateful for all the good things in my life
- Everybody likes me until proven otherwise
4.2 Embedding new beliefs
Now it is exposure time. You have your list. Find a place were you can read these (preferably out loud) to yourself at least twice a day.
In your journal, notebook, on your mirror. So everyday in the morning, and when you go to bed. You repeat your new beliefs like some magical mantra.
Of course there is nothing magical, or new-age shit about it. You just bring the words of your positive thoughts on top of your mind.
4.3 Slow change - act your way into believing
So now what? Wait? Well, you will have situations where your old and new mindsets apply. Your first impulse will be to act like you always did, believe what you've always believed.
But you have been etching your new mindset on top of your brain every day. It will also pop up in these moments. You can choose to act in accordance to a positive mindset.
This is the main point; you will start thinking about what it means if you would live your new mindset. Then choose to take small action that reflect that new mindset. You slowly act your way in to truly believing.
You will sometimes start acting on your new way unconsciously. You start feeling conflicted if you don't follow your positive mindset. Over the long term, months to years, you adopt this new way of thinking, making it truly your base belief.
It's not easy but you change your inner workings. It will take a long time and effort though. But adopting more positive mindsets is a great way of having a better experience of life.
Let me know what positive belief you want to embody!
[This is part of a blog series on social anxiety. Where we delve into what causes your anxiety, what prevents you from solving it, challenging negative thoughts, embracing positive mindsets, letting go of self-focus and how to overcome your anxiety by exposing yourself step by step.]