We can manifest anything, be it our greatest dream or goal, as long as we believe in ourselves. From there, we develop a plan, make actions towards it, and then focus on amending the plan as we find the bumps in the road or the turning points. However, sometimes it's not the actions that falter, but the unsupportive thoughts themselves. Perception is reality, so it's too true, that what we believe of ourselves can help or harm us.

     Of course, this isn't new information. We've seen musicians, professional athletes, and political leaders tell us to believe in ourselves, only there is still that wall of knowing how and what to demolish within our self-definition. Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction? It can be an ongoing struggle we face.

     Perls, the grandfather of Gestalt practice, stated that living is much like eating. An event comes along, such as a piece of cake, and we have to take it in, consider it, then decide how we're going to eat it. How we chew it - or live it - determines how it affects us. If you devour the information too quickly, you'll choke and find a hazard in determining what you should have learnt or concluded. Too slow and we're going to overthink and get sick of the situation. However, when digested correctly, we can analyse a situation suitably without having too much that makes us feel ill, nor too little that leaves us deprived.

     Understanding this, the question then becomes, how do we tell what is fact or falsity? How do we measure what we believe to what is real? While the answer is not always clear, we can uphold certain litmus tests. Humanity and our emotions are on a continuum but can be analysed like true statements.

 

1. What do your loved ones say about the belief?
     Most people in our lives don't want to hurt us, so sometimes tell us half-truths to answer our questions. If we think far back enough, we've probably done the same thing. However, it can be very healthy to ask friends to tell whole-truth, despite what feelings it may dent. It can be done under specific terms - or limited to a set time - so it's understood as feedback rather than criticism. Criticism will only cause resistance to change, which is not the aim.

     When the person is honest with you, remind yourself it was requested, and not forced. Listen to the messages they're saying and ignore any instant want to defend yourself. Instead, consider their stance and how they might be seeing things differently from yourself. Question what makes you see things differently. Is it personality, experience, self-awareness, or just pure alternate lessons that were learnt? Focus on the comparison of answers, rather than finding the solution automatically.


2. What does current and past data determine about the belief?

     Where did the belief come from? What made you think or feel this way in the first place? Consider the situation that created it, who was involved, and where you were in life. Think about the facets of the situation and why the lesson became so important. Then, consider your current situation. What are the differences between then and now? Are the people around still present or is something else maintaining this self-thought?

     Janet always thought she was a horrible singer. She had been bullied in school about it and had refused to be involved in music projects most of her life. Upon thinking about it, she realised that she hadn't even tried to sing in public since she was 12. The local church was seeking choir members and she wondered if she wanted to attempt or not.

     In this situation, it's a great contrast between the moment the belief appeared and the current example. The people who bullied her are now long gone, her vocal cords may have changed or become more steady, she wouldn't be singing solo so any mistakes would be missed, and it's possible there would be additional help if she was having trouble with a piece.

 

3. How would the belief sit on a scaling system?
     Unfortunately, humanity is based on many black-and-white mindsets, where one side is good, another is bad. However, shades of grey often make the better answers. We are not on this world to know everything - only find ways to be less wrong as we go. In The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k, Mark Manson explains how the scientific discoveries of previous decades were not wrong, just less perfected than what we have now.

     To consider beliefs on a scaling system, we think more in terms of portions of right, rather than seeking the ultimate answer that is our success or undoing.

     Alice thinks that people are always hurting her in her life. She comes from a bad upbringing, had failed relationships, and recently discovered her best friend has started a relationship with her ex-partner. Her scaling question might be:

     People are always hurting me. . .
     Never . . . . Sometimes. . . . Most of the time. . . .Always . . . . Everytime.

    Alice then needs to determine which statement would be most true. Do people really hurt her every time? If she can think of times they haven't, then the answer cannot be "every time." Work through how often the belief is proven right and settle on a scaled answer that is realistic.

 

4. Is the belief harmful?
     Some beliefs are to protect us - and some are too protective. And sometimes it's the belief itself that is causing harm. Is the thought hurtful to you or limiting? Does it make you lose faith in a dream, or confidence in yourself? Could you be more effective or efficient in something if the belief didn't exist?

 

5. Is the belief holding you back from something you really want to do?
     A friend of mine told me, you're only brave if you're scared. It was a poignant comment, as often we use our beliefs to hold us back from feeling scared. To be afraid is fine - it's normal - but to let it hold us back from choices that are not dangerous that we really want to make is damaging. Sometimes living with "what ifs" can be more hurtful than the actual fear we might feel.

     Joe wanted to have a family, but he always believed he wouldn't be a good father because he didn't feel a connection to his nephew. It held him back from steady relationships because as soon as children were mentioned, he would break off the relationship.

     The belief was based on the idea that a relationship is static, that he couldn't do anything to improve it, that a father-son bond could be produced naturally without effort. Was this belief hurtful? Yes, because it was limiting his attempts to find a connection and consider a future parenting experience.

 

6. Would you expect the same from someone else?
     Think back to a situation to when a friend had a similar situation. What was your advice to them?

     Kimmy believed that to be successful she had to go college, even though she really liked the idea of a summer job that could result in a full-time position. She felt so pressured to attend school. She wondered if this was really the case, remembering when her sister, Bec, has sought out non-college careers after facing financial hardship and had recently bought an apartment with her retail management wage, after years of working up the outlet's ladder.

 

7. Did the belief come from someone else and under what circumstances?
     Where a belief comes from can sometimes determine if it's worth holding onto. This is often seen in relationship break-ups, when a partner's intrusions are shed along with the connection the couple shared. Beliefs are often changed or altered when something in our life changes. Could the belief be old and no longer needed?

 

8. Could another belief be more important?
     Sometimes beliefs don't become less true or less important, but a new belief competes. An example could be someone in a sport's team who might change teams because despite loving the people they play with, their need for advancement is stronger.

     Another example could be someone who works in a regimented profession who decides the belief of self-expression is more important, deciding to shed their suit and tie for a career of more casual attire. Neither belief is untrue, just one has become more appealing than the other.

 

Argue with yourself.
     Learning to argue with yourself effectively is a valuable skill when trying to determine your beliefs and how you wish them to define your path and self-worth. Sometimes it's done automatically when we're in a moment of confusion and debating our choices, but often, not in an efficient style that promotes self-learning.

     One way to argue with yourself suitably is to get three pens of different colours. With the first colour, allow yourself to write why you want the belief to be true, why it is true for you, and why you feel so attached to it. Continue writing for up to 10 minutes, sharing all the reasons and ideals that back the belief.

     Stop and take a deep breath. Then think who would completely disagree with you. Then write with the other pen, channeling what they would say. Add in your own interjections where you can. Give yourself up to 10 minutes to write down all the disagreement you can.

     Finally, with the third pen colour, it's time to compare both statements. Look at the language that's used, which side seems most dominant, and consider if your preference has changed at all. If so, why?

     Write about the belief, answering the following questions:
     1. What do your loved ones say about the belief?
     2. What does current and past data determine about the belief?
     3. How would the belief sit on a scaling system?
     4. Is the belief harmful?
     5. Is the belief holding you back from something you really want to do?
     6. Would you expect the same from someone else?
     7. Did the belief come from someone else and under what circumstances?
     8. Could another belief be more important?

 

     As humans, we do not have all the answers, nor do we need to know everything or be psychic. We just have to be realistic. Our job is not to know everything, just everything about us, being prepared to edit that knowledge as we grow and wriggle in our environment as it too changes. Being adaptable with clarity is more worthwhile than just knowing what all the right answers should be. Like life, we are not static - we change.

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