As a heads up, the content of this post may sound weird to some. But bear with me – I will explain a deep and powerful technique for the mind that the general population isn’t aware of.
Some of you may already be aware that we each see the world through different lenses. You may have heard the saying “perception is reality”. Our beliefs about the world and about ourselves shape the information that we receive through our senses. And if you don’t believe me, start by checking out Schema Theory. Every bit of information passes through filters (which I generally call beliefs).
Some people might say that the truth is the truth. But truth is shaped by your beliefs. And what you may not know is that your beliefs about the world and about yourself can be changed.
Take the Tooth Fairy, for example. Children all over the world are taught to believe that the Tooth Fairy exists, collecting children’s teeth in exchange for money, during the night. In the morning, any exchange (or lack of) is a result of the Tooth Fairy. The child completely believes this. Yet, eventually a child will find out that it was their parents all along and their beliefs about the Tooth Fairy change.
This ability to hold beliefs and have them change over time still exists in adults – adults are not impervious to inaccurate or unhelpful beliefs about themselves or the world.
Is it possible that you currently hold beliefs that are unhelpful to you? I would put money on the fact that the great majority of people in the world do carry around unhelpful beliefs, myself included (although I would like to think that I’ve been able to change my most unhelpful ones).
So how do you go about modifying your beliefs?
I’ll give you one example, which stems from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
As I said at the start, this might start sounding a bit weird. But it can be extremely powerful if you are open to the process.
Start by closing your eyes, focusing inwards, saying the following just once, and noticing your reaction:
“I like myself.”
Notice the thoughts that pop into your mind. Notice any “felt sense” that goes along with it.
I mean it. Close your eyes and do it.
If there was absolutely no hesitation in agreeing with the statement, if your mind and body just replied “yeah of course I like myself” then that’s probably what you truly believe. But if there was any hesitation, or any sensation in your body that made you think that was a lie or was untrue, then chances are you believe that you don’t like yourself (which is ok… keep reading…). Or you may have even noticed some denial – an initial “No, I don’t like myself” reaction, follwed by a some thoughts which tried to convince you otherwise.
Now the kicker with this one is, if it happens you don’t like yourself, you can change that. And you can do this simply by repeating “I like myself”.
Is that kind of weird, or what?
The first time I heard it, I thought it was absurd. But the interesting thing is that the mind often doesn’t distinguish well between what is real and what is imagined – it just aligns itself with what it hears most frequently and most intensely. This is they key to the whole idea behind this post.
So to start making some real progress, repeat what you want to believe to be true frequently and intensely. Even if you struggle at first, even if it sounds weird, I truly believe this will work towards you being happier with yourself and the world. You can do this with anything – this is how anorexics convince themselves they are fat, how smokers convince themselves they are not addicted and how people with low confidence tell themselves that they are not good enough.
There is a saying that “seeing is believing”. Well one of my favourite quotes, by Sean Stephenson, is the reverse – “believing is seeing”. Change your beliefs and you will see the world differently.
And as an addendum, it is important to structure any lines that you wish to repeat to yourself in a certain way. For maximum effectives, here are some guidelines:
- Say them as true statements, even if that is currently untrue about you. Just like with the “I like myself” example.
- Focus on what you want, rather than what you don’t want. This is a topic within itself, so just keep in mind to think about what you want.
- Base them on the present. It’s no use saying that you will be something in the future, because if that becomes a belief, then you will always believe you will be that in the future. The problem is the future, by definition, is never the present.
- Make them vivid, real and emotional. The more parts of your mind that you can engage, the more believable it becomes to your subconscious (which doesn’t distinguish easily between real and imagined). If you are mindlessly repeating a line, chances are your mind won’t really be “listening” too hard.
There is also plenty of information out there on this topic. Check out this Google search for “affirmations”. And don’t forget to use your self-awareness to catch unhelpful beliefs that pop up on a regular basis.