Episode 2 of Mind You is all about your self-limiting beliefs. This topic is a HUGE part of everyone’s anxiety journey, because so often your anxiety tells you things about yourself and the world that may not necessarily be true.
So I want to dig deep into your beliefs, see how they may be holding you back, and walk though the steps you can take today to adopt a healthier and more helpful view of yourself, your life, and your incredible potential.
This blog is just an outline of the show. So to get the full impact, I recommend having a read while you listen. Enjoy!
I’m too fat to wear a bikini on the beach.
I’m an awkward weirdo who no-one wants to be friends with.
I shouldn’t be so loud around people…I should be quieter and more polite.
These are just some of the beliefs that held me back for soooo many years. And so I stayed embarrassed. Awkward. Quiet and polite. I turned down invitations to try new things. I hated my body, and felt ashamed any time I ate. I was afraid to be me in all my glory.
What about you?
What beliefs have kept you from unleashing your awesomeness on the world – and doing the things you really want to do or were BORN to do?!
We call these your self-limiting beliefs. The name says it all: they are the things you think about yourself to be true, and that limit your potential.
But here’s a truth bomb for ya: your self-limiting beliefs are ALL WRONG.
Think about it. Beliefs are just that: beliefs. Opinions. Assumptions. They’re not real. They’re not factual or evidence-based – even though you can probably point to several experiences in your life that ‘prove’ they are.
If you’re sick of playing small, and want to break out of your self-imposed shackles, then it’s time to smash those beliefs with a humungous hammer!
So how do you do it?
I want to highlight a therapy that has been shown to work wonders in transforming your thoughts, beliefs and behaviours.
It’s called Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, or CBT for short. CBT says you may feel bad about yourself for three reasons:
- You see yourself negatively as a person
- You interpret experiences in your life as bad, or with a biased point of view
- You have a negative view of your future, and you assume everything’s going to stay the same, that you can’t possibly change.
Now, as we said before, this doesn’t mean you’re to BLAME for your beliefs. I really wanna make sure you know that. We’ve already talked about how your experiences and earlier imprinting can leave a mark and shape the way you see yourself and your future. So please, shake off that blame game. It’s so not helpful!
Instead, I want you to GET EXCITED! It’s so much fun working on yourself, and taking the steps to improve your patterns and change your life. So treat it like a personal project. Buy yourself a lovely new notebook and pen, set up a little self-reflection corner or room in your home – maybe with a couple of candles and fresh plants or flowers – and really honour this time to work on improving your self and your life. Only good things can come when you do.
Ok, so back to CBT. It’s really useful for helping you cope better with everyday life niggles. It builds resilience. And rather than tell you what you should think and feel about yourself and life, it helps you change the way you react to where you’re at. So you can start living the life you really want.
In CBT, you work on changing the way you see yourself, changing your thoughts about situations, and changing your outlook on the future. When you do that, you can dramatically shift the way you feel. It’s that simple. And incredibly powerful.
CBT assumes that events trigger your thoughts. That then brings up certain feelings. And that then leads to certain behaviours.
Going back to my example, the girls at school called me fat, and my family scrutinised my eating choices. This made me think I was fat, unlovable and unworthy. This made me feel ashamed and disgusted. And this lead to me doing bad things to my body, like purging, as well as avoiding social situations and losing my self-confidence. So the event sparked the thoughts, which led to the feelings, which caused my behaviours.
Can you think of an example in your life?
Grab your journal or a new doc on your computer, and reflect on when you were upset recently.
On the page, write the word EVENT and next to that, list what the event was that triggered your thoughts. For example, if 12 year-old me was doing this exercise, I would list my event as being bullied at school.
On the next line, write the word THOUGHTS and next to that, write down what thoughts you had when that triggering event happened. I would have written ‘I’m fat and disgusting’.
Now look at what you wrote down.
Can you see a pattern? Can you see how events can trigger your thoughts?
10 types of twisted thinking
David Burns, who wrote the bestseller Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, lists 10 Forms of Twisted Thinking.
These are the worries we have about the things that happen to us…but once you recognise them, their power over you releases and you feel less anxious about them. They are:
- All or nothing thinking: this is when you see something as either perfect or totally wrong. You see things as black and white.
- Over-generalisations: you see a negative event as an everlasting pattern of mistakes and errors, not as a one-off.
- Mental filter: when you block out all the great stuff that happened, and zoom in on the negative stuff.
- Discounting the positives: you don’t celebrate your achievements, because you were just lucky. Or you might dismiss compliments because you don’t think you’re worthy of them…or there was another reason why you were successful.
- Jumping to conclusions: you automatically assume something is bad even if there’s no evidence to support that belief. So you might mind read and thins someone is thinking something about you (like when I thought everyone on the beach thought I was fat). Or you might play fortune teller and convince yourself something will happen to you in the future, even though there’s no proof – and you don’t have a crystal ball.
- Catastrophising: this is SUPER common with anxiety. Negative stuff seems way bigger than it actually is, and the great stuff seems far less significant than it actually is. So you blow things out of proportion, or reduce their importance.
- Emotional reasoning: you assume that how you feel on the inside is how things really are. So I felt I was disgusting and no-one liked me, even though the evidence showed plenty of people in my life thought I was rad!
- Should statements: you think about the things you should or must do, think or behave. And maybe you criticise others in the same way. But these shoulds are based on a world view that may not be true.
- Labelling: do you ever do something like drop something on the floor or walk into a wall? I know I do…very often! If you do that, and then give yourself a label like “I’m so clumsy”, that’s labelling.
- Personalisation: when you take full responsibility for a situation even when you only played a small part…or maybe none at all! When I was younger, I used to apologise for any conflict I had with friends, because I so desperately wanted them to stay in my life. So I took on all the blame or responsibility, when of course conflict is usually a 2-way street.
Tune in to the podcast above to find out how you can start untwisting these thoughts.
Prompts to challenge your twisted thinking
In the episode, I mention some challenges you can list to help challenge your twisted thinking. Here are some you can play around with:
All or nothing thinking
Is it really all or nothing? Can one thing be wrong, without everything else being wrong? Where is the evidence that everything is awful? Can I see some positives that came out of this perceived ‘mistake’?
One mistake doesn’t mean everything’s gone wrong. What can I learn from this experience for next time?
Have I misinterpreted this event? Am I really looking at all parts of it, or just zooming in on the negatives?
Discounting the positive
Why should I be so quick to dismiss the positives here? And what positives can I focus on?
Jumping to conclusions
Do I really know what that person was thinking? Where’s the evidence this event will happen again in the future? How do I know my verdict of events is true…is it possible to look at it from another angle?
How big is this problem really? Can I find something I did well, and celebrate it?
Do I have to think about this event so negatively? Does it deserve my unhappiness? Just because I’m sad/anxious, that doesn’t mean I’m a miserable or difficult person.
Why should it be that way?
Is it true and fair to think about myself or the other person in that way?
Am I really responsible for everything that happened?
Now press play on the podcast episode, to get the next steps to smash your self-limiting beliefs.
I believe in you!