Have you ever watched someone interpret a situation in a manner that seemed way off base?
It happens all of the time. Two different people experience the exact same thing, and they walk away with two entirely different perspectives.
This is because our beliefs are self-fulfilling prophecies. They color the way we look at the world such that we only see evidence that supports them. We literally do not see contradictory evidence.
In fact, unless we intentionally decide to question our beliefs, we cannot see evidence to the contrary.
Instead, we go through our lives collecting one piece of evidence after another confirming what we already believe, all the while blind to evidence that points in the other direction.
This is why belief systems like religions and political ideologies are so polarizing. An atheist and a biblical scholar could argue for hours, both equally convinced, and both dismissing the other person’s viewpoint entirely.
It is only when we make a concerted effort to question our beliefs that we can begin collecting evidence to support new ones. And if people realized how much their beliefs—and not simply random circumstances beyond their control—are shaping their lives, they would question them more often.
We all have beliefs that do not serve us:
I can’t afford to pursue my passion; it would never pay enough.
I have horrible luck in relationships and always end up getting hurt.
Money brings out the worst in people.
People can’t be trusted; they’ll take advantage of you if you let them.
How do you know if a belief is serving you?
Ask yourself three questions:
How does it make me feel?
How does it make me act?
How do others respond to me when I feel and act this way?
Let’s use the second belief in the list as an example. The idea that you have horrible luck in relationships would probably make you feel insecure and maybe anxious in relationships. It would make you act tentatively or even defensively as you get to know people. And people are not attracted to insecurity unless they are insecure themselves, which is a recipe for someone getting hurt. You can see how this belief would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the other hand, you can always find evidence for a more empowering belief.
You just have to make a conscious decision to look for it. And don’t leap too far from where you are—just lean in the direction of a more empowering belief. Then, fake it a little ‘til you make it.
Here’s what I mean:
What if you look for evidence of this new belief: I’ve had some bad luck in the past, but I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I want from a relationship. I’m going to do things differently this time.
This belief would make you feel hopeful and empowered. Instead of looking for evidence of how someone is going to hurt you, you would notice evidence of how they are going out of their way to make you feel supported and cared for. (If they were not making you feel supported and cared for, you would not stay in the relationship, because you’ve decided to believe that supportive relationships are possible.) The person would respond to your positive emotions and appreciative behavior by continuing to be supportive, because the relationship would feel good. The positive emotions and behavior would continue to reap positive responses.
This is why beliefs are so important. They shape our emotions, drive our behavior, and influence how people respond to us.
The good news is, if you open your mind to a new way of thinking, you can always find evidence for more empowered beliefs—in your own life and in the lives of others.
There is plenty of evidence that supportive relationships exist, so why do some people have them and not others? Because they believe they can.
What new belief would you like to start living? Let me know by posting in the comments.