There is much talk about beliefs in the air these days, in the healing and self-help communities – and that’s a good thing.
Yet a client challenged me recently and asked if it were accurate to speak of beliefs – even limiting beliefs – if what you are believing is really true. Why call it a belief if it’s true? Isn’t there a difference?
I thought that was an interesting enough question to answer here. It made me think.
What is a belief, anyway? Is it an opinion? Is it a deeply held conviction that I defend with my life? (We see a lot of that in the public arena – in politics and religion.)
So here’s what I came up with: A belief is any concept about reality that you hold as true and which therefore determines how you view yourself and life, how you feel, think, and behave.
Let’s take money as an example.
It is possible that you could prove in a court of law that money has really been the source of suffering in your life, or that you really have worked yourself to the bone trying to earn it, or that you really have let it slip through your fingers time and again, proving that you are hopeless at holding onto it – whatever is your version of the “truth” about money in your life.
And I wouldn’t argue with your facts.
But if that “truth” – that conclusion about reality – causes you to shut down your aliveness, to choose to not go after what you want, to feel depressed instead of hopeful and joyful, or to put your energy into reproaching yourself or others, or to indulge in wasteful magical thinking – to name just a few of the hundreds of possible reactions – then it is a limiting belief. Believing that concept about money, whether it’s true or not, limits you.
But there’s more to it than that.
In fact, the reason you are able to “prove” it true, why the facts line up so consistently, is often because you had the concept first and that caused you to see only certain things in life, and to not see others. For instance, it may have caused you to see danger and not to see opportunities. Or to see your fears and insecurities, instead of your strengths and talents. (I know that one, big time!)
So that is another way that beliefs function as limiters. They cause you to see through tinted lenses that “color” reality. In fact, what is coloring the lenses you are looking through, when you see a distorted version of reality? It is those very same beliefs and expectations! Your beliefs literally “filter out” what does not agree with them. In this way your beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies, causing what they predict to often come true – because that is the only aspect of reality they let you see.
There’s more to this story. And there are even more subtle and insidious ways that our limiting beliefs set the limits on what we can earn and how successful we become.
The next post will continue this story.