(10 Minute Read)
To be honest, every year that passes I realize more and more about how everything we hear is an opinion and everything we see is a perspective; yet I see people letting their lives be dictated by believing the world is a certain way because that’s what they’ve been brought up to believe or because of their own personal experience.
The reason I feel it so viscerally when people are getting sucked into their own stories or have completely closed their minds off to new ideas is because I did this for the entire first half of my twenties. I had my beliefs on ‘this is how the world should be’ and ‘my way is right’ amongst other non supportive stories. For me it was ‘ you go to college, you get a good job, you find a nice girl, you get married, have 2.6 kids and then you’ll be happy‘ and this is how life is supposed to be – never questioning it because it was what I ‘believed’.
However, a funny thing happened when I started to climb that ladder and starting to move my life in that particular direction, I realized that wasn’t the right path for me and my internal compass was pointing me in another direction entirely. Yet for years, I ignored that inner voice, I kept climbing the rungs of that ladder, hammering home the message and repeating the famous last words “I’ll be happy when”.
For me it played out something like this. I go into college, not happy. Okay, I’ll be happy when I have my degree. Got my degree, still not happy. Ah yes, that makes sense, I need a job, I’ll be happy when I have a good job. Then low and behold I get my ‘dream job’ – working as a Year 3 teacher in a school West London and.. Still, nothing! Actually worse than nothing – this time I felt a void, I felt an emptiness. I had spent the past four years of my life working towards this goal, climbing that ladder, only to realize it was against the wrong wall!
They say that the night is generally darkest right before the dawn; and that was the figurative final straw for me- it was the first time I started to question my own story. Was everything I told myself up to this point really the way the world was and was I just playing a bit part role in somebody else’s movie? I also had to ask the very difficult question of was the pain of staying in the same situation, doing the same things over and over, just hoping it will all get better worth the emotional, physical and mental discomfort of going down a unknown and unfamiliar path, armed with only the knowledge that what I was currently doing wasn’t what I wanted to do. Truthfully, I didn’t know what I wanted; I just knew that what I was doing wasn’t right for me. I was 23 years old.
I wish I could tell you that I quit my job, started a fitness business and built an incredibly successful life for myself but that wasn’t the case (side note: success is a subjective term- for me, success is never having to worry about paying bills, being able take time off to play with my daughter or meet my mum for coffee and spending the majority of my day doing what I love. Find what success means for you and then build your life to that vision).
As with so many people, it took me another two years of pulling and dragging before I finally got my ladder against the right wall. I like to think making a life change is similar to pulling a tree up from the ground, you have to rock it back and forth, pull and drag it until it hurts- it’s painful and sometimes it feels like its never going to uproot, but eventually you get some traction, it starts to loosen and finally you get it out of the ground. That’s exactly what those two years felt like.
Now I could get into my backstory and talk you through all the stories I told myself that held me back for years, but I’ve done a full podcast on that ‘5 Stories You’re Telling Yourself That Are Holding You Back’ (episode 132 on iTunes, Spotify or Android), so I’m going to use todays blog to talk about three ‘lies’ that I believed for years that were incredibly unsupportive to me in the hopes that you support you on your journey.
As much I regularly speak about getting your ladder up against the right wall (I have a whole chapter dedicated to it in my book ‘The Fitness Mindset’) – the beliefs and stories we tell ourselves are the mindset equivalent to actually having your ladder against the right wall. The analogy I like is going on a long run. If you’re running 10km and you’re carrying a bag on your back with so much useless crap that you don’t need, that journey is going to be so much harder! Your stories and beliefs are that bag of junk; they make you slower and may even make you want to quit because they’re so ‘heavy’ or difficult to carry.
If you’re struggling in any area of your life right now, be it losing weight, building muscle, switching jobs, getting out of a unsupportive or codependent relationship, whatever it is- make sure you get rid of all that mental junk that’s in your bag and make that run easier. The less you have in your bag, the easier it is to run and the faster you can get to your end destination or the life that you want. I live by the mantra that your ‘mess becomes your message’ – so hopefully some of these lies or self limiting beliefs that you may be holding you back come to the forefront of your mind and give you some of the mental tools needed to change the way you’re seeing it. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
1) But I’ve been doing it this way or like that for so long !
I did this when I qualified as a teacher; I did this in bad relationships and I continue to have to catch it when it shows up in other areas of my life. Just because you’ve done something a certain way for so long doesn’t make it the right thing for you!
You’re not right because others agree or disagree with you and you’re not right because the world or society agree that its what you ‘should be doing’, you’re right when your logic, objective reasoning is right and overall happiness is improving, that’s what makes you right! – And truthfully most of us know when we have our ladder against the wrong wall or our internal compass is pointing in the wrong direction.
“When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch up” – Lolly Daskol
What you’ve done up to this point doesn’t have to be what you do right now and it definitely doesn’t haven to be what you do going forward!
There’s a term in economics called a ‘sunk cost fallacy’ – it effectively means throwing good money after bad because you’re afraid of losing the original money invested; but we see it in so many other areas of life- “I cant quit that job because I’ve been there for ten years” and “I have to work in this field, I did a four year degree in it” or, “yes we’re unhappy but we cant break up, we’ve been together so long”. Now I’m not saying to quit your job, leave your field or break up with your partner but if you’re only staying in it because ‘you’ve done it for so long’ – that’s absolutely ludicrous. If any of that resonated with you, I want you hear the words that echo in my ear every time I feel stuck in a situation.
“You are not a tree, if you don’t like where you are.. f****g MOVE!”.
Which directly ties me into lie number two.
2) But it’s just not practical! (fear disguised as practicality)
If you only take one message from this blog post, it’s this. DO NOT let your fear be disguised as practicality. Again, I did it for years- I made up the story that ‘I need to stay in a safe job because that’s what smart people do’ or I got into the first relationship that made sense on paper because ‘I was worried I would end up alone” (yes, guys get this too) or the story of my fathers words that continuously echoed in my ear throughout my early twenties ‘don’t be stupid, you cant make living doing that gym sh*t, get a real job!’ – all fear disguised as practicality because of the way I thought the world should be or the belief systems of others that I allowed to penetrate my own thoughts and dictate my life choices.
If there’s one question I want you to consider, it’s this. Whatever that thing is that you’re afraid it – wearing your heart on your sleeve, approaching that person, going for that job, whatever it is, is it fear disguised as practicality? If it is, the sooner you realize that fear is False Evidence Appearing Real and behind every fear is a person you want to be, the sooner you get that that ladder against the right wall.
Never forget that other people’s opinion of you and what you should do does not have to become your reality. When you get to the end goal, those old opinions of ‘you cant do that’ or ‘that’s stupid’ get replaced with ‘I knew you could do it’ and ‘well done’ – I am telling you first hand this is what happens. I lived it, I experienced it and I’m telling you that when you get to where you want to be, you will experience it too. It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, just don’t stop.
3) I can get my virginity back!
That’s an attention grabbing heading if ever there was one, but I’ve used it for a reason. Being objective with how the world really is and not letting our stories, beliefs and rose/thorn tinted glasses fool us into thinking the world is the way it is because that’s what you’ve been told is the first step towards seeing things in a completely different light.
A great philosopher once said “you shouldn’t believe everything you think” – and when you start to see thoughts like seeds, the more energy you give those thoughts, the more they’re going to manifest and grow in the physical world. I have what some might call an ‘untraditional’ belief system that serves and supports me; personally, I believe that every thought you have manifests itself into the physical world and if you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand (provided you do the work and surround yourself with the right people on that journey).
We have a cognitive bias in our brain called the ‘confirmation bias’ – when we have a belief about something, we will look for all the confirming evidence to support that belief. We see it all the time in fitness, for example ‘crossfit is the best workout program’ or ‘vegan is the best diet’ then we look for all the confirming evidence that supports that belief and surround ourself with other people who believe or think the same . This is also super common in politics but I’m not going to open that tin of worms on projection and using external things that are irrelevant to your life just to give you meaning or something to believe in. That’s a blog post for another day.
Sometimes we’re not even conscious of this confirmation bias– if you’re wondering if coconut oil is good or bad for you and you use the Google search ‘the benefits of coconut oil’, and all the benefits come up to the top, then you just confirm what you already subconsciously wanted to hear- that coconut oil is good for.
Side note: I’m not saying coconut oil is good or bad for you, it’s just one of those opinion splitting topics, so it makes for a good example.
“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – Rudyard Kipling
Regaining your objectivity on a situation is a lot like trying to get your virginity back. If you have a strong belief (good or bad) about something, then every time you get confirming evidence, it’s going to push that belief further and further down, like roots on a tree. The deeper the roots, the stronger the tree.
I’m not saying not to have beliefs about things but be very aware when those beliefs aren’t supporting or serving you. The negative story you tell yourself ‘I can never lose weight’, ‘I’m not smart enough to do that’ or ‘I’ll never find the right person’ will become your reality if you repeat it to yourself long enough. Be careful what stories you tell yourself and remember that you shouldn’t believe everything you think.
“Your mind is like a parachute, it only works if its open” – Frank Zappa
If it helps, I have ONE thing in the entire world that I truly believe- the law of gravity. I know that if I jump out of a ten-storey building, I’m going to go splat on the ground. Apart from that, I try and remain objective about everything else. Personally, I have to cultivate this skill daily as its not something that came very naturally to me. You just have to search some of my old video to see some of my previously held beliefs, ideologies and opinions that i had on things. Remember that who you were isn’t who you are and it definitely isn’t who you could become.
Side note on my belief about gravity: if we Elon Musk or Richard Branson find a way to colonize mars, I’m open to the idea of changing that belief too.
These three lies were belief systems and stories that held me back for a large portion of my adult life; although yours might be the same or they might not, I hope they serves as a catalyst to start questioning some of your own self limiting beliefs or stories that aren’t supporting you. Remember, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Thanks for reading.
If this helped or you have any questions or want to share your own self limiting beliefs with me, hit me up on DM on instagram.