Our minds and beliefs dictate everything we do. Many of us are oblivious to our thinking. We don’t realize that our brain is on auto-pilot, that we are operating from our default mode.
Beliefs originate from what we hear - and keep on hearing from others, ever since we were children (and even before that!). The sources of beliefs include environment, events, knowledge, past experiences, visualization etc. One of the biggest misconceptions people often harbor is that belief is a static, intellectual concept. Nothing can be farther from truth! Beliefs are a choice. We have the power to choose our beliefs. Our beliefs become our reality.
-From The Biochemistry of Belief
Our brains are trained to filter information. Confirmation bias is a term in cognitive science that refers to our brain’s tendency to look for evidence or interpret information in such a way that confirms our beliefs.
If we think we are not smart enough, we only focus on the moments we feel lesser than, the typos in our paper, the difficult problems to solve. We discount all of the instances of our own intelligence.
What are our default ways of thinking? What are our limiting beliefs?
Common beliefs many of us hold include things like:
"I’m unworthy of good things"
"I’m not good enough"
"I’m not smart enough"
"I’m not a good person"
"I don’t have enough money"
"I’m going to fail"
"I’ll never get there…"
These beliefs keep us stuck. If we want to move forward in our lives, we first have to get very clear about our limiting beliefs and our programs of thought. What are the stories we tell ourselves?
The good news is that these beliefs have been programmed, many of them programmed in childhood. This is good news because it means we can re-program or rewire the way we think.
Fortunately for us, receptors on the cell membranes are flexible, which can alter in sensitivity and conformation. In other words, even when we feel stuck ‘emotionally’, there is always a biochemical potential for change and possible growth.
Our thoughts are a series of neurochemicals firing which means when we deliberately direct our thoughts, we change our neural firing, in turn changing our beliefs and behaviors.
To change our brains, we need to become intimately aware of our current default thinking programs. How do we do this? By paying attention to our thoughts.
Most of our thoughts are automatic. We don’t realize we have choice in our beliefs. We take them as gospel because they’ve been there for so long. There is power in realizing that our ingrained beliefs are nothing more than a story we have come to believe.
Ready to get started?
Take some time identifying the limiting thoughts or default beliefs that come up most frequently.
Build awareness of your core limiting beliefs today, noting how often the beliefs come up. You can keep a mental record of this or physically keep a tally of how often you slip into these beliefs throughout the day as soon as you notice them.
Separation from these thoughts is important. I often reccommend making a tally of all the times you catch yourself saying or thinking something cruel about yourself for two days. Tallies can include things like, “I’m so stupid”, “God, I’m an idiot”, “I look terrible”, “I’m a slob”, “no one will want me”, “I don’t deserve it”, “I can’t eat that or I’ll get fat”...you get the drift. I would tally on an index card if possible OR use the note function on your phone and every time you catch yourself- type a c for critic.
If you aren’t physically tracking or tallying each time you catch a negative belief- try wearing a hair tie or rubber band around your wrist. Every time you catch yourself trash talking, snap the rubber band.
In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), building an awareness of our thoughts is the first step in changing them. We have to know what we are doing and how much we are doing it before we can go about changing it.
CBT talks a lot about challenging and changing thoughts.
Rather than banishing those thoughts, start by asking yourself, “Is this thought helpful?”
Awareness is the first step in making change.
Sathyanarayana Rao, T. S., Asha, M. R., Jagannatha Rao, K. S., & Vasudevaraju, P. (2009). The biochemistry of belief. Indian journal of psychiatry, 51(4), 239-41.)
Bettina J. Casad, 2016, Confirmation bias. Encyclopedia Brittanica, inc.