I asked someone to describe themselves to me the other day.
They started off with the usual: height, a joke about weight, their job, their hobbies. As I listened, they then went on to say “oh and I am very stressy person – especially when I am driving! I get all tense and am a road rage driver!”
She laughed as she said this.
I thought “How interesting!”
I said “You know, you can do things that will make your driving much less stressful……”
She replied “Really? Because I always end up with a stiff neck and shoulders after driving!”
I said “Yes – well, you can get an instructor/observer from the Institute of Advanced Motorists to come out and drive with you and they can help you be more relaxed…..”
She interrupted me “Oh I wouldn’t like anyone sitting next to me while I was driving – -I am SO stressy it would be embarrassing!”
I continued “Well, it would take away that tension, and you could reach the end of your drive relaxed and smiling instead of tense and worried….”
She thought for a moment. I could see the possibility of being relaxed about driving going through her mind.
Then she sighed, shook her head and said “It wouldn’t work – I am a lost cause!”
This is an example of where an initial belief has become so strongly attached to identity that the person refuses to change it, even when it is clear that changing it would have a huge impact on the quality of their daily life.
Now some of you reading might be going “how crazy!”. “how irrational!”
Others might be thinking “oh my goodness, I have some beliefs like that…..”
In some ways this person’s insistence on her identity as “a stress driver” is quite logical. After all, her experience has been that she gets stressed when she drives! And if enough people criticise her for it, and yet she cannot work out how to change it – what other reason can there be for it? She must just be a stressy person, otherwise she would have changed it….
This is a perfect example of how a limiting belief, especially one that we don’t have the resources, knowledge, information or support to change, can become so strongly attached to our identity, our vision of who we are, that we make it impossible for ourselves to accept support and help even when it is offered.
How can you spot a limiting belief that is getting close to becoming attached to your identity?
One way is to listen to yourself when we talk about yourself – -and listen for when you describe yourself as “being” something, when, in fact, you are just “doing” something; when you say you “are” something, rather than you “behave as” something
For example, if I say “I am an unconfident person” – that is a statement of identity. And, by the way is highly likely to be untrue – after all, EVERYONE is confident in something. If you think you are an “unconfident person” then how do you get dressed each day? How do you decide what to eat? See, you ARE confident in SOME things…everyone is!
If I say “I behave in an unconfident way in these situations….” – now I am describing a behaviour. And you know what – I can CHOOSE my behaviour (most of the time, anyway!).
I can even take it a step further and change the words I use. If I am unconfident in situations where I don’t know much about the subject, I can just say “in these situations, where I don’t know much about the subject, I am quieter and speak less”.
If we look at that last sentence – that is now starting to make sense and instead of calling myself an unconfident person – which is going to take LOTS to fix – I can now see that where I do not know much about the situation I tend to be quieter and speak less and you know, in my eyes there is nothing wrong with that!
I have gone from labelling myself as something undesireable and unpleasant (ie unconfident) and something I need to “fix” – to just describing a perfectly acceptable behaviour.
Why does this matter?
When a limiting belief becomes attached to your identity, you lose control over that belief. You lose the choice over who you are and how you behave. You give up your chance to become anyone different.
Which is fine if you are totally happy with who you are and how you are.
So here is a question to think about – how do you describe yourself?
What limiting beliefs are in YOUR description of yourself?
How can you change how you word those beliefs so they represent a behaviour you can choose, rather than represent something you need to “fix” about yourself?
yours in confidence