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Lesson four: Understanding the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Unhealthy Beliefs Part 3

Getting out of stuck is about changing the narrative. Your beliefs give you a very big clue as to the story that you tell you about why things have happened to you, how the world works and ultimately what you expect. The story, however, is just that; a story. It can be changed, it can be rewritten. It’s your version of events that represents your understanding at that time. Each time you default to the same story, the same beliefs, you are opting back into the self-fulfilling prophecy. You’ve already decided how things are.

You’re bagging and tagging anything and everything that appears to be similar to what you associate with your beliefs. The story reaffirms the beliefs that you hold.

Take your average people pleaser, a person who derives their worth from being pleasing. They prioritise the needs, wishes, expectations, feelings, and opinions of others (both real and imagined), while suppressing and repressing their true selves, and they do all of this on a quest to not only increase their worth by gaining attention, validation, approval, and love, but to attempt to minimise or even eliminate experiencing conflict, disappointment, criticism, and rejection.

With people-pleasing, it’s not so much about what you do – although sometimes this is an issue too – but more about why you do it.

The problem is the beliefs behind the pleasing and how it affects their thinking and behaviour. They wouldn’t base their worth on pleasing others if they didn’t make the association between their worth and achieving external validation. They wouldn’t do what they do if they didn’t have the fundamental belief that if they don’t please others, that they’re not good/ loveable/worthy enough or that they’re a failure/ faulty/ rejectionable or whatever the belief is.

Because they take this belief and run with it, aside from devoting their energy to influencing and controlling people’s feelings and behaviour via pleasing, they also compromise their true selves because they’re afraid of ‘inviting’ a negative outcome. Of course, they and in fact, we, are unable to control the uncontrollable no matter how hard we try. Their true selves get diminished, and they don’t receive the desired reward. Instead of recognising that their thinking and behaviour is unhealthy, they attack their worth – It’s because I’m not good enough why I’m unable to influence and control other people’s behaviour. They feel short-changed.

They’re also likely to gravitate to passive aggressive but more likely aggressive people, who they’ll desire to be the exception to their rule of behaviour. The approval of people who behave this way will seem the most valuable, especially if the reason why they’re a pleaser in the first place, is because they spent their childhood trying to please an unpleasable and blamed their supposed inadequacies on why they were inadequately parented or cared for. They’ll keep using the belief that if they’re pleasing enough, surely a person “should” behave differently and change, and then when they don’t, instead of recognising what was unhealthy about the situation, they judge themselves yet again as being inadequate and displeasing. Any validation they do receive will be fleeting – people-pleasing provides temporary relief – so the anxiety and jumping through hoops doesn’t take very long to return. And of course, if they’re going around trying to please everyone while compromising themselves, it’s safe to say that they’re going to be unhappy anyway because they’re lost and haven’t got very much self-esteem to draw upon. They feel short-changed.

Round and round and round they go. The more they try to please others, is the less worthy they feel, is the more they compound the original belief.

The self-fulfilling prophecy continues because they believe that their belief is ‘right’ and they treat it as a fact when actually, it’s the reason they apply, not the truth or a fact.

It’s time to consider whether the reasoning applied is accurate or the only explanation for why something happened. It’s time to stop the vicious cycle.

Think about three experiences that you’ve blamed on your belief. Can you think of any other possible reason why what happened, happened? If you’ve been taking ownership of other people’s feelings and behaviour, what are the beliefs that have driven this habit? What comes next if you write ‘People should ________’ or ‘If someone loves me, they will _________________ even if it is not who they typically are.’

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