Origins – Understanding fixed beliefs
At the heart of your perception of you, are your beliefs and within these, judgements that you’ve made about you, life, and what you expect people to do or not do. These judgements that you’ve made, may have existed since you were very young and may be based on a distorted perspective that's remained static and fixed. That’s what judgements that you don’t budge from are – fixed beliefs – and you will find that the way that you see you, which affects the way that you treat you, which also affects the way that you see the world and your place within it, will change when you are willing to let go of these.
It’s unlikely that you regard you as judgmental or even close-minded, especially because I'd lay bets that you can be excessively generous with others with regards to your boundaries and standards, but it’s important to recognise a few key things that highlight where your beliefs are static and fixed:
#1 If you are stuck on a person, situation, or past experience, it’s the thinking behind these including what you think what could, should, and would have happened ‘if only’, that are affecting your stuckness.
#2 If your attitude and perspective on something is the way that it has been since you were a child, your static and fixed beliefs mean that you’re kept in a child role which has you treating people like authorities when they’re not and giving away your power. It also makes it very difficult to take on the adult responsibilities of being in charge of your life and what you choose to be and do.
#3 If you keep circling back to the root belief of ‘I’m not good enough’ or back to certain expectations or ideas, even if you know that elements of what you’re circling back to don’t hold true and are actually flawed, somewhere in there is a fixed belief that’s holding you down.
#4 I have discussions with people sometimes about their beliefs about a situation and I or others give a different perspective and I get the, ‘Yeah but no but yeah but no’ attitude – objection after objection after objection, because they would rather believe the absolute worst and not budge from their fixed belief on the situation than entertain another perspective and be ‘wrong’ and have to move on and enjoy the rightness of a better experience.
#5 If you have a lot of ‘should’ in your mental and verbal vocabulary, whether it’s about you or others, this is indicative of areas of stubbornness in your life.
It’s important to remember what a judgement is in the context of your beliefs – you’re treating your perspective on things (you, life, people, relationships etc) as a conclusion; a sort of ‘That’s the end of the story. Finito’ attitude, so here’s a question:
Bearing in mind that your perspective that forms the basis of your beliefs means that you’ve formed an opinion based on certain reasoning and made a decision that affects the way in which you think and act, do you believe that your reasoning is without question, and based on a healthy, adult, present perspective that justifies you making a longstanding fixed decision with far reaching consequences?
Judgement, the ability to get a sense of what is wise, to make considered decisions and to also form sensible opinions, is something that we learn over time and is adapted to accommodate new information and ‘feedback’ that we pick up through our experiences. If we stick with a judgement and treat it as fixed which in turn makes it static, this means that all subsequent information and feedback is treated as irrelevant and likely ignored and never really given a fair hearing because we’re not budging from the original judgement. We will have a negative bias where we are geared to only prick up our ears and allow in the information that supports our perspective, otherwise we would have to budge from our position, which would change our mentality, which would change our actions, which would also have the potential to change our responsibilities or what we have to let go of, and sometimes, in fact often, the fixed beliefs that are our judgements are also our security blanket.
We can remain in an uncomfortable comfort zone and blame certain people or things, and become inadvertently complacent – we accept and take it for granted that how we see things is correct and we go into autopilot mode.
There’s also a complacency that comes about from deciding that how we’ve judged something is how it will always be. We treat our perception of an experience and our judgement about it and how it relates to us, as a permanent statement of the future and any and all things that relate to the subject of our judgement.
If we determine that our judgement is correct without question or certainly without revisiting the ‘case’ at a later stage, we cannot claim to be open-minded because we have already decided that this is how it is and will always be. That means that we have no chance to grow, to change, to choose a different path, to look at things with a fresh perspective. Over the almost ten years of writing Baggage Reclaim, I have endeavored to challenge any old perspectives I have on my parents or childhood because it’s helped me to grow. It’s not something I’m doing 24/7, but different experiences over the years have made me ensure that I’m still adjusting my beliefs from when I was a child and distinguishing them from me.
When we treat our judgement as the truth full stop, it also means that if this is the way that we have judged things, everything that we do from that moment forward reflects that outlook and our choices and so we dig a path to follow the trail of our self-fulfilling prophecy.
There is a key lesson that you need to begin the process of absorbing: While your beliefs affect your mentality and your actions, you are not your beliefs and you must distinguish between your beliefs and the truth.
Just because you think something doesn’t make it so. Really. Not every thought is a fact and you will hear this countless times throughout this course and it needs to become one of your personal mantras so that you don’t continue to fall into the trap of treating every thought – assumptions, beliefs, expectations, fears, judgements etc – as fact. A fact means indisputably true and this just isn’t the case for the lion’s share of your beliefs. If it’s not a fact, it shouldn’t be fixed, and it should certainly be open to feedback and growth.
You are not the exact same person you were six months ago, never mind as you were as a child. You have evolved, people evolve and you have experiences that depending on your outlook, you can treat as the facts of life or that you can treat as experiences.
From the moment that you start treating you and your beliefs as ‘the truth’ on everything, you are closing down your mind and you can’t be autonomous and instead end up being on autopilot.
The same person who doesn’t distinguish between themselves, their beliefs, and the truth, is the same person who will struggle to distinguish between themselves and others.
Your beliefs are your way of expressing the truth as you understand it right now, but ‘right now’ changes and so if your expression of the truth as you understand it is you repeating someone else’s beliefs or your beliefs that you’ve had since you were a child, your ‘right now’ has been on pause and it’s causing you to live in the past and to forecast doom and have a great deal of anxiety about what’s going to happen next, hence why you attempt to protect you with tends to boil down to people pleasing.
Your beliefs are your beliefs but they’re only going to become the sum of you if you allow them to dictate your every move and let them run riot while you go into autopilot mode.
I know from personal experience that we can feel quite defensive when we’re told that our thoughts (and feelings) aren’t facts. “They’re my thoughts! They’re my beliefs!” and we can actually be very territorial and feel quite threatened when it feels that who we are is being questioned. So I want to say something to you now:
You have put who you are on the back burner to put the feelings, opinions, needs, expectations, and wishes of others before your own. You aren’t living your values and you are often presenting a mask out of fear of negative consequences such as rejection, conflict, criticism, and disappointment. If you’re pretending to be happier than you feel and in fact pretending to be something that you’re not and morphing, blending and basically adapting to suit the whims and perceived opinions of others, you’re not even being you.
You may feel defensive but it’s time to ask what you’re feeling defensive about? You’re not even getting to be the true you and you’re at a point in your life where you need to reclaim you, so if you’re not being you, it is your beliefs that keep you stuck in a position that isn’t working for you that are being questioned and it is OK to question your beliefs. It doesn’t make you a bad person or invalidate you if your beliefs are questioned or you question your beliefs. They are beliefs – your perspective and thoughts. Who you are is your identity, which you can choose.
What is being threatened? The truth is that if you feel defensive about your beliefs being questioned or more importantly, you having to question them, it’s because the status quo of what you typically be and do is being threatened. If you treat you and your beliefs as one and the same, questioning your beliefs questions your identity because it’s what you’ve built it on.
You feel hurt when people don’t be and do as you expect because what you expect is based on your longstanding fixed beliefs, and in them not living up to your hopes and expectations, you feel rejected and insulted. Each time people be and do differently, you feel as if it’s a rejection of who you are. People Pleasers are continuously bogged down and hurt by the fact that ‘If it were them, they would ________’ and ‘People should _________’ beliefs, and they cannot fathom why people don’t be and do as they expect.
They’re not the same as me! They’re not doing what I want! I am being rejected. I am not good enough!
That immediately tells you that you believe that people should match up with you and do as you want and that if they don’t, it’s because they disapprove of who you are, hence you’re being rejected, which in turn you believe means that you’re not good enough, even though the flaw is not in you but in the basis of your argument. People do not have to be like you nor do they have to do as you want and expect hence, it doesn’t mean that when they’re not like you or when they’re acting differently that you’re being rejected, hence the meaning that you’re not good enough is false.
Your beliefs are what you identify with but they’re not ‘you’, especially if they actually take you away from being you.
When you get defensive about beliefs that are actually crippling your sense of self – there’s not point in holding onto a belief it it doesn’t serve you in a healthy manner – you’re avoiding considering other points of view but you’re also defending to protect something and someone that isn’t you.
Your identity is the fact of who you are and a belief or few isn’t the sum of it. Plenty of people identify for instance with being a Christian and hold it as their identity, but it’s not actually their full identity and they may not actually live up to this identity in the way that they conduct their lives. As a Christian or any other religion that you identify with, it has a set of values and beliefs that you may or may not be living by, and aside from this, you have your identity – who you are.
You can decide who you are and live up to that at any time you feel like it.
Your characteristics tell you who you are and distinguish you from others. Your experiences inform your outlook and your perception of you but your perception is based on the understanding at that time and how it has grown since then to right now. You are not your experiences hence any terrible things that have happened to you don’t have to be your identity nor do they have to make you a failure nor do they have to be a statement of the future. Your values tell you who you are – are you living up to your own values?
If someone keeps trying to change your values, they don’t like you, not because who you are is wrong but because it’s at conflict with their own values, which they in turn will see as a threat. This doesn’t mean that you should change your values – it means that you should respect your own and respect theirs (even if you don’t agree with it) … and then go your own way if they won’t respect yours. Changing to suit their values is how you disrespect you.
You may closely identify with someone or something due to finding similarities but you are still an individual, separate entity.
Your beliefs are being treated as the sum of you – you can let go of this fixed idea and use this course to consider another perspective and to grow your perspective.
It’s also important to stop equating your beliefs with The Truth. This is a ‘I Believe It So It’s A Fact’ Attitude. Remember when you were at school and you were told that 2+2 = 4 or that water is H2O and made up of hydrogen and oxygen, as well as other such facts? These are facts that you can continue to treat as facts and you’ve used these as the basis to understand and learn other facts and aspects of life. Once you learned these, it’s highly likely that you’ve closed down your mind to the possibility that 2+2=6 or anything else. Well this is what you’re doing when you treat your beliefs as facts.
This is how you end up going to the self-fulfilling prophecy because if you didn’t act in line with those beliefs, you’d have to act differently. It’s also why you get so frustrated with others who don’t share your outlook on what Pleasers ‘should’ experience as a result of their good deeds or who don’t act the way in which you believe people ‘should’. It doesn’t allow for you and others to be individuals and you essentially get mad at them for not sharing your convictions. Some people get mad or very defensive and so it’s important to dig a little deeper and recognise something:
People having different convictions to you or a different possible version of events doesn’t make you a ‘wrong person’. The former means that they are people with their own values and beliefs, a right that we all have even if we don’t agree with everyone’s, and the latter means that there’s a different perspective.
Judgements are fixed beliefs and when your fixed beliefs are highly critical, whether it’s of you or others, this points to where you can stand to entertain another perspective. It’s not about being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ and it’s certainly not about who you are being ‘wrong’, because your beliefs are not you; it’s about recognising that you can only speak and think for you and that you’re ever evolving and having the on-the-job training experience that is life.
The sky will not fall down if how you see things isn’t quite as it seemed – that’s freedom, not some terrible indictment of you. We know and do the best that we can with the knowledge that we have at that time. Entertaining other perspectives and recognising that what others be and do is about them and has absolutely nothing to do with you, enables you to stop making such dangerous judgements about your worth as a person and the ‘quality’ of your identity.
If you always focus on being a ‘right’ person, it makes your focus about making other people ‘wrong’ or ‘like you’.
Your life isn’t about being ‘right’ – it’s about rediscovering and reclaiming who you are so that you can live your life authentically and happily regardless of what others choose to be and do for themselves. Letting go of these judgements also allows you to let go of the fixed ideas you have about blame, because where you have such longstanding judgements, there’s a lot of blame rolling around and it’s likely being aimed at you.
Stubbornness is refusal to stray from a course of action or thinking in spite of compelling reasons to do so. You have a compelling reason – you and the fact that the way in which you think and act is detracting from you and causing you pain.
You can focus on the coulda, woulda, shouldas, but it will keep you stuck in the past and trying to turn back time. When you let go of your fixed ideas about what a situation that’s not 100% within your control or a separate entity (a person) ‘should’ have been and done, you get to see the truth of the situation without your ego getting unnecessarily caught up in things. As long as you keep tricking yourself that if you had done X then they would and should have done Y and that you would and should have got Z outcome, you remain stuck because you’re relying on the fixed belief that you have the power to influence, direct and control the behaviour and thinking of others, and that things would have been oh so different.
You can keep looking at things through the eyes of a child like I did but all that does is make you a child in an adult’s body and actually, you are an adult and a lot of things have happened in that time including education and experience that could help you to see these things in a way that doesn’t put you at the centre of things in the way that children do. To children their whole world is how they see things – as adults we have to learn that how we see things isn’t always accurate and that there are other perspectives and that people be and do what pertains to them not us.
As children, we can be inclined to link unrelated events together and blame ourselves for something that has nothing to do with us – I blamed myself for my parents breaking up when I was less than three years old because I assumed I’d done something naughty and wasn’t loveable enough to keep them together and I held onto this belief until I was twenty eight. It wasn’t consciously but it was there, deep rooted. I believed that if I didn’t have inadequacies that my parents would not have inadequately parented hence as an adult, if people did not live up to my hopes and expectations, which may have been makey-up at the best of times, I assumed that it was down to me. This is a childish way of viewing things, especially when I’d been using this conclusion since I was three.
I was so angry with my kinesiologist when she said this to me but as the anger passed through and I listened instead of objecting, I could see the truth of what she was saying. I would never blame a child for what I’ve done nor would I blame a person for something terrible that happened to them, nor did I run around labelling people as inadequate, nor did I think it was reasonable to expect my parents to parent my grown self – but it’s how I was behaving. It was so freeing and it immediately made a difference where this void just started to close up. I felt less needy and hungry for my parents validation. I lost my appetite for Mr Unavailables because I was now focusing on disputing my beliefs, not looking for shady evidence.
The answer to everything is not about how enough you are.
This is the easy belief and excuse to grab for because you don’t have to look too deeply. If that’s what you’re drawing as the conclusion, you haven’t looked at the events without your ego in there. You’re still making other people’s behaviour about you and you have to realise that if you believe that other people’s behaviour is about you, it leads to this idea that your behaviour is about others. Who are you blaming who you are on? If who you are is about you then why is who others are about you? That’s inverted ego issues where you have delusions of grandeur but instead of the narcissistic angle, you’re making what others be and do about you as if you have an unbelievable amount of power. I’d like to think that you’d have solved world peace, poverty, hunger, and cured cancer if you had that much power….
It’s also important not to get stuck in the bubble of your narrative where you stick with this version of events and refuse to entertain other perspectives, especially if it involves the other party having free will and you not being the one to influence, control, and direct their behaviour and thinking.
What’s the point in all of the objections? Because you feel like you have to hold tight to this fixed belief and be ‘wrong’? Let me tell you something – if you’re not blaming you for another person’s actions or laying the responsibility for a situation that was not 100% within your control at your feet, you should be frickin’ relieved and free, not angry and defensive about being ‘wrong’. You’re free! FREE! Do you know how unbelievable it felt to realise that who my parents are hasn’t got a damn thing to do with me? You are FREEEEEEEEEEE! You can spend your whole life being ‘right’ and being afraid of mistakes but it will come at a very large cost – your sense of self and living your life. If you want to be right about something, put that into the work you do or living your life in line with your values and finding ways to enjoy being you. Don’t devote your life to being right about how other people’s assholery or problems are about you! That’s jacked up and mind f*ckery!
If you’re saying and thinking a lot of ‘should’ and ‘must’, you have too many rules in your life about you and others that are likely leading you into a blind spot. How can you have fixed ideas about what people should do in response to what you be and do? That doesn’t make sense! You’ve already decided. How can you decide in advance what another person should be and do? How will you see what they do if you’re too busy listening to your version of events?
You are ever growing, ever evolving, ever renewing – that’s the nature of being human and life itself. Allow you to grow, allow you to evolve, allow you to renew. Open up your mind to adjusting your beliefs.
By adapting / letting go of your fixed beliefs, you have an opportunity to let you be you and others be themselves. You will learn from the insights you stand to gain from your experiences and you will get a better understanding of the world because you’re in it, not living in your head.
When you let go of your fixed beliefs that are holding you back, because you no longer believe that if people don’t share your convictions, that they’re rejecting you, you will allow you the right to disagree with others while also respecting their differences, even if respecting it means going your own way and letting them go theirs. You can also be there and know that you are you and they are who they are and you don’t have to give up you to validate them. When you stick with someone who you know has entirely different values and certainly dislikes yours, you’re staying to let them know that they’re wrong or feeling invalidated when you really don’t need to.
You will stop feeling afraid of admitting that you don’t know something or that you’ve made an error. You don’t know everything and whatever you’ve been through before isn’t the sum of everything. There’s room to know more.
If your beliefs feel like obstacles then they’re being treated as fixed when they don’t have to be so when you let go of your fixed beliefs, doors open up in your life. Open up the doors.