Don’t Believe All Your Beliefs by Vyda Bielkus

Traveling beyond the comfy borders of your home is always an adventure.  But when you go on a journey to a far off destination you are almost guaranteed new perspective.  These past few weeks I was certain were going to be a mind blow. I was going to India.  I was ready to be changed.  But as life had it, in my stopover city of London, I broke my foot and ended up staying there my whole vacation.   London is familiar to me as my sister has lived here for over 7 years, and it was always a popular spot for me on connections to other parts of Europe during summer vacations. Thus I wasn’t expecting much of anything new.

And let’s face it.  London is not a far off-shoot from the US.  People speak the same language, although sometimes it is hard to understand them with their proper Queen’s English, and most things just aren’t that different.

However, one day on this trip I realized why people need to go away and experience new places. Why traveling has been, forever, a topic of excitement, of stories, of awe, of a way to rock your world.   For as you stay longer in am unfamiliar place, you begin to question long held beliefs, from the mundane, to the more complex.

One day shopping for groceries with my sister she asked me to grab a bag of chips.  Perusing the aisle of chips, oops I mean “crisps”, I noticed two flavors that really 100% disgusted me.  Chicken Tarragon and Honey Ham& Cranberry. What the…what the?  Meat flavored potato chips. Even if I was not vegetarian the thought of poultry powder on a potato chip did not sound appetizing to me at all   As I thought about the chips, I thought what a wide variety of taste buds there are out there.  But I still could not make the chips fit into my belief of what chips should be.

This idea that when things don’t fit in our mental model our most inner beliefs are questioned became clearer as I rode “the Tube” (London’s subway). In the US, we are so bombarded with images of people who look, sound, smell, and appear a certain way.  Everyone is constantly trying to fit into that image we are being sold.

But in London, especially riding on the underground, you see people being more themselves, not trying to fit into the US cookie-cutter ideal. Of course you have those that are buying into local marketing too, but Londoners seem to retain an element of originality.  One morning, as I mixed, mingled and observed, I was fascinated by two young men I saw on the Tube.  One boy had extremely bloodshot eyes and shoes that were too big, and he looked sullen. And the other sat pensively next to him.  They didn’t speak to each other and seemed disconnected from the world around them.  The image of them stayed with me for the day.

As I thought about them throughout the day, I wondered who they where and where they were from.   I couldn’t place their ethnicity and all of a sudden I had no way to make them fit in my mind of what was known and familiar to me.

I realized this is how we humans get stuck.  Our beliefs keep us tied to what we know – even if what we know should be questioned.  We want things to fit in our mind. Neat. Tidy.  And when they don’t we either draw lines in the sand, start wars or change.  And since change is so hard for humans it seems often we opt for war.

The thing about beliefs is that we formulate them when we don’t have the education or information needed to develop rational beliefs grounded in truth.  Beliefs are created in early childhood and for the most part we do not question them even if they no longer serve us in adulthood.  This is because other, new beliefs feel like they don’t fit.  And it can be uncomfortable.  For example, if you carry a belief of unworthiness with you from childhood and all of a sudden you have insight that “hmmm maybe just like every other human on this planet I am worthy just because I am alive,”  it can seem almost impossible to hold onto the insight.  It doesn’t easily fit in your mind’s mental model.  So when life’s situations (like rejection, or an upset of some kind) happen, giving you reason to believe in your old belief, for the most part you cuddle back up to it like a good old blanky on a cold night:  “there now, you see you are unworthy.”

In Brene Brown’s TED speech, “The Power of Vulnerability,” she explains that one of the most important findings of her work was identifying the variable between people who had a sense of worthiness and those who didn’t.   What she found is this:  “People who have a strong sense of love and belonging BELIEVE they are worthy of love and belonging.  That’s it.  They BELIEVE they are worthy.”

So how do we attack, combat and slay those dragons of beliefs that no longer suit us?  First, you need to understand that you have beliefs and that they shape your action. Then you need to face and acknowledge them every time they arise,“oh hello-there you are my good ol’ belief of not being good enough”.  Then you need to take steps to replace the old belief with present reality and truth. You must do this every time to reshape your mental terrain to allow the new belief to take up the territory the old belief used to hold.  On our own this can be a challenge. It is why working with a coach can be so effective at letting go of old beliefs while cultivating new budding beliefs into a bouquet of beautiful blossoms.

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