What are Beliefs?
One of the key factors that hold most people back from achieving their goals, dreams, ambitions are their beliefs. But what are beliefs, where do they come from and how many of your beliefs are you even aware of?
A belief is simply a statement, a conviction that we hold as true even without any proof or evidence. It is a feeling of certainty about what something means. It is something we consider to be an absolute fact.
Unconsciously, we live our lives through our beliefs deleting any information that doesn’t fall in line with them and magnifying information that does.
The Birth of Beliefs
When we are born, we are born empty. We have no convictions, no values, no experiences, no pre-conceived ideas. We are essentially empty vessels that, as we grow older, create our own perception of reality.
Up to the age of 7 (Imprint period), we essentially live in a trance, absorbing the world and making sense of it by soaking everything up much like a sponge. We model our parents and loved ones, copying and imitating. In this period, we cannot discern between truth and falsehood, taking everything that is said as fact.
From 8-14 (Modelling period) we start to create a vague identity of who we are by consciously modelling others. We begin to compare ourselves and our beliefs with others which in turn starts to shape who we are.
From 15-21 (Socialisation period) we start to create our own ideology. We may rebel and fight back against previously held beliefs or reinforce beliefs that we have held for some time. It is at this time that we begin to focus more on peer groups, often splitting off into groups that hold similar beliefs.
1. Imprint period from birth to 7 years of age.
2. Modelling period from 8 -14 years.
3. Socialisation period from 15 -21 years
The beliefs you hold shape who you were and who you have become. But beliefs, these invisible forces in which we distort the world, are very rarely chosen by us and even more rarely conscious to us.
It is only when we give ourselves the time to examine the beliefs that we hold that we uncover these invisible forces, making what was unconscious to us, conscious. This is the first step in radically changing your life.
How Beliefs shape our lives
Our brain has no access to the outside world, it has no grasp of reality. It receives all its information through our senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. However, what we process in our brains is a perception, not reality itself.
Our perception of reality is created through our interpretation of it. When we take in information from the outside world, it passes through several filters (including our values, meta-programs, memories, etc) and deletes, distorts and generalises the vast amounts of information we take in each second to make it fit in line with who we identify as. One of the filters in which we perceive the world is our belief filter.
When information is filtered through our beliefs, our brain does one of three things in order to make sure that the information it is processing fits in with our beliefs. If it does not then we either delete it, distort it or generalise it until it does.
These three processes make sure that what you focus on you find. Your brain likes to prove you right and so it looks for all the evidence to back up and validate your convictions.
Example: Beliefs affecting weight loss
For example, if you believe that you are always going to be fat and always give in to chocolate then your brain will make sure that happens. It will find all the evidence of the times you have given in to chocolate, it will delete all the times when you didn’t give in because it doesn’t fit with your belief and it will even distort memories so that even times when you didn’t give in you can convince yourself that you did.
As a result, you generalise to say that you ALWAYS give in to chocolate. As you begin to lose weight, your brain will find ways to sabotage you in order to keep you in line with your belief that you are fat which can then cause you to turn to chocolate.
Have you ever had an argument with someone, and you had absolute proof that they were wrong but still they thought they were right? In fact, they believed to their very core that they were right!
It’s not that they wanted to annoy you or belittle you in any way, they just had such a strong conviction that they were right and deleted, distorted and generalised the evidence to fit their belief.
An example of this is with a friend I have. He contacted me one day to tell me he had tickets to see the hard rock band, Guns N Roses. He was so excited because he had never got a chance to see them before and would finally get a chance to do so before they retired.
The problem? He had seen them live. I know that for a fact because I was with him when he saw them. When I told him that he had seen them before he completely blew me off. I gave him vivid details about where we had been sat, about the annoying woman who kept standing up in front of him, about the support act, etc.
But nothing got through. He held such a strong belief that he had never seen them that he created this reality where he hadn’t. Even after showing him the concert ticket (which I always keep) as physical proof, he still denied it saying that I must have gone without him. No matter what I said, no matter what evidence I had put in his way, nothing would break that belief.
Formation of Beliefs
You may be wondering where your beliefs have come from, how they were generated, how they were formed. They are generally formed in one of two ways, through accepting what others have told us (external) or through experience (self-generated).
Self Generated Beliefs
A self-generated belief often comes about through several methods including experience and generalisation. Experience is how most of these beliefs are generated. We try new things and what we learn from them shapes our belief.
From these experiences we create generalisations. For example, we don’t need to learn how to open a door every time we encounter one. After opening several doors, we create a belief on how to open them, generalising this across to all doors.
External beliefs come from accepting what others say. Sources of external beliefs can be parents, friends, enemies, religious figures, authority figures. A parent may have told their child that only good children eat all their food and that only naughty children leave food on their plate. You can see how a child would then eat all their food in order to be seen as good.
Beliefs from either source
How do you know that fire is hot and can burn you? This belief could have been formed from either source. Your parents may have told you that fire is dangerous, and you need to stay away. You might have got to close to a fire and burned yourself, learning from the experience. Or it may have been a combination of the two, not believing what your parents said and testing it out for yourself.
Either way, you now hold the belief that fire is hot. Now with fire, this is a belief with evidence, it has what we call references and we will talk about these a little later on.
Types of Beliefs
There are two types of beliefs that we hold, empowering and limiting. As you can imagine, empowering beliefs push us forward in life, help us achieve our goals, make us feel confident, boost our self-esteem.
Limiting beliefs do the opposite. They hold us back, stop us from making progress, sabotage us. We can hold empowering beliefs in one area of our life and limiting beliefs in another.
The first step in changing our beliefs is to become aware of the ones that we currently hold.
In this article, we have identified what beliefs are, the different types of beliefs and how they impact our lives. Next time we will look at how to identify the beliefs you hold and how to change them.