I’ve noticed a simple pattern that has a complicated effect on our lives:
- Something happens.
- We make an assumption about what that event means – about ourselves, about others, about the world and how we fit within it.
- We live our lives as if that assumption is true.
To put this into context, here’s an example from my own life:
- In my final year of high school, I submitted a piece of science fiction for a short story assignment. My English teacher asked if I was ESL and gave me my first D (I was a straight A student).
- I started to believe that my writing sucked, that my teacher was right, that it would be safer not to write (and risk rejection), and ultimately that I couldn’t write.
- I went into engineering (where everything clearly had a right or wrong answer) and ended up in the business world as a management consultant after that.
To sum it up: A single assignment. One creative risk. A presumptuous question from a person in a position of authority (“Did you just transfer to regular English from ESL? Oh, I thought because of your name that maybe…”). One crushed ego. A bad grade. Major life decisions (education + career). Potentially a lifetime of me telling myself and others, “I can’t write.”
All this in spite of the fact that my sister’s been telling me, “You should be a writer!” since I was 12.
It’s kinda crazy how that can happen.
The problem here isn’t what happened. It isn’t the fact that my teacher didn’t like the short story, or that I got a bad grade.
It’s that I interpreted that experience in a way that was disempowering for me and started to believe something that wasn’t necessarily true.
Even worse, I used it to justify not doing something that I enjoy. (To be honest, I thought my short story was awesome. I loved writing it. I had never been so excited or scared to turn something in!)
Life is constantly moving forward. Things are going to happen that we may or may not like.
But how we interpret those events is an entirely different thing; the meaning we make from an experience is entirely up to us.
When something doesn’t feel good, it’s easier to jump to conclusions to explain our discomfort than to actually face the discomfort itself.
That’s where limiting beliefs come from: the assumptions we make about our experience of life.
We all have events in life that make us question what we believe we’re capable of.
The real question is this: Will we let those experiences define us and make our decisions for us?