Tackling negative beliefs that stop us achieving our goals
In my last blog I mentioned LIMITING BELIEFS. These includes such issues as:
- Self-doubts (I’m not confident enough to join a club)
- Thinking in absolutes eg I must, should; always, never (I should focus all my time on the kids)
- Negative expectations (I’ll fail anyway so it’s not worth trying)
- Blaming fate or luck or others (I’m just not lucky in life)
- Mind reading others’ reactions/beliefs (They think I’m a nuisance)
These can be a problem for us because our beliefs and values drive our behaviour.
In this post I will give you a few suggestions and tips to help address them.
Please note: If you are struggling with beliefs that have been holding you back for some time or impact your day-to-day life, you may wish to seek help from a professional therapist or counsellor. The UK registering bodies for psychotherapists are:
- UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
- British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
Issue: a past event is causing the present response → Technique: leaving the belief in the past where it belongs
This is when a belief from the past has stayed with you longer that it should. Maybe as a child you weren’t good at something, or maybe a parent or teacher criticised you and you’ve generalised the negative comments and still carry that idea with you now. ‘I couldn’t ride a bike’ has become ‘I always fail when I try something’. Ask yourself:
Where did this belief come from?
Whose voice is it? Who used to say this?
Issue: focusing on the negative → Technique: reframing
Imagine someone shouts at a child who is about to put their finger’s in a plug socket. The behaviour – shouting at a child is negative – but the positive intent is to save them from harm.
What is the positive intent behind your thought? What is it trying to save you from?
If you were trying to achieve this positive outcome for a friend, how might you do it with compassion?
Issue: recurring negative thoughts → Technique: looking for contrary evidence
One approach is to challenge our negative thoughts when we have them. There are helpful worksheets available at: https://positivepsychology.com/challenging-automatic-thoughts-positive-thoughts-worksheets/
Issue: avoidance → Technique: ‘Act as if…’ and behavioural experiments
Each time you avoid doing something you would really like to do, ask yourself ‘what stops me?’ (and be honest!)
What would you do if you believed the opposite?
If you regularly think ‘I couldn’t…’ ask yourself, ‘What would happen if I did?’
What small step could you take?
Issue: getting entangled in negative thoughts → Technique: distancing
Our thoughts are no more than imaginings. When we start to think negative things about ourselves or our chances of achieving something it effects our chances of success.
Rather than mulling over the negative statement, say to yourself:
‘I am having the thought that…[insert your own thought here],
and it is only a thought not a fact.’
Issue: Mindreading what others’ might be thinking → Technique: question your assumptions
Notice when you are attributing negative reactions to others without proof – ‘they won’t like me because I said x’; ‘he probably thinks I’m useless’; ‘she would prefer it if I didn’t go’. This is mind reading. You are making assumptions about others’ reactions, thoughts and views. Ask yourself,
What evidence is there to support this?
Is there a possibility that they might feel the opposite?
What would be more realistic?