You are the person you believe yourself to be.
“This afternoon I received a formal acceptance letter from Yale University, including a full basketball scholarship. Despite everything my alcoholic father put me through over the years—the hungry, sleepless nights I spent in tears due to their relentless negativity—it didn’t ruin me. With your coaching and guidance, I’ve worked hard to get out of this mess once and for all, and it’s finally paying off.”
That’s the opening paragraph of an email we received last night from Monica, a longtime reader and junior coaching client of ours (she gave me permission to share this with you today). Her email then goes on to say that she has forgiven her mom and stepfather, but also knows being on her own and taking this next step is a priceless gift. “Honestly, for far too long the people in my life had me convinced that I wasn’t good enough,” she says. “And although I hold no grudges, I’m so happy to be able to prove to myself that they were wrong about me.”
Monica’s email made me reflect and smile, for obvious reasons.
And although Monica’s circumstances are unique to her, I bet you can relate on some level. I know I can. Sometimes the pressure and dysfunction coming from family, peers, work, and society in general is enough to make us feel completely broken inside. If we do things differently, we’re looked down upon. If we dream big, we’re ridiculed. Or if we don’t have the right job, relationship, lifestyle, and so forth, by a certain age or time frame, we start to seriously believe we’re not good enough.
Monica’s story truly is a perfect reminder for all of us too, even though she’s only 18, because the self-limiting beliefs that get instilled in our minds often arrive at an early age.
Maybe we got cut from a sports team as a child and thus determined “I’m not athletic enough to be fit and good at sports.” Or we tried to play a musical instrument and were told to practice outside because we weren’t very good.
For whatever reason, we encounter little struggles or rejections that drastically alter our mindset for years to come. It happens something like this:
- We hear we’re bad at something, or we have a bad experience with something.
- We avoid trying again for a prolonged period of time, because it’s much easier to simply avoid the potential of more pain and disappointment.
- When we do try again, we try half-heartedly, so we can point to that and say, “See? Just as I predicted… it didn’t work out.”
- We never improve in this area of our lives, because we never commit to doing so—we continue to make excuses and take the easy way out.
- It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we’re left feeling pretty lousy about ourselves.
It’s time to break yourself out of this cycle, so you can start making progress again.
And the first—and perhaps hardest—step is to stop saying these things to yourself:
1. “Those haters are right about me.”
Don’t let rude people ruin you. Don’t let them keep you down! No matter how much negativity is thrown at you by others, there is absolutely no need for you to stay put and partake in the decay they choose for their own lives. YOU decide how your soul grows.
Because the truth is, what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you. People’s reactions to you are about their perspectives, wounds and experiences. Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, is more about them. I’m not suggesting we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback. I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally. In most cases it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of other people’s good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.
So stay out of other people’s drama and don’t needlessly create your own. Instead, imagine what would happen if you spent this entire day, and every day hereafter, with all your energy directed toward your most positive possibilities. Rather than being annoyed, be amused. Instead of getting angry, get away. Life is too short to argue and fight. Count your blessings and move on from the drama with your head held high. (Note: Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Mindfulness” chapter of our New York Times bestselling book, Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs.)
2. “It’s important that all my family and friends approve of my desires.”
Most of us are not raised to actively seek our calling. We may not even know that we have one. As kids, we are seldom told we have a place in life that is uniquely ours alone. Instead, we are encouraged to believe that our life should somehow fulfill the expectations of others—that we should find our happiness exactly as they have found theirs.
Rather than being taught to ask ourselves who we are, we are trained to ask others for permission. We are, in effect, schooled to live other people’s versions of our lives. Every day is designed and developed as told to us by someone else. And then one day when we break free to survey our dreams, seeking to fulfill ourselves, we see that most of our dreams have gone unfulfilled because we believed, and those around us believed, that what we wanted for ourselves was somehow beyond our reach.
It’s time to unlearn these lies and make changes. It takes courage to grow wiser and become who you really are. And today is the first day of the rest of your life.
3. “They can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me.”
Just because someone else can, doesn’t mean you can, right? Because you’re not good enough, or you’ve missed your chance, etc. You look for reasons they can do it but you can’t—maybe he’s an internet entrepreneur or freelance writer because he has no kids. Maybe she’s way fitter than I am, so she can run a marathon. Maybe she doesn’t have all the work and family obligations I have, or has a supportive spouse, or doesn’t have bad knees.
OK, fine, it’s easy to find excuses: but look at all the other people who also have considerable obstacles and have done it anyway. Angel and I have a family, and have dealt with significant loss in our lives, and still managed to succeed on many fronts. And just as we’ve turned things around for ourselves, we know hundreds of other people who’ve done the same. Through a decade of life coaching, we’ve witnessed people reinventing themselves at all ages—48-year olds starting families, 57-year-olds graduating from college for the first time, 71-year-olds starting successful businesses, and so forth. And stories abound of people with disabilities or illnesses who overcame their obstacles to achieve great things.
Your obstacles can be overcome!
Feeling stuck is a FEELING, not a fact. So never assume that you’re stuck with the way things are. Life changes, and so can you. It’s never too late to live a life that makes you proud. If you don’t learn anything else from this post, learn that. There’s no age limit on changing your course. (Note: Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals & Success” chapter of our brand NEW edition of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
It’s time to do something GREAT!
Whatever it is you want to improve in your life, start struggling with it for 30 minutes EVERY SINGLE DAY, and keep an eye out for EVERY tiny victory along your journey, no matter how hard you have to scrape, fight, and claw for it. Then, consistently remind yourself of these victories—keep them at the forefront of your mind, and use them as motivation to take the next step, and the next.
And when you catch yourself thinking something like, “I’m not good enough,” remind yourself that depending on what people around you expected of you as a child, or what you have expected of yourself all your life, you have been subtly molded into who YOU are. And a great deal of this molding has been driven directly by external and internal negativity about what is and isn’t possible for you.
But the truth is, what’s possible for you is up to you right NOW!
If you’re still not convinced, I want you to think about ONE self-limiting belief you have. It can be about any part of your life you hope to change—your health, your weight, your career, your relationships—anything at all. What’s one thing you’ve essentially decided is a fact about your place on Earth?
And then I want you to immediately shift gears and think about ONE time, one fleeting moment, in which the opposite of that ‘fact’ was true for you. I don’t care how tiny of a victory it was, or even if it was a partial victory. What’s one moment in time you can look back on and say, “Hey, that was totally unlike ‘me’ – but I did it!”?
- Ran a 5K for charity
- Lost weight and kept it off
- Was the life of the party
- Spoke up when you had something to say
- Stood up for yourself
- Felt loved
- Approached a guy/girl, and didn’t fall on your face
- Mastered a new skill
- Had a good idea that worked
Once you identify the cracks in the wall of a self-limiting belief, you can start attacking it. You can start taking the hard but necessary little steps forward every day that go against it—tiny victories, more confidence, gradual momentum, bigger victories, even more confidence, and so on.
Until your inner dialog and reality change for good.
Now, it’s your turn…
I would love to hear from YOU in the comments section:
What’s one self-limiting belief that has held you back?
Or better yet, what do you need to stop saying to yourself?
Please leave me a comment below.
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