My background is in both early and adult education, so I can tell you from experience, limiting beliefs are built early and stay with us right through life.
When I was teaching languages to adults, the number one thing they would say on the first day was “I’m terrible at languages”. Maybe you’ve said this one yourself? I had to launch into a long pre-prepared bit about how the human brain is built for language and that I also thought I was bad at them, before I learnt three.
People liked that speech, but did it undo fifty-odd years of programming the mantra “I suck at languages”? Of course not. It might just have chipped away at the armour of the problem a bit.
The only real way to challenge these assumptions is to prove them wrong in little ways time and time again, getting small boosts until they are a distant memory.
So what are these beliefs, and do you have them?
I was terrible at it at school, so I am terrible now…
This seems to occur regularly with languages and maths, but it can be literally anything.
Firstly, you are way more experienced and intelligent than you were then. Seriously. Your pre-frontal cortex wasn’t even fully connected. That is, the part of the brain that tempers the fires of the amygdala (the ancient instinctive part of your brain) was still forming. You definitely were not the person you are now.
Check out this article I wrote for Oxford Online Learning about how schools can kill creativity.
I should have done it when I was younger. It’s too late now…
This is one of the “tyranny of shoulds”. Yeah, you should have gone travelling, done all that unpaid work experience in a cool job, got your finances together, whatever it may be for you… Or maybe you did what you needed to then. Maybe, at that moment you knew what was good for you and you did it. You see a theme here? You are not what you were before.
If you want to do it now, then do it. Find a way. If it matters enough, then it can happen and the past won’t change that.
I tried to change and it didn’t work
So let’s keep this idea of the past being left in the past. This one isn’t hard to work through. You tried. You failed. Regroup. Growth mindset is key here.
Read here about how the 25 richest American’s who failed miserably. Pretend you are just too stubborn or blindly optimistic to take no for an answer and it might just stick.
Here’s some more:
– I don’t have time
aka: “I should be able to do everything I’m doing now and this”
– I’m not intelligent/good looking/wealthy/ (insert positive adjective) enough:
aka “I should be as intelligent/good looking/wealthy as that person”
– People will judge me:
aka “I should be what they expect of me”
– I could never be as good as that person:
aka, “I should be the best if I even have a go” (beginner guitar players could call this the Jimi Hendrix excuse).
Did you see how easily they can be reworded with “should”?
This is called the tyranny of shoulds. They are just beliefs…
To find out how to start to overcome these beliefs, read the article Growth Mindset: How to change your mind
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