Why I Can't..... or Why Can't I?
The beliefs we carry write the script of our life.
Posted Apr 20, 2015
The beliefs we carry with us carve the forks in the road of our life. They direct us down very different paths and experiences. Our primary beliefs and our ensuing thoughts direct how we engage life. Sadly, we hardly pay attention to these seismic influences upon us. If you’d like to live your live to its fullest, it’s essential that you understand and unravel your operating beliefs.
Beliefs may be subtle – and fly beneath our conscious radar – or altogether overt, but either way they are immensely powerful. Let’s look at two opposing beliefs and consider how they impact us.
Why Can’t I?
My parents raised me to believe in possibilities and to move toward my potential. I don’t see limitations so much as possibilities. My instinct throughout my life has been, “Why can’t I?” When I have a vision, a thought, or a goal, my gut feeling is, “I can do this, why not?”
This attitude has enabled me to re-craft my sense of identity and vocation, seeing my life as perpetually evolving. This – I can do this attitude -- frees me to see myself through the lens of becoming, not stuck in a state of being. I never ask myself, “Who am I?” Instead, I contemplate, “How would I like to experience my life?”
I Can’t Do This
From my personal experience – and, more specifically, through my work as a therapist – I appreciate that many people are encumbered by a vastly differing belief. That is, the refrain they play over and over in their heads is, “I can’t do this.” Their minds search out justifications as to why they won’t succeed. And of course they don’t.
The belief that subsequently informs their thoughts may be as simple as, “I can’t do that, or I’m not smart enough, experienced enough, confident enough, lovable enough.” These images of your self contribute to mediocrity and disappointment in your relationships, your job, and marginalize your joy of life. They also incline people toward anxiety, depression, and a host of other afflictions.
These beliefs most certainly become self-fulfilling prophecies. They are often due to the messages we receive in childhood that serve to imprint the “truth” about ourselves. The belief, if left unexamined, terribly diminishes our lives. What a horrible thing. Learning to upend such beliefs, however, can liberate you from their grip.
What Informs Your Belief?
When I work with individuals afflicted in this way, I may ask them how they came to their limiting belief – how do they know it’s true? Typically, people just assume it’s so. And even more to the point, they feel that change is beyond their grasp. Some years ago, I was giving a talk on personal growth and the process of change. A gentleman in the audience asked a pointed question that revealed his skepticism about people’s ability to change. I paused before responding and ultimately inquired, “Can you tell us how you came to your belief?”
He then proceeded to share that his parents told him that people don’t typically change and even more to the point, that change was a negative to be avoided. That perspective formatted how he came to see himself. His belief was in fact a closed feedback loop – confirming his life experience. I then offered to him that my differing experiences were probably simply due to my starkly different view of myself. He acknowledged my point and this opened him to an alternative view of himself.
The snap shot we take of ourselves, typically early in life, cements our identity until we choose to take a fresh look. We needn’t be indentured to our limiting beliefs once we come to see that they are after all simply beliefs. A belief is a bias, a way of looking at things. If the way we look at ourselves is stuck in negativity, we’re left with self-incrimination. The simple yet profound transition to “I can do this” leads to a self-affirming belief that yields life-affirming results.
Your Most Intimate Companion
Our thoughts are our most intimate companion. They are with us day in, day out. They have more impact on our life than our parents, children, friends, or lovers. The most important relationship you will ever have is with your beliefs and thoughts. It certainly would make sense to have a look at them. Ask yourself where they came from and how you know them to be true. Most importantly, do they serve you? They can act as a straitjacket – or they can be your greatest ally.
In my next article I’ll share some approaches and techniques enabling you to shed tired beliefs and thoughts that don’t serve you.
Mel can be reached at Mel @melschwartz.com or at 203.227.5010 He works with individuals and couples nationally and internationally by phone, skype or facetime.You can read more at http://melschwartz.com/blog/.
Psychotherapist and marriage counselor Mel Schwartz has developed a model for life mastery -- one that moves beyond the constraints of traditional therapeutic practice. Blending the experiences of his professional and personal life and incorporating emerging sciences like quantum physics, he empowers people to master their thinking -- as they actualize new possibilities. Based in Westport CT, Mel has authored The Art of Intimacy, The Pleasure of Passion and the forthcoming A Shift of Mind: From Being to Becoming. He has written more than 100 articles for Psychologytoday.com and ashiftofmind.com
Mel presents the theories and practice behind the life mastery model before The Society for Consciousness Studies study conference sponsored by the California Institute of Integral Studies at Yale University June 4, 2015.