If you've accepted that it's not about them, it's about you, and discovered that you're telling yourself stories that are not true or unhelpful, you may find yourself wondering how you created these little narratives and how you can guard against them moving forward. Like any problem, you're going to have to look at the causes, not just the symptoms.
As much as our narratives are created by our past decisions, they're also based on our belief systems, which come from our upbringing and what we're taught and told by our parents, teachers, peers and society. We're usually fairly conscious of these influences.
But there are other areas that we're not typically as aware of: personal truths, assumptions, and perspective.
"Personal truths" is the term I use to describe all of those individual assertions that we believe to be true, and drive us. They help us fashion our stories. They inform all of our decisions and attitudes.
These are beliefs that we rarely, if ever, question. Sometimes, if not usually, we're not even aware they exist.
Some of our "personal truths" might be empowering (and may, in fact, be "true"). For example:
- I'm a good person: My instincts are sound, and I usually treat others fairly.
- People are trustworthy: Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I just have to trust first. If I trust instead of waiting for people to prove themselves, I find people to be more reliable than many may think.
- Life is a fun, wonderful challenge: When a problem comes up, it's a puzzle waiting to be solved. Every obstacle is a step toward helping me grow and be successful.
Other "personal truths" can be far less helpful. In fact, they may be overly critical, disempowering, or harmful. Here are a few that I often see in my clients:
- I'm not good enough: I need one more degree to do what I want. I need to read one more book before I submit that article. I need to practice more before I'll be able to win.
- People are mean, dishonest and selfish: If people get a chance to cheat and lie, they'll take it every time.
- I can't afford to take risks: What if I try and fail? What does that say about me? What will people think or say behind my back?
An empowering personal truth will push us toward reaching our goals, being happier, enjoying life, and feeling in control of our path. A limiting personal truth holds us back, distracts us from our goals, and robs us of our power, our sense of control, and ultimately, our happiness.
UNCOVERING YOUR BELIEFS AND PERSONAL TRUTHS
So, how do you find out what some of the truths and beliefs are that are affecting your life?
When you recall a frustrating situation that left you feeling bad about yourself, you're likely holding on to an unhelpful personal truth that needs to be replaced with a better one. Once you've identified the personal truths that are controlling you, you may find that you need to change the ones that are leading to misunderstandings, conflict and resentment, and adjust accordingly.
The next time you find yourself in a situation of misunderstanding, conflict, or resentment, I want you to try this exercise, pulled directly from the pages of my new book, The You Factor, which I'll be continuing to share handy tools from with you all week:
- Ask yourself: "What's a recurring situation that makes me react in a particular way?"
- Ask yourself: "What is my personal truth there?"
- Look honestly at the effect your belief in that truth is having on your life.
- To everything there is an opposite: what personal truth would be diametrically opposed to the one you believe now?
- Ask yourself: "How would my situation change if I held that opposite truth?
- Ask yourself: "Should I change it?" (Yes/no)
I'd love to hear how your situation would change if decided to "go against the grain" and switch out one of your personal truths for a better one in the comments!