In this post we discussed the idea that events in our lives are meaningless, until they are given meaning through our beliefs. Our beliefs are the filter that we use to interpret events around us. These beliefs, for the most part, were created many years ago. In fact, most of the beliefs you use to give meaning to events around you probably were created while you were still a very small child. [get ready, this next sentence is a mouthful] The longer you held on to those beliefs, the more time you had to find supporting evidence to enhance the credibility of the meaning you give to events through your beliefs. Yesterday we discussed that fear of failure is one good example of a feeling that is born out of a simple belief that failure is bad. Think about it, if you didn’t believe that failure was bad (because lots of wonderful things like growth and accidental discoveries are only possible through failure), then you could not fear failure. If you didn’t fear failure, you would be far less likely to fear the unkown, and consequently far more likely to act on inspiration that you feel. That one simple belief– that failure is bad– has most likely held you back throughout your life and cost you dearly in terms of enjoyment, fulfillment, happiness, and of course, finances. We know that the fear itself is not coming from the event, in this case possible potential failure (not even a real event…), but is coming from the beliefs you already have that give meaning to the event.
So where did that belief that failure is bad come from? Is there any hope for those of us who have been buying into these beliefs as if they were real for so long that they now feel very real?
Your parents were not trying to make life difficult for you, at least most parents weren’t. Your parents were doing the best they could at the time they were raising you with the level of understanding that they had at the time, and at their level of evolution at that time. But even though your parents weren’t trying to teach you things like “failure is bad,” they are the source of most of the subconscious beliefs that people have in life. Morty Lefkoe argues that these beliefs that we have about ourselves were generally created before the age of three. Your parents’ subconscious reactions to mistakes you made as a toddler gave you the first impressions that failure is bad. because at that age you didn’t have the ability to analyze your assumption, you just took it for granted as reality. If you could go back now as an adult and talk to the 3-year-old you, you could probably avoid creating that belief, and all of the subsequent fears created from the belief.
Think back to when you were younger and you made a mistake. It could have been a big mistake or a little one, it doesn’t matter. How did your parents react to that mistake? Most likely the reaction ranged from being mildly annoyed at your behavior to perhaps yelling at you or spanking you. Whatever the reaction was, your interpretation at that time was that the reason your parents were upset or annoyed is because you failed. Thus, failure is bad. You then carried this belief with you throughout the rest of childhood, into adolescence, and then into adulthood. Similar limiting beliefs like “I’m not worthy” and “I’m a bad person” etc were created this same way. You never stopped to question the validity of the assumption, because in your mind there was no reason to. With all of the evidence you accumulated over time, how could that belief possibly be untrue?
Of course, in reality, the only reason that it feels true is because it is true for you. You believe it, and so it is. But if you could go back and speak with the 3-year-old you, you could probably help explain that the conclusion you should arrive at is not that failure is bad, but probably something more like “my parents are upset and annoyed because they have unrealistic expectations for a child my age” or “my parents are upset and annoyed because of other stresses in their lives, and they don’t realize it, but they are taking it out on me” or perhaps “my parents believe that failure is bad, but that is not true.”
I wrote yesterday about how failure is actually a wonderful thing. I honestly believe that making mistakes is crucial to learning a foreign language, and when I teach Mandarin to students we literally spend hours reviewing the fact that it is not just okay to make mistakes, it is actually a good thing. Without mistakes, you could never learn any foreign language. Similarly, without failing you could never learn any other skill on the planet– at least not anything that you haven’t already mastered. So the fear of failure, based on the belief that failure is bad, is completely false. There is no evidence to support the belief.
The same can be said for the other fears that come from other limiting beliefs. When Jesus Christ taught about faith, he was teaching the idea of removing those limiting beliefs. Faith and fear cannot occupy the same space in your mind any more than light and dark could ever occupy the same space in your room. Perfect faith throws fear aside and just moves forward. When you buy into your fears, you are choosing (subconsciously, not consciously) fear over faith. So the better job you can do identifying your beliefs that create the fears, the easier it becomes to have faith and move forward.
In later posts I will talk about other common beliefs that slow people down, like “change is difficult” or “I’m powerless.” These beliefs create dangerous fears that keep people from progressing. Remove the belief, and the fear will disappear with it.
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