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Got Limiting Beliefs? 4 Ways to Choose More Empowering Ones

Got Limiting Beliefs? 4 Ways to Choose More Empowering Ones

We all have friends that grew up with siblings, under the same roof, with the same opportunities, but turned out drastically different. One pursued a career, family, and personal aspirations, while the other pursued crime, drugs, or alcohol.

What accounts for the radical difference in these two people? How can two people grow up in virtually the same environment, yet turn out so differently? What makes some people give up when the going gets tough, while others look deeper into themselves than ever before to overcome almost any level of pain?

What’s the answer?

Beliefs

Your beliefs influence everything in your life. Your beliefs have the power to open your mind and your heart; to steer you to a life of contribution and fulfillment; to motivate you to connect with others; or to smother you in a life of misery and isolation. Beliefs are why some of us rise up and relentlessly pursue a life worth living, while others live in quiet desperation.

What are beliefs?

The word belief is thrown around a lot in conversation, but what is a belief? A belief is a feeling of certainty about something. When you say you believe something, you’re saying that you feel certain about it. It’s this feeling of certainty that gives you the drive to accomplish your goals.

Think about the last big thing you accomplished in your life. If you’re like me, you saw yourself achieving your goal long before accomplishing it. It’s like you were just putting in the time necessary, but your results were guaranteed. Your feelings of certainty guaranteed an answer to any question. That’s the power of believing in yourself. That’s the power that beliefs have to bring out the best in you.

Unfortunately we don’t use this power enough. It’s our lack of belief that ends up taking the spotlight and limiting our capabilities. We don’t realize that we can have anything we want if we’re willing to give up the belief that we can’t have it.

Beliefs give us the motivation, certainty, and resolve to take action; or the self-doubt, self-sabotage, and reluctance to do anything. Beliefs can strengthen your abilities or dissolve them.

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Let’s say you’re a good husband. Chances are you’ve made your mind up to be a good husband far before you were even married. You decided what you’re going to do, raised your standards, got certain, and made it happen.

Global beliefs have the ability to filter our entire lives. Global beliefs are the wide sweeping generalizations we make; the broad assumptions we make about other people, work, money, life, and ourselves. Global beliefs affect every aspect of our lives, whether thoughts or actions, either positively or negatively.

What’s great about beliefs is that they’re really just habitual thought patterns. They’re ideas that you’ve developed a sense of certainty around. Therefore they can be changed with consistent effort. You just have to make it a habit to empower yourself instead of limiting yourself.

As time goes on you’ll see that changing only one or two limiting beliefs creates a snowball effect in which your entire thought process changes for the better. You have the power to transform everything in your life, including your future, by changing your beliefs.

How are beliefs formed?

Beliefs are built from ideas. Tony Robbins uses a terrific metaphor to illustrate this. Robbins says to picture an idea as a tabletop with no legs. Without any legs, this cognitive tabletop, doesn’t stand on its own.

But a belief on the other hand, is the idea (tabletop), strengthened with legs. Robbins calls the legs references. He says that if you really believe something (ex: I’m a good student), you have some references to support this idea. You have some experiences to draw from that strengthen the legs and make your tabletop sturdy. Experience builds references, references build ideas, ideas build a feeling of certainty, and certainty strengthens your beliefs.

Personal References

When you’re aware of how beliefs are formed, you have an idea of how to change them. Beliefs can be formed about anything when you connect enough references.

Some of us believe that people from certain areas, religions, political affiliations, or even entire races are not to be trusted. Some of us believe that people in general are good and will always do the right thing.

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I say this because isn’t it true that you could convince yourself of both of these viewpoints? If you tried, do you think you could believe that people are bad and not to be trusted? I’m sure you’ve been wronged or taken advantage of sometime in your life. Do you think you could also believe that people are good and trustworthy? Think of the times in your life where people really came through for you. Picture these references in your mind.

Your references are based on personal experience, information from the news, books, other people, or even your imagination. How much pain or pleasure are attached to these references? The stronger the emotional intensity to a reference, the stronger you’ll feel about it; the stronger your belief will be. Is it possible you’re emotions are clouding your perceptions?

We run into 3 problems with our beliefs:

  1. We don’t consciously decide what we’d like to believe
  2. We develop beliefs based on false interpretations or limited information
  3. Once adopted, we treat our beliefs as fact

We can believe anything we want to believe. Over time our beliefs become unquestioned facts to us. This is terrific when we’re planning our future or envisioning our success, but it can also be a huge roadblock to progress when we’re convinced of something negative or disempowering. Given enough time, emotional intensity, and repetition, the brain literally becomes convinced that what you’re imagining is true.

Choosing more empowering beliefs

It’s extremely liberating when you realize that you can change the meaning around any experience you’ve ever had to an empowering one. This capacity to draw meaningful experiences is available to us all. We simply never notice it or use it.

If you want to succeed in changing long-term, you have to identify what beliefs are disempowering and change them.

Use these 4 methods to shake your associations and references and choose more empowering beliefs.

1. Pain and Pleasure

Pain is the most powerful way to change your beliefs. Drastic changes are possible when you condition yourself to associate immense pain to any behavior you’re trying to avoid.

Any personal breakthrough you’ve experienced started with a change in belief. If you read my post “Want Lasting Change? Make Pain Your Friend,” you know that the quickest and most effective way to change is to associate enough pain with the behavior you’d like to change, while also associating enough pleasure to the behavior you’d like to adopt.

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If you’re able to realize how much this belief has cost you; how much pain it’s brought and will continue to bring; and how much better you’d feel to get rid of it; you’ll change in an instant. If you’re able to leverage your emotion by realizing that this belief is robbing you of your life in the present moment, you’ll be eager to let it go.

Everything we do, is to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. The bottom line is that we’ll change anything if we associate enough pain with it. Do this while envisioning all the good that will come from your new belief, how much less stressful life will be, and how much more at peace you’ll feel.

2. Doubt

All of us have beliefs we used to be certain were true, but have now long been abandoned. What caused this change? Perhaps more life experience, more information, or different reasoning. Whatever the reason, something caused you to start questioning your references. If you question any of your beliefs long enough, eventually doubt will creep in.

New beliefs don’t automatically arise from new experience though. All the evidence in the world won’t make a difference unless it causes you to question your beliefs. In fact it can have the opposite effect. You can be presented with countless information in contrary to your belief, yet interpret it to confirm what you already believe. This is called the backfire effect in psychology.

We rarely question our long held beliefs, but they influence everything we do. We have a habit of forming beliefs based on information we’ve received from others, often failing to evaluate them ourselves.

3. Modeling Others

Spending time around others that share your goals and are producing the results you want is essential. At bottom, all great achievers have adopted a set of empowering beliefs. Modeling those achieving the results you want is vital to shaping your life. Getting around others that are motivated to improve will help you to realize what they believe that you don’t. You’ll find out what’s separating them from others.

Who you spend your time with is who you become. Let’s say you’ve decided to diet and lose weight. Getting around other people with the same goals with strengthen your associations and increase your motivation. You’ll be raising your standards by spending time with others looking to raise theirs. Talking to people with the same goals will help you to relate when they have the same reasons for wanting to lose weight as you do. You’ll also hear about the pain being overweight is causing in their lives, strengthening your pain/pleasure associations even further. You’ll begin to seriously question the consequences of not losing weight. You’ll imagine it over and over and start to visualize the consequences. You’ll see yourself not fitting into your clothes, getting winded from everyday tasks, ending up diabetic, and not attracting relationship partners that you’d like. Take it as far as you need to. This will create the emotional intensity you need to develop the conviction to lose weight. But this isn’t where it stops. Now you have to act. Take your goal public. Tell your family and friends. Put some pressure on yourself to follow through. Take action, develop a daily ritual, condition your thought patterns and behavior, and you’re home free.

We must evaluate or beliefs, what they’re costing us, and make sure they’re empowering us. Your beliefs control your decisions and your future.

4. Belief Examination

We accept our beliefs as reality, but they’re merely ideas that we’ve developed a sense of certainty around. It’s often useful to examine the advantages and disadvantages of continuing to hold a given belief. You can then discover what beliefs are empowering you and what beliefs are limiting you.

When reviewing your beliefs, ask yourself:

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  1. What would I have to believe in order for this belief to be true?
  2. What is the evidence supporting this belief?
  3. What is the evidence opposing this belief?
  4. What would I tell a friend or loved one with the same belief?
  5. What will my life be like in a year if I keep this belief?
  6. What will my life be like in 5 years if I keep this belief?
  7. What will my life be like in 10 years if I keep this belief?
  8. What experiences will this belief cost me if I keep it?
  9. How much happiness am I denying myself if I keep this belief?

Take some time to answer those questions and really let the answers sink in. Realize how much these beliefs are limiting you and will continue to limit you if you don’t change them. Associate enormous amounts of pain to holding onto these beliefs. Use this pain to get rid of them.

What are the beliefs you should abandon? Build your references and emotional intensity towards the empowering beliefs and associate pain with holding onto the disempowering ones.

Replace your old limiting beliefs with empowering beliefs

Just getting rid of your disempowering beliefs isn’t enough. You have to replace them with empowering ones. Focus on the belief that you feel is limiting you the most. Write down the polar opposite of this belief. If you thought “I’m not good enough,” replace it with “I am too big of a gift to the world to sit around wasting time worrying about my imperfections.” What references do you have to support this new belief? I bet you could find them if you wanted to. As you strengthen this new belief, your mood and behavior will change for the better.

Finally, notice your feelings when evaluating your beliefs. Do you feel good or bad, empowered or disempowered? Condition yourself to choose beliefs that make you feel good. Realize that if you’re able to take what life gives you, and find an empowering meaning, you can transform your quality of life. Decide to consciously choose what things mean to you, and your beliefs and actions will help you tap your fullest potential.

Conclusion

All of our actions stem from our beliefs, whether consciously or unconsciously. Some of us believe that external events control our lives. Some of us believe that our environment makes us who we are. This is not true. It is not the events in our lives that make us who we are, it’s the meaning we associate with them. It’s our interpretations that determine who we are and who we’ll become.

Featured photo credit: ruslan.gorsky via flickr.com

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Bob Dempsey

Psychology Major

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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