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Do You Determine Your Beliefs, or Do Your Beliefs Determine You? (Part Two)

Do You Determine Your Beliefs, or Do Your Beliefs Determine You? (Part Two)

Do You Determine Your Beliefs or Do Your Beliefs Determine You?

    Following on from Part One of this three-part series on beliefs. Here is part two:

    Catholic Craig

    Growing up in a Catholic home which was regularly frequented by nuns and priests (friends of my folks), attending only Catholic schools, being taught about life (God, religion, marriage, relationships, sex, good, bad, right, wrong) exclusively from a Catholic perspective, hanging out with my Catholic friends and only ever seeing the inside of a Catholic church, I was probably never gonna be a Buddhist by my fifteenth birthday. Or even a Baptist or Anglican for that matter. My upbringing, my environment and my education taught me that I was born into the one true church. Whatever that means.

    As a teenager, I honestly felt sorry for all those non-Catholics who were going to hell; the ones in the fake churches. Whatever that means. After all, we had the Pope on our team; God’s personal representative on planet earth and a direct successor to good old Saint Peter – the first Pope. Apparently. How could I possibly go wrong?

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    Fortunately for me, I had somehow stumbled on to the right team. What are the chances? All those religions and I was born into the only one that has a hot-line to God and an old bloke in the Vatican with a big hat and his finger on the eternal pulse. And of course, the only religion that could get me to heaven. Talk about luck. Or Karma. Oops, we don’t mention Karma do we? That’s the other team.

    Sister Mary Patricia

    Here’s a sentence I was never gonna hear from the nuns in my religious education classes at school; “Okay students, we’ve decided to provide you all with an extensive overview of the core theology, philosophy and teaching of all the major religions of the world, then we’ll leave it up to you to explore the ‘God thing’ in your own way and see where you land; it’s important that you find your own truth, listen to your own heart and develop your own religious and spiritual beliefs and understanding.”

    Nope, there was never gonna be a bar mitzvah for me.

    No Hat Here

    Now, before you think I’m getting my anti-Catholic hat on, I’m not. I don’t have one. I loved (most of) my childhood, my Catholic friends, my education and I was taught and mentored by some fantastic nuns and priests. And of course I love my (very) Catholic parents.

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    What I am talking about is social, emotional and religious conditioning (in any system, organisation or religion) that tells me what to think, do and believe and doesn’t encourage me or allow me to explore and discover my own truth beyond the walls of that system. In fact, it discourages my exploration and free thinking by being critical of groups and individuals who think, believe and behave differently. And when I start to question the system or parts thereof, I am ridiculed and criticised. Possibly labelled rebellious, misguided and troublesome.

    The only reason I’m even talking about my Catholic upbringing is because that’s the only childhood I have. That’s my reference point. My experience. My story. I could just as easily be talking about any system that requires people to think, behave and believe a certain way in order to be a ‘member’. “If you don’t align with our doctrine, theology, thinking and rules then you can’t be part of our group; that is, you must believe what we believe. You won’t develop your own spiritual and religious beliefs, we will tell you what you can and can’t believe.”

    It’s in Our DNA

    In reality, we are all constantly being programmed (taught, influenced, impacted, shaped) by our world and everything and everyone in it. Our beliefs are always being moulded and manipulated (for better or worse) without us even being aware of it. Most of our beliefs are formed over a long period of time, which is why they become such a firmly entrenched (non-negotiable) part of our DNA. Our mental and emotional DNA anyway. And that lifetime of being taught a certain message and philosophy is what makes it very hard for us to consider another truth. Different beliefs.

    In considering something else (another version, option, way of living, thinking, seeing, believing) we often need to question what we’ve believed for ever and that makes us very uncomfortable. Scared even. I’ve worked with people who get angry when I even question what they believe. And I’m not talking about criticizing their beliefs, I’m talking about asking logical, thoughtful, intelligent questions. They won’t even consider that their beliefs may be wrong; it’s too traumatic, too painful and too uncomfortable. They’ve based an entire life around some of those beliefs, so who (the f***) am I to suggest anything else?! They make it impossible for themselves to learn anything new. And did I mention the anger?

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    The Pressure to Conform

    The pressure to conform (think, talk, act, believe a certain way) exists in all areas of the human experience way beyond the religious arena; schools, homes, workplaces, sporting clubs, political parties, gangs… anywhere that people gather. Even in Cyberspace (on-line).

    The Brain Hijacker

    Am I saying that our own beliefs shouldn’t align with a larger group? No, absolutely not. What I am saying is that we need to discover our own truth, learn our own lessons and determine our own beliefs and then if our core beliefs happen to align with a group that we want to be a part of, so be it. But don’t let someone else hijack your brain, your potential or your free will because you want acceptance in to their group. To conform is to compromise.

    I like the idea of being part of a group where identical beliefs and consensual thinking is not a pre-requisite for membership. Or acceptance. Or respect. That kind of group appeals to me. I think I might start one. Hang on, I have. And you’re part of it. You got that membership card right?

    It Ain’t a Cult

    By the way, I don’t want conformity in my group; I want thoughtful consideration of what I teach. I want you to consider what I write, explore it for yourself and see if it seems like ‘truth’ for you. Don’t accept what I write because you respect me; I may be wrong. You and I can respect each together without agreeing on every topic. Accept what I write when you know it to be real, valid, meaningful and relevant for you. If what I write feels right for you, it probably is. If it feels wrong for you, it probably is. I can teach you and motivate you (for a minute), but only you should determine your beliefs and only you can change your life. I’m not the answer for anyone; I’m a resource. The answer you’re looking for is in the mirror. Always has been.

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    Next time, in part three of this very long post I’m going to talk about:

    1. When should we change/question our beliefs.
    2. How we can change our (negative) beliefs.
    3. How our beliefs get in the way of our potential (and what to do about it).

    Let me know your thoughts on this topic. You know the drill.

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    Craig Harper

    Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

    We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

    We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

    So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

    Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

    What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

    Boundaries are limits

    —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

    Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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    Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

    Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

    Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

    How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

    Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

    1. Self-Awareness Comes First

    Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

    You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

    To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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    You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

    • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
    • When do you feel disrespected?
    • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
    • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
    • When do you want to be alone?
    • How much space do you need?

    You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

    2. Clear Communication Is Essential

    Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

    Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

    3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

    Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

    That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

    Sample language:

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    • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
    • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
    • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
    • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
    • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
    • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
    • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

    Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

    4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

    Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

    Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

    Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

    We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

    It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

    It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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    Final Thoughts

    Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

    Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

    Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

    The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

    Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

    Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

    They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

    Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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