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June 1, 2024

You are what you hear // The misguided power of labels

This is for everyone who has ever been handed a label.
It’s that moment, unbeknownst to you, when someone’s behavior or words create a reality for you that isn’t yours and is, therefore, a lie. Whether you subconsciously internalized that you are “not good enough,” “a nervous person,” or “have anxiety,” may this provide a fresh perspective. Our internal beliefs shape our self-perception and can limit our potential and get downright in our way. But here’s a beautiful truth: our beliefs are not immovable objects. They are changeable, malleable, and ultimately, retrainable.

Understanding the Origins of Our Beliefs

Our beliefs have history, and they often stem from experiences with family, friends, teachers, and coaches. We often don’t hear the limiting belief or even our resistance to it. Over time, we internalize and believe our story to be our truth and, therefore, what is. We might hear ourselves say things like, “I am a nervous person,” “I am not good at relationships,” “I have anxiety,” or “I am too much.” To be clear, I am not downplaying anxiety, and panic attacks are no joke, but I believe it’s worth challenging the labels because medication is only one of many tools. When we are handed a label or a belief, is it ours? Our beliefs come from somewhere and have been learned. And because they were learned, this means that they can be relearned.

Three Powerful Ways to Change Your Belief System

  1. Ask Yourself: “Is This True?”One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is, “Is this true?” When you catch yourself thinking or feeling, “I’m not good enough,” pause and question it. Is this belief based on concrete evidence, or is it a story you’ve been told or simply internalized? More often than not, you’ll find that these beliefs are not grounded in what’s true. They are perceptions, not truths. By questioning them, you can start to weaken their hold on you.
  2. Reframe Your ThoughtsAnother effective technique is to reframe your thoughts. Instead of saying, “I am anxious,” try saying, “I am feeling anxious right now.” This small shift in language separates your identity from the temporary state you’re experiencing. It reminds you that anxiety is something you feel, not something you are. Practice this regularly, and you’ll begin to see yourself in a new, more empowering light.
  3. Surround Yourself with TruthOur environment plays a crucial role in shaping our beliefs. Surround yourself with positive affirmations, supportive podcasts, encouraging books, and people who uplift you. Write down affirmations like, “I am worthy,” “I am enough,” and “I am calm and centered.” Place them where you can see them daily—on your mirror, your desk, your phone’s wallpaper, and as repeating alarmed events in your calendar. You can amp this up by listing examples that support the new belief to reinforce the growth of that new neural pathway. These confirmations serve as supportive reminders that contradict and help overwrite the untruths.
It’s also helpful to delve into the history of your beliefs. Where did they come from? Who gave them to you? What happened that resulted in you adopting this belief? Understanding the origin of these beliefs can be incredibly liberating. It allows you to see them for what they are: reflections of others’ perceptions or what you’ve internalized due to an experience. This will allow you to see that this label or belief is not an accurate depiction of your true self.
So, the next time you find yourself trapped in a cycle of negative self-belief, pause, question, reframe, and affirm. You have the power to change your mind and, in doing so, change your life.

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