This is my journey through the 30 Day Simplify Your Life challenge. If you would like to join in, you can get the ebook here and follow along.
The official Youtube video for “Identify your negative beliefs” week, by muchelleb.
I am working through the challenge in an order that suits me best, instead of directly following the set challenge order. Feel free to do the same!
Day 13: Identify your negative beliefs
Day 13 in the official challenge is actually ‘linen’ but I skipped this part of the challenge because living with my parents still, I don’t own much linen at all. So today we are covering what is officially Day 21 of the challenge: “Identify negative beliefs”. This is a continuation of the mental decluttering phase of the challenge.
The purpose of this week’s challenge was to identify those beliefs that you have about yourself, that limit you in some way, so that you might overcome them and be a better version of you.
The first step of the challenge was to write a list of the negative beliefs that you have about yourself. This is mine:
- Bad with confrontation
- Terrible at small talk
- Terrible at asking questions
- Bad with introducing myself to new people
- Don’t deal well with time pressure
- Bad with opinionated conversations
- I’m a bad driver and a terrible navigator
The next step is to identify why these beliefs exist. Do they exist because of something you have experienced in the past? Do they exist because of a general fear? Do they exist because of some kind of assumption you have made or scenario you have dreamed up? This is what I came up with for some of my negative beliefs:
- Bad with confrontation, terrible at small talk and bad at introducing myself to new people: The main reason I am bad at these things stems from my elective mutism as a child which manifests itself through various fears in my adulthood, particularly in confrontational situations.
- Terrible at asking questions: Also partly due to the elective mutism but also for a couple of other peculiar (and in some ways, conflicting) reasons. The first is because I have extremely high expectations of myself. If I go to ask a question, even if it is in a social setting, I will over analyse the question and think to myself ‘is that question really good enough’ and most of the time the answer will be no, so I won’t ask. The second is because I am generally terrible at thinking of questions to ask. I will sit in a meeting where someone is explaining a concept and I will think to myself ‘I have no questions, this all makes complete sense’. But then when everyone else starts asking questions I think ‘Hm. That was a good question. Good thing I know the answer to that now because that will be important later.’ Whenever I go to ask a question, either no questions come to mind or I completely crush any questions that do appear, under the weight of my own expectations.
- Don’t deal well with time pressure: By this I mean that I don’t like the stress of time pressure. This comes from my need to have things done well in advance of the due date, which is partly driven by the high expectations I have of myself and the fear that if I don’t have it done two weeks in advance then about 12 different unlikely disasters are going to occur that prevent me from getting it in at all. Thanks to this fear, in highschool, I was notorious for handing assignments in 1-2 weeks early and in uni, I always had assignments submitted at least 3 days before the due date.
- Terrible at dealing with opinionated conversations (to the extent that they make me physically sick): Since I have a fear of confrontation, opinionated conversations are bound to be a problem for me. Also, I never want to say anything I can’t reasonably justify with research and information and since I’m not good at recalling information like this off the cuff, I don’t like sharing my own opinions for fear of being trampled over. However because of this, I stay silent and feel trampled anyway as someone shoves their opinions onto my silent, non-argumentative presence.
- Bad driver and terrible navigator: Thoughts about being a bad driver primarily stem from the fact that I failed my first driving test (I had never failed anything before this). I also have a need to be perfect at everything I do and if I am not perfect, I generally convince myself that I am a failure at it; there is no happy mid-point. So every time I have taken a corner a bit too fast or cut someone off on a roundabout because I misjudged the distance, I convince myself that I am the worst and that I will never get better. Thoughts about being a bad navigator are from my general understanding that I rely on everyone else around me to have a better idea of where we are, where we have been and where we are going because I have the tendency to zone out and lose track, no matter how hard I try to focus and memorise the route. I also have a general fear of getting lost and always need to have an exact route to follow; having nothing but a vague idea is far too stressful.
Well, that got way too real. Moving on.
The next step was to identify what your lizard brain gains from these negative beliefs. Basically, the ‘lizard brain’ refers to the part of your brain that does whatever it can to keep you inside your comfort zone, to avoid any possible stressful or uncomfortable experiences.
Here is what I came up with.
- I avoid arguments
- I find it easy to please everyone; I avoid people disliking and disagreeing with me
- I avoid missing deadlines
- I avoid social interactions with people I don’t already know really well
- I avoid looking like I don’t understand
- I avoid getting lost
- I avoid driving most of the time and therefore avoid getting myself into car accidents (a huge fear of mine)
The next step was to poke holes in those negative beliefs. In her video, Michelle uses the following example to explain this: If you think you suck at job interviews because you went to a job interview once and didn’t get the job, maybe it was because you stayed up all night preparing and were functioning on three cups of coffee for the interview, not because you suck at job interviews. Basically you have to come up with alternative reasons behind the experiences that have caused these negative beliefs, which discount your negative belief as the definite cause for that experience.
So let’s poke some holes. I won’t write responses for every single negative belief here, just because I don’t want the blog to feel too long and repetitive.
- Bad with confrontation: I have a fear of confrontation because when I was little, I was terrified of people in general and because of the fear I felt when I heard others in confrontation. Not because I myself have responded badly to a confrontational situation in the past.
- I am terrible at asking questions: I actually just prefer to take some time to think and try to apply what I have learnt. Once I have done this and figured out what information I am missing, I am very good at asking questions to get the answers I need.
- I’m a bad driver: When I went for that first driving test, I likely failed because I was terrified of the instructor whom I knew was notorious for failing people and who wasn’t very nice to me at all. This stressed me out a lot and I don’t drive as well when I’m stressed (also he tricked me with a hidden stop sign which was an immediate fail. I’d been doing okay until that point).
The final step is to create evidence against each negative belief, to help justify why that negative belief is not true. Again, I won’t do it for every single negative belief, just to minimise repetition.
- I’m terrible at small talk and bad at introducing myself to new people: not always. I’m no longer the introverted, elective mute I used to be. Most people now know me as extroverted, loud and very friendly. It really depends on the situation I’m in. e.g. if I am in a position of perceived authority (like if I am the host of a party or the fourth year uni student doing a first year subject) then I can easily and confidently introduce myself and start conversation.
- Don’t deal well under time pressure: During my time out of uni, as I have had less control over project time lines, I have successfully completed multiple projects when pushed to the last minute. The last time I had to do this, my manager and two bosses all said the work I did was incredible.
- Bad driver: I have never had a ticket or fine of any sort. I have never been in a car accident of any sort and I have never damaged the car in any way. More often than not, I get to my destination safely, without cutting people off or putting anyone in danger.
With that, we made it to the end of the challenge. The point of this challenge is to help you understand why your brain thinks the way it does, so you can begin to overcome these negative beliefs. Of course it will take time, but it’s a first step. It is interesting thinking about why you perceive yourself a certain way. Your brain does some pretty crazy stuff to protect itself. I would love to hear some of the things you have discovered about yourself during this challenge!
Be happy, you’re better than you think.
~ Alice Maisie