I’ve been working with several clients just now, helping them to re-examine and challenge the beliefs they hold about themselves.
Our attitudes and beliefs drive our behaviour and the ones we hold about ourselves have a huge impact on our self esteem and how we approach situations we encounter.
Those beliefs may have originally emerged for very real reasons at the time, but as we and our lives move on it’s helpful to regularly take a good hard look at how we think of ourselves to check if our mental model is still valid. Without this objective self awareness and observation we build up habitual responses which can, at best, hold us back and often can make us deeply unhappy about ourselves.
Feedback from others is a great way to help us challenge and examine those beliefs and attitudes. I use my own coach for that ‘spring clean’ of the soul, but I also find my children have an uncanny knack of helping me see myself in a different way!
One perfect example springs to mind.
My husband Paddy is a really talented cook. He enjoys rustling up fabulous meals out of ‘nothing’ and when he’s at home does all our meals and food. I, on the other hand, have always thought of myself as being an utter disaster in the kitchen and have plenty of tales of past food horrors to support that view. Paddy often travels with work and so of course while he’s away it’s up to me to provide food and sustenance for our 3 daughters.
One day, he was away and I sat with the kids as they were finishing their tea. Without really thinking I happened to say “Never mind, your Dad’s home tomorrow, so you will be back to nice food again”. My eldest two looked at me aghast, put down their knives and forks and said “But Mummy, you cook us lovely tea. You shouldn’t criticise yourself like that”.
They were really indignant on my behalf. And sure enough when I thought about it, I realised that I have learnt how to cook simple nutritious food that’s quick, and that the kids like.
OK, I would still panic if confronted with a fancy dinner party, but I’m competent at the basics and the children’s feedback has made me question and change the mental model and beliefs I have about myself.
It also brought me up sharp as a reminder about the impact you can have on those around you by publicly putting yourself or others down – definitely not a good model as a parent!
I can move on – yes, I was a cooking disaster at one time, but I’m not anymore. The past does not dictate the future. We learn new skills, we gain from our experiences and we can all make choices to bring about change.
So the next time you find yourself saying something like “I’m shy”, “I’m no good at that”, “I’m hopelessly disorganised” or even “I’m unlovable”, ask yourself (or someone you trust) “..but is that really true?”