The UN-conventional


The Stories We Tell or Lies We Believe

laura limiting beliefs Apr 19, 2024
Collage of Memorobilia Blog Cover

A few months ago, I went back to my childhood home. I was dreading this trip.

My parents had recently announced they were selling the house they had lived in for 40 years and I needed to finally sort through all my boxes. My parents don’t know how to throw things out. There were boxes and boxes of all my schoolwork from middle, high school, and college. A lot went straight into the bin.

An example of undated artwork that was saved from (what I hope) was a Pre-K Laura. My kids did not get their artistic talent from me. 

But, there was also a lot I was glad had been saved: letters, postcards, birthday and end-of-year cards from friends. As I read these messages, I was shocked. The things they wrote about me were really, really kind; I didn’t remember any of it. They talked about how much our friendship meant to them. How I was a good listener and confidant, a loyal and kind friend. How I had the power to make good things happen in the world.

At that moment, sitting on my childhood bedroom floor, I realized that it was only now, in my mid-40s, that I was able to believe what they had to say. And this is how our brains can sometimes be our worst enemies.

Selective attention is the cognitive process of filtering out information that we think is unnecessary. Remember the basketball players and gorilla experiment? If not, here you go.

Before this trip, whenever I reflected on my high school and college years, my body would get tense. I would think about my depression, anxiety, and eating disorder. I would think about how hard this probably made it for others to be around me.

I used to think focusing on the good parts of me was selfish. That it would mean I wasn’t challenging myself to be better. That I wasn’t doing enough. That I needed other people’s permission and acceptance to bring my whole self into the world. My brain had decided that the kind words my community said to me were unnecessary to retain. They didn’t fit with the story I was telling myself about me. But they do now, and I’m going to take them with me for the next 40+ years.

So, the next time you think back on a hard memory, ask yourself: Is the story you’ve been telling yourself true? What might have you been omitting that could serve you now? What’s the story you can tell yourself now?

If my story resonates with you, here’s a simple exercise you can try:

1) Take 5 min and write down all the beliefs you have about yourself. Here are some prompts:

  • I believe I am… / I believe I am not…
  • I am worth of... / I am not worthy of...

2) Now, pick the belief that dominates your thinking. Ask yourself: Is it true?

  • List the data you have to support this belief.
  • List the data that goes against the belief.
  • What does this data tell you? Is the belief "true"?

3) With that information, what do you want to do with the belief?

  • Do you want to keep it, change it, or throw it away?

4) Now that you know what you want to do with it, for the next week, notice when that belief comes up.

  • If you’ve decided to toss it, tell yourself: That belief is not true and try to move on.
  • If you’ve decided to change it, tell yourself the new belief. 
  • If you’ve decided to keep it, let’s hope it’s a kind and loving belief and move forward.

Last Note: These kinds of exercises are not a replacement for a good therapist! They do help when you are trying to do something hard - like start or run a business - and your brain starts offering unhelpful beliefs as the only truth.


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