The Beliefs That Hold Us Back
Most people don’t know this, but on the island of Guam, there are no birds. Imagine that. Imagine never seeing or hearing another bird ever again. Because we tend to take their beauty and music for granted, we probably wouldn’t even notice their absence until it was too late. Once gone, the silence would be deafening and their presence sorely missed.
Guam used to have birds. Thanks to its relatively isolated position, the island’s bird population was broad and boasted unique species found nowhere else on earth. For thousands of years, it was home to a remarkable variety of kingfishers, swiftlets, starlings, herons, and more. They lived peacefully and flourished with no natural predators. In the mid 1960’s, that all changed.
Experts believe the brown tree snake arrived at the island stowed away on a cargo ship. Guam’s birds had no conceptions about snakes, nor did they realize that they were dangerous, and so the birds literally offered themselves up to this snake as a meal. They never had the chance to evolve any defenses.
Soon, brown tree snakes proliferated with astounding speed and in just 20 years, they completely destroyed a diverse bird population that had developed over several millennia. Now, the music of Guam is gone.
If we are to live the lives we consciously intend, then it is essential to pay close attention to our spiritual ecosystem. Like snakes, the limiting beliefs of others can slither into the corners of our minds without our even noticing. They act as stowaways under the disguise of truth and they infiltrate our conceptions of ourselves. Soon, we’ve accepted their erroneous ideas as fact, just because they were spoken by a supposed “authority” figure—a parent, teacher, clergyman, etc. We assume these ideas must be true.
When we aren’t grounded in who we are, we let others define our self-identity for us. We have no built-in defense mechanism to deflect the onslaught of negativity. And so this is what happens: The insatiable appetite of self-doubt, self-hatred, and uncertainty runs over everything that we understood and knew to be beautiful about ourselves. Our spiritual ecosystem suffers a terrible imbalance and the natural order of our island, our body, begins to break down. The music disappears from our lives, too.
Many of life’s challenges come from negative beliefs that have snuck up on us, the ones that we don’t even realize are there. Rooting these out dispel the limiting beliefs we’ve unwittingly let onto our spiritual island, and helps us restore balance once again. It’s said that St. Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland and healed the land. We can do the same with a simple exercise that’s similar to word association.
On a set of index cards, write these fill-in-the-blank sentences:
|MONEY IS:||MY HEALTH IS:||MY BODY IS:|
|MEN ARE:||MY MOTHER IS:||GOD IS:|
|WOMEN ARE:||MY FATHER IS:||SEX IS:|
|I CAN’T:||MY FACE IS:|
Write as many open-ended questions about your life as you can think of. Have a friend display these flash cards to you one at a time in random and rapid succession. Don’t stop to think about the answers! Reply as quickly and reflexively as possible to avoid self-censoring.
You’ll be surprised by how many dangerous and limiting beliefs are stowed away in your subconscious, driving your choices and behavior. If you take the time to examine each one, you’ll likely be amazed at how there’s virtually no real proof for any of them! Most of the time, you won’t even remember why you believed them in the first place. You just do.
As you continue to eliminate these falsehoods, especially the negative beliefs you’ve long held about yourself, you’ll be able to exercise the self-compassion and emotional nurturing we talked about in the Emotional Erosion and Seeding the Soul segment of this series that’s so essential for physical and emotional healing. Negative beliefs we hold about ourselves are really lies we repeat internally. That’s all they are, and when we do the work that liberates us from their self-limiting grasp, we find out very quickly that only truth can set us free, as we learned in the second installment of this series, The Truth.
Finally, when we let go of the, “I’m not pretty enough. I’m too heavy. I’m not smart enough. I’m not (fill-in-the-blank)” line of thinking, we give ourselves permission to be more of who we’ve always been. Whenever anyone assumes the courage to fully embody their true self, magic happens. We open up in ways that we never thought possible. We find ourselves doing things we’d never even consider before. We strike up a conversation with the person we didn’t think would go out with us. We apply for the job we didn’t think we were smart enough to get. The self-limiting beliefs that can be so isolating and cause us to retreat from the real world are gone. We begin to crave new relationships with real people and experiences that overwrite and disprove our old assumptions. (We looked at how these kinds of relationships are healing mechanisms in the first segment of this series, Virtual Loneliness.)
The most magnetic person in the room is always the woman who knows exactly who she is, lives fully in her truth, and is filled with so much self-love and compassion that it overflows and touches us all. Those are the kinds of people we’re all attracted to. Why? It’s because we know deep in our hearts that that’s our true nature, too. We want it. We can have it. All it requires is resurrecting your true, magnificent self.
—Dr. Habib Sadeghi can be found at the Be Hive of Healing.