Problematic Personalised Truths

As promised, more on Personalised Truths, those pesky, sometimes damaging, ideas we have about ourselves that we believe to be true even when there is absolutely no evidence that they are actually true!

These ideas may have been created by us or they may have been put in our heads by others, but whichever route, it is because we believe them to be true they become a part of our unconscious thinking and, therefore, impact on our feelings and actions.

If you think about a time when you have met someone whose life or behaviour you really could not understand, for example someone obsessed with changing how they look through excessive dieting, excessive exercise or excessive plastic surgery or maybe someone with an addiction which is obviously detrimental to their well-being yet the continue to do it or, perhaps, someone whose lifestyle involves risky behaviour. Behind all such behaviours a personalised truth can be found.

There are two types of personalised truths that burrow their way into out psyche, those that we believe about ourselves and those we use to justify things that affect our lives.

The first, what we believe about ourselves, are those ideas about our bodies, our intelligence, our capabilities etc. for example “I’m fat”, “I’m ugly” “I’m stupid” “I’m a failure”. Naturally these truths are not always negative, some people are perhaps too positive and over confident and many of our thoughts are quite balanced. Yet where we have a negative belief about ourselves it can far outweigh any of those balanced ones.

Especially where those personalised truths can never really be true in the first place!

Take, for example, “I’m ugly”. Ugliness and beauty a wholly open to interpretation, ideas of beauty depend on individual taste and, on a wider scale, ideas of beauty vary from culture to culture and vary over time. Would Titian’s 16th Century vision of Venus, goddess of love, beauty and desire, male it to the front cover of a glossy fashion magazine today?

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Another aspect of problematic personalised truths is that we will ignore any evidence that contradicts them, the person who believes “I’m always unlucky” will dismiss any good fortune that happens to them or believe that a small piece of luck will be balanced by greater bad luck! A person who believes “I am a failure” will dismiss successes as mere flukes and believe that any praise they receive is just other people trying to be nice!

The other type of personalised truths are those we believe justify our actions. At a simplistic level remember those times when you have bought something you really didn’t need but justified the purchase by saying to yourself something like “I had to buy it because it was half price” or “I had to buy it because I haven’t got one that colour”!

On a more complex and problematic level people will justify staying in toxic relationships because they believe “it’s my fault” or “things will change soon”. Or people will justify addictions such as gambling with beliefs like “it is the only way I can become rich” or “my luck will change soon”.

The real challenge with uncovering and resolving problematic personalised truths is identifying them in the first place, they operate at an unconscious level and influence our behaviour automatically. If we spend a bit of time thinking about our behaviour at the end of the day we can begin to unravel those personalised truths that hold us back. Alternatively, if we are brave enough, we can asked friends and family what it is they least understand about the way we behave, that will give us a good route to uncovering those underlying beliefs.

Once we have identified them we can begin to really question them. What evidence is there that they are true? What evidence proves them untrue? We need to be fully critical here as we will, if not, just dismiss that contrary evidence. We need to engage with the process logically and rationally so that we can begin to believe those personalised truths are, in fact, untrue.

It is not an easy process but one we need to undertake as it will improve our lives and our well-being as we move forward to success and happiness in life.

Unconscious Untruths

Just as we can unconsciously emotionally react to events around us, we can also be unconscious victims of thoughts that are not true.

Our actions and reactions are based on what we believe to be true, and this happens on an unconscious level without us questioning whether or not those beliefs are true.

That is not to say that what we believe is lies but rather there are various versions of the truth which may hinder us in our lives.

Outdated Truths – Take a moment to think about things in your life that may have once been true but no longer are true. Perhaps it was once true to say you lived in a certain town but have since moved so it is no longer true. Or a time when you were single but now are in a relationship, maybe you were once in a relationship but now are single. Truth can change. Think of others examples in your life where this is the case.

The examples above are fairly obvious ones, as always things are not so obvious. As children we have truths instilled in us by parents, teachers and other influential people which may very well have been true at the time but life and society move on and those truths may no longer be relevant yet they still live in our unconscious impacting on our actions and reactions.

For example your school years may have shown you the ‘truth’ of how children should learn things and you may hold on to that truth despite the fact that the world has moved on and different learning strategies have been shown to be more successful.

Opinionated Truths – We are inundated constantly by opinionated truths, facts which are not actually facts but rather interpretations or opinions of facts. Politicians provide the best example of this, just look how different political parties present the same information in different ways but usually prefixed with expressions such as “the truth is” or “the fact of the matter is”. If you are predisposed to favour one political party over the other then you are more likely to accept their truth while dismissing the other as the other as ‘spin’ or outright lies.

Other sources of ‘fact’ also have a degree of opinion. The news, for example, is opinionated. If you get the chance watch the news on different TV channels, look at how different channels emphasise different stories, one may lead with a story (giving it an air of greater importance) yet another may give the same story a lot less emphasis giving the lead to a completely different piece of news.

person reading the daily fake news newspaper sitting on gray couch
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

(For the record this blog is opinion of fact rather than the ultimate truth!)

On a much more personal level we can be influenced by friends, family, employers etc. who give us ‘facts’ which we accept as truth but which, in reality, are opinions of facts. Is there a time when you have been carried away by things a friend has told you only to discover later they hadn’t given you the full information? A friend could tell us a ‘truth’ about another person which unconsciously influences our behaviour toward that person yet later on we find out that there is a different version of that truth which, in turn, changes our actions again.

Personalised Truth – These are the truths we tell ourselves about ourselves. That internal dialogue, most often negative that affects how we behave and see ourselves. Those things like “I’m ugly” “I’m stupid” “I’m a failure” etc. Personalised truths are also those things we tell ourselves to justify or make sense of the world around us.

Personalised truth is a post all on its own so more on that next time.

For now the important thing to remember is that truth is a flexible thing. If you remember back to my last post “Lightening Reactions” I encouraged you too take time to think what causes those reactions, often it is a belief or ‘truth’ that we hold, it is then up to us to work out if that truth still holds or if it is an unconscious untruth that we need to eliminate from our minds.

Lightning Reactions

Are you afraid of spiders? If not you probably know someone who is.

But think about the process of being scared, how long is there between spotting that spider and letting out a scream or fleeing the scene quickly?

Firstly you need to see the spider, then your brain has to sort through the endless number of things you can recognise in order to identify it as a spider. Then it has to ignite the connection between a spider and fear, once your mind has decided that you need to be afraid it then has to start sending messages to various parts of your body, increasing your heart rate, pumping fight or flight hormones through your body and, not least, preparing your lungs and vocal cords for that scream!

All that happens in an instant.

It is, of course, a survival instinct. If, for example, you entered your bathroom and were faced with a ravenous human-eating tiger sitting in your bath licking its lips expectantly, then that instantaneous reaction to flee could be life-saving.

white lightning heating mountain
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The point here, however, is that we often find ourselves in emotional states that have been triggered at  lightning  speed, and because of that instinctive reaction we can find ourselves feeling fearful, sad, angry or frustrated without fully understanding why. Then, if we don’t fully understand what has caused us to enter that emotional state, the state intensifies. If we start feeling afraid for no apparent reason we become even more fearful, sadness triggers even more sadness, we feel angry at ourselves for feeling angry for no reason etc.

Then our emotional state begins to effect things we are trying to do or those around us. Imagine a state of sadness comes over you on your way to work, how would that sadness impact on whatever it is you do? You would probably be less enthusiastic, slower and lose concentration. Those around you would also be affected as you would be less engaging, less talkative and probably give off an air of “I really don’t want people around me right now”.

We need, sometimes, to  stop, pause and think  about what is happening to our minds and bodies in order to prevent those unhelpful emotional states taking over our lives.

Firstly, obviously, is learning to recognise the fact that we have entered an unhelpful emotional state.

That  lightning  speed at which our minds work at a sub-conscious level means that we can find ourselves in an unhelpful state without us consciously being aware of it straight away, if at all. It is, therefore, useful to sometimes stop and reflect upon our mood, our emotions and how we feel.

However to spend too much time inwardly contemplating is incredibly impracticable. We need to move forward in our daily lives yet if we take a moment or two every so often to check on how we feel can help us move forward.

For example, take a brief pause before you make a transition in your day, we all have points in the day where we move from one thing to another. That point where go from travelling to work and entering the workplace, think about how you are feeling – is your heart still racing from that point where another driver came perilously close to hitting you? Are you still seething because your train was late yet again because of some lame excuse the rail company gave out? Or that point when you return home from your weekly shop, is that frustration of being stuck behind the world’s slowest checkout operator serving the world’s slowest customer still coursing through you?

By taking the time to recognise those emotions it helps us to start too eliminate them from whatever it is we are doing next.

Then when we do have a bit of time to ourselves we can go deeper into our emotional states, especially those that happen without us really knowing the cause. What triggers that feeling of fear? What caused that random feeling of sadness? What exactly made you feel so frustrated with life?

By forcing some of those unconscious triggers in to our consciousness we bring them under more control. We may not be able to remove them immediately nor can we guarantee that they will not produce the same instantaneous reaction but by being more aware they exist we can control the effect a lot sooner.

You are an amazing person with a mind that works like  lightning,  however, just sometimes, that speed trips us up. When we learn to reflect on those times when unhelpful emotional states impact on our daily lives, we may still trip but hopefully it will be a stumble rather than falling flat on our face!

 

 

Flex Those Motivational Muscles

What is your motivation for change?
We may dream of changing our lives but unless we have the motivation to make that change it will remain just a dream. To help us find that boost which gets us to our goal it is useful to understand what actually motivates us.
On a basic level there are two motivators, “away from” and “toward”, sometimes known as pain and pleasure or the carrot and the stick etc.


The “away from” motivation comes from our desire to leave or get rid of something. For example, we might want to lose weight to escape a negative body image, join the gym to escape health problems or join a group to escape loneliness. It is not just goal is our life that the “away from” motivator works, it is there at a basic level. We eat to get rid of hunger and we run away when we sense danger. The “away from” motivator is a part of our fight or flight response.
On the flip side the “toward” motivator takes us toward pleasure and success, again it works at a base level, those times we eat, not because we are hungry but because we are seeking the pleasure of eating something that ignites our pleasure hormones. The “toward” motivator is about adding something to our lives, making ourselves feel better, losing weight because you have an event where you want to impress, joining the gym for the buzz the feel of exercise gives you, joining a group because you want to expand you existing network etc.
Both forms of motivation are equally legitimate yet both can sometimes lack something in getting the change we want.
When the motivation to achieve something is “away from” we can have that initial push to get us going but once we a sufficiently far away from what it was we wanted to escape our momentum can falter. Think of it like using your feet to push you off in a swimming pool, the push itself will only get you so far, without any other action you will just be stuck mid-water.
With “toward” motivation we may gain momentum as we close in on our goal but it is getting started in the first place that may be the issue. Imagine you want to drive somewhere where you can really enjoy yourself, you won’t get there though until you turn the key in the ignition and spark the engine into life.
The real key is to use both methods in order to succeed, push and pull to get you where you ultimately want to be.
Start by thinking about what it is you want to change in your life and why you want to achieve that change. Is your primary motivation “away from” or “toward”?
Be honest with yourself. We can sometimes fail to recognise our true motives, hiding them behind things we prefer to believe.
Once you have figured out what it is that is motivating you move to the other end of the goal and find some motivating factor there too.
So if your initial motivation is “away from” think about what achieving you goal will gain you, what is waiting for you when you get to the finish line, what will success bring you. Say you want to join a group, evening class or such because you feel an element of loneliness in your life, you know your “away from” but what is your “toward”. Imagine the possibilities developing that new skill or knowledge will bring, the focus on the one possibility that really ignites your imagination.
If, on the other hand, your primary motivation is a “toward” one, what is it that is going to ignite that engine and get you moving. Perhaps, you want to be a great dancer, writer or something similar but what will that move you away from? If you are looking to achieve success it does, to a certain degree, mean you are feeling unsuccessful now so use that as you push forward.
Some things automatically lend themselves to having a push and a pull but others we need to dig deep to find the other end of the line that we will be travelling. By finding our “away from” and “toward” motivation we double our chances in succeeding in achieving change and success.
So flex those motivational muscles and head confidently toward your success.

Beware The Secret Psychic

The Secret Psychic lives in your head!
You hear the Secret Psychic all the time, although most of the time you don’t realise that the voice is there, misguiding you through life.
The Secret Psychic whispers into your inner ear, it reads the minds of other people and predicts your future.
The problem is that much of what the Secret Psychic tells you is wrong. Its information is based on out-dated information, assumptions and your insecurities. It channels those negative voices from the past that have held you back over the years. It echoes the preconceptions of society around you.
Think about the times when you knew someone didn’t like you, or the times you may have avoided someone because of the way they looked, and the times you didn’t bother doing something because you just knew you wouldn’t be able to do it.
That was the Secret Psychic whispering.

Telling you that person doesn’t like because they are avoiding eye contact and talking to you with short sharp words, when it is much more likely that person has other things on their mind.
That person you avoid because of their looks? That is the Secret Psychic echoing societies stereotypes, the negative stories you see in the media and, perhaps, the prejudices of relatives in your childhood. It could also be based on your past experiences with people who may have looked the same. The reality though is that everybody is different and unless we get to know the person we cannot make any assumption about them based solely on their looks.
Those times when you knew you would fail, so you didn’t even bother to do it in the first place. That is the Secret Psychic feeding your insecurities, reminding you of past failures, echoing those negatives words that were said to you when you were younger, undermining your confidence.
However, just because you failed at something in the past does not mean you will fail at something in the future. In that time you’ve grown, learnt more and are better equipped to try again. Those people who told you that you weren’t good enough, that you weren’t clever enough or your looks were somehow not right, were victims of their own Secret Psychic feeding them dodgy information.
One of the issues with the Secret psychic is that its words can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. You think someone doesn’t like you so, in turn, you act offish towards them, which then makes them not like you! You think you are going to fail so you either don’t do it or you become too nervous to complete the task successfully in other words, you fail. You become trapped in the Secret Psychic’s endless cycle.
The thing, then, is to learn to quieten the Secret Psychic and stop it from holding you back.
How? Start to question the truth of those negative things that it whispers into your mind because there are times the Secret Psychic could actually be right. We need to be able to distinguish between past fears or experiences and natural instinct.
When you have those negatives thoughts inserted into you mind ask yourself, what is the reality of this? How do I know it is true? What are the alternative possibilities?
When the Secret Psychic tells you that someone doesn’t like you ask if that is likely to be true. After all it could be they do not know you well enough to make any sort of judgement about you. Ask what the alternatives could be, the other person may have things on their mind distracting them and far from making judgements about you they could be so wrapped up in their own issues that they are barely even noticing you.
When thoughts of failure surface in your mind, challenge them. Are they based on past experiences? If so, question how relevant that past experience is to you right now, how have you or the world around you changed which renders that past experience void now. Do your thoughts come from hurtful words said to you in the past? Ask yourself why the words spoken by someone else’s Secret Psychic should have such an impact on you right now.
The Secret Psychic that lives in your psyche needs to be tamed. We need to take control rather than live under its influence. We sometimes need to Secret Psychic to hold us back a little but we need to use it to pause and question, just don’t let it rule your life.

You Gotta Have Faith

One of the problems that most of us have is that our self-doubt is more prevalent than our self-belief.
It is easy to see why.
One reason is that if we have self-belief in what we are doing we get on and do it but if self-doubt is there it nags at us, worries and stresses us, makes us nervous when we are doing things.
Another reason is that we often find it hard to see what we are good at, particularly if it means transferring that skill or ability to a different setting. Perhaps you know somebody who is super-efficient at work but seems to have a totally disorganised personal life, or maybe someone who seems cool and calm when doing certain tasks yet seem to fall apart with nerves doing other things?
Self-belief is, perhaps, less mentioned than self-confidence or self-esteem yet it the thing that underpins both. If we want to improve our lives in any way we need be in a place where our self-belief outweighs our self-doubt before we can succeed.

To start the ball rolling, write out a list of things you know you are good at. This helps you strengthen your strengths in your mind. It brings self-belief to the front of your thoughts where self-doubt usually sits. Once you have written out your list, do it again as the more you focus on that list the fixed it becomes in your memory. It is important to do that as will be revealed a little further down!
Once you are sure your strengths are firmly fixed in your mind, write a list of things that you know you are okay at but could be better. Once you have done this work, systematically, through the list to work out what you need to do to move that skill or attribute over to your strengths list.
Do you need a little extra knowledge? Perhaps a bit more practice? Maybe you need to be a bit fitter?
Whatever it is write it down next to that attribute. Now rewrite the list, this time in the order you want to achieve those things. Which thing are you okay at would you most like to add to your strengths list first? As you work through this list the greater the number of strengths you gain and as you succeed in moving things to your strengths list the greater your self-belief becomes.
The reason for writing these lists and committing your strengths to memory?
The next time you find yourself in a situations where self-doubt creeps in, or if you are unsure of yourself or nerves are getting the better of you, think back to your lists. Which of your strengths would be most appropriate to the situation right now? It does not matter if they may not seem directly transferable as they can still help you get through the situation.
For example, say you are a person who gets nervous at speaking in public yet one of your strengths is attention to detail. Use your strength, focus more on the detail of what you are presenting rather than the fact you are doing it in front of a group of people. Then, the more you do this, speaking in public becomes less daunting and eventually a new strength.
Self-doubt plagues us but we can overcome this by strengthening our self-belief. The better our self-belief the better we can face the obstacles of everyday life and improve our lives in the way we want.
That does not mean ignoring the fact that we all have weaknesses as well as strengths rather that we have faith in our strengths to support us and neutralise those weaknesses. It means we have the belief in ourselves to meet the challenges we face.
You got to have faith in yourself and the belief that you have the strengths to see you through life.

Putting Off Procrastination

Procrastination: The action of delaying or postponing something.
In other words deliberately avoiding doing something. We all do it, we put off doing certain things for a variety of reasons yet, often, doing this ends up creating more problems than it solves. So we have to learn to first recognise procrastination and then take action to overcome it and move on with our lives.
The first thing to understand is that while we put off doing things deliberately, that does not necessarily mean we are doing it consciously. Our minds are very good at twisting the facts sometimes and while, on one level we are deliberately avoiding doing something, we are telling ourselves that we are not doing it for a variety of other reasons. Reasons that try to convince ourselves that whatever it is we are putting off is not our fault and we are not doing it deliberately.
“I haven’t had the time.” “Life is too busy at the moment.” “I have more important things to do at the moment.” Etc.
So whatever reason it is you are giving yourself for not getting on with your goal in life, or not making that change in your life or even just not mowing the lawn, it is probably not the true underlying reason.


One reason for procrastination is a lack of self-confidence or self-belief. We don’t think we will be able to do that thing either at all or particularly well. For example we may believe we lack the will power to diet or we may believe we are just to unfit to start exercise. Perhaps we believe we are just not clever enough to learn something new. In all such cases where we are not confident to get started try falling back on the old saying “you never know until you try”.
If you are putting off doing something because you lack confidence or belief in yourself, start in a small way. Build your confidence and belief gradually. If you want to diet start by cutting out one thing at a time, if you want to get fitter start by walking before you run, if you want to learn something new start by reading a book about the subject before signing up for a course.
Another reason for procrastinating is that we are not fully engaged with the thing that needs doing. We have all had times when we know we should be doing something but we just can’t get ourselves enthusiastic enough to undertake the task. Again we all know we should be fitter and healthier but it can all seem like to much bother to make the effort.
If you are feeling like this, take the time to write out the pros and cons of whatever it is you’re putting off. For example getting fitter, pro: being healthy con: being unhealthy (obviously there’s a lot more you could write). Doing this will help build that much needed motivation to start that thing you know you need to do.
We can, sometimes, be guilty of putting things off simply because we are not interested enough in the task. If this is the case we need to revisit why we are thinking about doing it in the first place. It may be social pressure – everyone else is doing so we suppose we should. It may be a relationship thing where your significant other feels something should be done but you feel less enthusiastic – in such cases remember everyone has a different way of looking at things in life so just because you don’t think something is important it does not mean your partner has the same view.
Obviously not everything we put off is procrastination, sometimes life really does get in the way. Prioritising should not be confused with procrastination.
Sometimes our mental health is such that we find things hard to get started. Where this happens we can make ourselves feel worse as we begin to feel guilty that we are not getting things done. Try to recognise when you are feeling stressed or depressed and try not to put yourself under too much pressure to get things down (easier said than done I know).
There are many reasons for procrastinating, to many to list in a short blog, but the basic thing is to recognise that you are putting off doing something, to acknowledge the real reason that you are not doing and to address that reason fully so that you can get on and move forward.