Challenge Self-Limiting Beliefs Using the Confirmation Bias

 
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Self-Limiting Beliefs

A hot topic in self-improvement these days is the notion of self-limiting beliefs. These are beliefs we hold about ourselves that crush our motivation, and ultimately, they hold us back from achieving the level of success we’re capable of achieving. Said another way, you are a way bigger badass than your self-limiting beliefs will let you believe.

Self-limiting beliefs are just that: beliefs. To reframe a bit, they are theories we believe to be true about ourselves. And here’s the real kicker: most of the time, we can find a metric ton of actual evidence to support them.

Here’s one that hits home for a lot of us (April raises her hand slowly while glancing side-to-side):

Belief: “I’m a bad mom.”

Evidence: I shouted at my kids last night after dinner, I didn’t have time to wash my daughter’s favorite soccer shorts before practice yesterday, I forgot that my son’s school play was today, and I had to scramble at the last minute to be able to be there, and I was still 10 minutes late.

You might be familiar with the quote from W.E. Deming that says, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”

Well, your self-limiting beliefs aren’t messing around. They bring data with them. Hard evidence that they’re true. They leave us feeling like garbage because we believe them, and it can feel absolutely impossible to challenge these beliefs. Because, hello, they brought data!

But, research from the field of Cognitive Psychology shows there’s hope. Specifically, hope lies in a cognitive bias that we all have, and we can use this cognitive bias to our advantage to get rid of our self-limiting beliefs, once and for all.

Confirmation Bias

Cognitive Psych. research has long known about a bias called the confirmation bias, which basically states that we seek out (and believe) information that helps support a belief or worldview that we already have. So, you believe something is true, and without even realizing it, you find evidence in your everyday life to support that existing belief.

Let’s take a modern-day example to really drive home the point. We’ve all been in a situation where someone we know holds an opposite opinion than we do on a political or social issue. (2016 Presidential election, anyone?! Blech! Gross!) When the topic inevitably comes up, usually after few glasses of wine, we find ourselves dumbfounded that this other person could hold such an opposite belief, and point at seemingly sketchy articles that support their views.

The weird thing is, that person is likely thinking the same thing about you. Yikes.

The thing is, we all suffer from confirmation bias to some degree. Without getting into the moral correctness of any political or social belief, no matter what side we’re on, we all naturally, and subconsciously, gravitate toward evidence that supports our belief, and we find that evidence more credible than evidence that doesn’t.

I’m guilty of it, you’re guilty of it, we’re all guilty of it.

Confirmation Bias & Self-Limiting Beliefs

So what in the heck does all of that have to do with self-limiting beliefs. Weeeeeeelllll, if you think back to what self-limiting beliefs are, they’re simply a belief that we currently hold. That’s it.

To your brain, your self-limiting beliefs are no different than your beliefs about abortion, Trump/Clinton, social security, immigration, or any other topic you furiously argue about with your Great Aunt Edith on Facebook. (Seriously! Doesn’t she have anything better to do than immediately reply to my comments with her crazy, fringe “news” stories?!?! I swear I’m going to block her one of these days!!)

Your self-limiting beliefs are nothing more than any other belief that you currently hold….and because of that, they’re subject to the confirmation bias, just like your belief about gun control.

You believe that you’re bad at something or not capable of something, and your dumb-ass brain effortlessly finds dozens of data points that support that belief. Thing is, at the same time, it’s automatically filtering out all of the incoming information that doesn’t support that belief.

It’s not that the contrary evidence doesn’t exist. It’s that your brain doesn’t recognize it and encode it in the way that it recognizes and encodes evidence that supports your self-limiting belief. What an asshole, right?!

Hack the Confirmation Bias & Challenge Your Self-Limiting Beliefs

Alright friends, here’s where things get interesting, and hopefully useful.

Confirmation bias tends to happen somewhat subconsciously, unintentionally, and outside of our awareness. We don’t realize that we’re cognitively filtering incoming information to this degree, and we certainly don’t realize the impact that has on our belief systems and on our self-confidence.

However, by creating a new, conscious, intentional information filter, you can hack your confirmation bias and make it work in your favor to rid yourself of your damaging, progress-zapping, self-limiting beliefs.

Here’s how it works:

Pick one of your self-limiting beliefs. I’d suggest you pick the one that is most emotionally damaging to you. The one that makes your heart crumble into a million pieces. Let’s get rid of that bugger first.

Write down that belief, and then write down all of the evidence you have that supports that belief. Maybe pick a time period to limit yourself, perhaps evidence from the last 7 days.

Let’s revisit my example from above:

Belief: “I’m a bad mom.”

Evidence: I shouted at my kids last night after dinner, I didn’t have time to wash my daughter’s favorite soccer shorts before practice yesterday, I forgot that my son’s school play was today, and I had to scramble at the last minute to be able to be there, and I was still 10 minutes late.

Now, flip to a new sheet of paper, and write down the opposite of that belief.

New Belief: “I’m a GREAT mom!!”

I am not asking you to actually believe this statement. Realistically, you probably don’t. That’s ok, just write it down.

For the next 30 days, your goal is to intentionally find evidence to support this new belief. Be biased. Intentionally filter out all of the evidence you encounter that supports your old self-limiting belief. Only look for evidence that supports your new, self-empowering belief.  

Warning: It’s going to be hard at first. You’re fighting against potentially years of habitual information filtering to find evidence that supports your old, self-limiting belief. Habits are hard to break. Just because it’s hard, it does not mean the new evidence you’re finding is somehow less valid than the evidence you naturally gravitate to that supports your old belief system.

Write that evidence down underneath your new belief.

New Belief: “I’m a GREAT mom!!”

Evidence: My daughter hugged me yesterday without me having to ask for it, I put a note in my son’s lunchbox, and it made him smile, we detoured on the way home from school last week to stop at the park for a bit, my heart swelled with pride when my daughter showed me her recent art project.

That’s it. You’re going to do this for 30 days. Set a reminder on your phone to do this exercise 5 minutes before you go to bed, and then read through what you’ve written when you first wake up in the morning. The goal is to expose yourself over and over to evidence that supports your new belief.

After about a week of this, your dumb-ass brain will catch on. Your confirmation bias will realize that it has a new target to go after, and it’ll start working in your favor. You’ll magically begin to find evidence to support your new belief, and it’ll come more naturally and easily to you.

At some point, you’ll actually start to believe your new self-empowering belief. The longer you do this, the stronger that new belief will become.

Free Download

To help you on your journey, I’ve put together a download that guides you through this exercise. Hit the button below, and you can download it absolutely free.

You are so much more than your self-limiting beliefs want you to think. It’s time to kick them to the curb and be your full, badass self.

Cheers to your badass-ness!

 
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