Banish those limiting beliefs!
My first thought on hearing that my husband was leaving me for someone else was “how will I manage with two children on my own?”. I didn’t believe I could do it; having two small children with two parents was hard enough! I had been brought up with the presumption that a nuclear family was best. My belief system told me that “broken homes” were bad for children. It also then told me that I would be alone forever, because who would want to take on a woman with young children? My next thought was “what will people think?”. My gut reaction was to see myself as having failed, on several fronts, and I felt ashamed. I had failed to keep my husband happy, I had failed to see that he was unhappy, and I had failed at marriage.
In the space of about three minutes, then, my inner critic had said something like “you are not good enough, you are a bad wife, your husband is leaving. You won’t cope on your own, your children will be damaged, and no-one will ever love you. What a failure you are. You really should feel ashamed of yourself”.
That critical inner voice fed into my beliefs about myself. When added to my existing beliefs about nuclear families, broken homes and failure, it would have been easy to spiral into negative self-beliefs, like:
I am not worthy.
I am a failure.
I won't handle being a single mum.
No-one will want me.
My children will suffer.
I was a bad wife.
You get the picture. If I had believed all of those things, imagine how limiting my life would have been. And potentially how self-fulfilling!
I don’t believe any of the above things about myself now. I am successful and know my own worth, I am happily remarried, and my children are thriving.
We all receive millions of subliminal messages that help to create our beliefs and mindset. We absorb messages from things that we see, feel, hear all around us - our parents, teachers, friends, the TV, radio, social media. We then filter all that information based on our beliefs, values, memories, language, experiences, and physical state (eg. how tired, stressed, hungry we are). Based on those beliefs and filters, we create a map of the world that is unique to us. This map influences our inner voice, and our subconscious mind, and feeds our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
So how did I stop my negative beliefs from limiting me?
Firstly, I accepted that they were beliefs, not facts or truths. I didn’t want them to be true, so I started to look for evidence that they were not true.
I found that I was more than capable of looking after the children on my own. In my case, I found that there were actually bits of being a single parent that I liked. I could arrange my routine to suit just me and the children. I could arrange play dates and coffees when I wanted. I could pay a babysitter and go out, without checking anyone else’s diary. So BAM went my limiting belief that I couldn’t handle being a single parent. In fact, after a few months, I found I actually preferred it!
What about my belief that I’d failed? Once I started to tell people what had happened, how many of them do you think told me what a failure I was? How many of them were as harsh on me as I was on myself? I’ll tell you. ZERO. Not one person believed I was a failure. In fact, what became clear was that people saw me as strong and capable, and very far from a failure.
Once you have accepted that these beliefs are not truths, try out different beliefs, and look for evidence to support them instead. Create new beliefs and affirmations. Listen to people when they tell you that you are brave, strong, resourceful, kind or resilient. Believe them. I asked a few of my friends what qualities they believed I had. Loyal, kind, a good listener, determined, resourceful were just some of the words I got back. How uplifting!
Start to notice the language that you use, both in your head, and externally. Is it judgemental or critical? Does it bolster beliefs that no longer serve you? “Broken” home, “failed” marriage, "bad" wife – how useful were those expressions to me now? They weren’t useful at all. Once you start to notice the language that you are using, you can start to change it, to strengthen a belief that serves you better.
Act on your new more useful beliefs. Feed them. Act as though you really believe them. I know from my training that the imagination and the memory trigger the same neurological pathways in the brain. So if you act as if you are resourceful and capable, you will start to find evidence that you are, in fact, resourceful and capable. Notice what a difference that makes to how you think, feel and behave. What are the benefits and advantages?
So what do I believe (or better than that, know) now?
I know that my children are happy and balanced. They have a great relationship with both me and their dad, they ask healthy questions about their lives, and our decisions, and they are becoming wise. They are far from the stereotype of kids from a “broken home” that lurked as a belief in my subconscious.
I know that I am worthy. I know I can handle anything life throws at me. I am determined and resilient, and proud of my journey. From something that felt like the end of the world has grown a new, more resourceful me, who is kinder to herself, and who believes in her own abilities.
How’s that for a brilliant outcome?