“You don’t get in life what you want, you get in life what you are, what you subconsciously believe that you deserve. – Les Brown
Are you running in circles, going through the same vicious cycles over and over again? Are you self-sabotaging your efforts to improve your life? If any of these things are part of your struggle, this article will help you uncover some of the patterns that currently run your life.
In this article, I’ll provide in-depth information regarding the fact that our lives revolve around what I call “belief patterns”. I’ll also discuss how these belief patterns control our behavior, rule our actions, and greatly limits us, all while creating unnecessary suffering.
To this end, I’ll use examples from my personal life in what could be called an self-psychoanalysis. On top of helping you, it will be an opportunity for me to reflect upon my life. I’ll have to dig deep, but who knows, it might result in powerful insights that will benefit myself and my readers in the future.
My sincere hope is that some of these examples from my life will resonate with you and show you what patterns and beliefs have been seriously limiting your potential. Furthermore, I hope that you’ll be able to see how these patterns and beliefs create preventable mental suffering.
Now, let’s have a look at some of the main thought patterns that have been controlling my life and making it harder than it has to be.
Not asking for help
One of the biggest obstacles to my personal growth has been my inability to ask for help. It has held me back in so many ways. There are several reasons why I’ve struggled to ask for help. For one, I think I should know certain things or be able to figure them out on my own. Secondly, I tend to believe other people are smarter than I am. My third reason, which is a fear that people will question my intelligence if I ask for help, ties to my second reason.
Now, let’s categorize these reasons and expound upon them.
1. I should know how to do it! – I tend to believe that I ought to know certain things when there is no logical reason that I should. When I don’t know something, I think it’s because I’m not smart enough. As a result, I’m uncomfortable asking for help when I need it.
2. What if people think I’m stupid? – I worry that asking for help will cause people to think I lack intelligence or am otherwise not good enough. I feel this stems from a need for approval and the desire to be perceived as a worthy and capable human being. I think most of us struggle with this to some extent. I’m also afraid to disappoint people who expect more from me than I can deliver.
3. Other people are smarter than me- I’ve struggled with a strong belief that other people are smarter than I am. This makes it all the more difficult to ask for help, because I get the feeling that it’s not something I should have to do. I regularly experience feelings of shame when I realize I need to ask someone for help. Even if I need help with something small, it sometimes takes days for me to muster up the nerve to ask for what I need. (see also Do You Need Talent to be Successful?)
When Beliefs Become Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
Not asking for help creates a vicious cycle. The longer I wait before asking for help, the further I fall behind. This fuels even more feelings of shame, which just creates suffering in my life. Even when the situation is resolved, the emotional and mental side effects have lasted for days, weeks, or, in a few cases, months or years. These side effects include feelings of shame and guilt. I also tend to feel bad about the fact that I waited so long and I beat myself up over what I failed to do as a result. Perhaps I didn’t do as well at something as I could have had I asked for help earlier, or perhaps I held up a project. Whatever it is, I always feel terrible about it.
Let me give you a concrete yet quite simple example of what I’m talking about here. It’s so simple that you might even find it silly or laughable. That’s okay!
When I started business school in 2013, we were required to use Microsoft Excel in certain classes, which probably comes as no surprise. I hadn’t used Excel in any of the jobs I’d held, so of course I wasn’t very good at using it.
On the other hand, most of my classmates had spent years using Excel on a daily basis at their jobs. I wasn’t nearly as competent as they were in using the program, Considering how much more experienced they were, it would be totally unrealistic to expect myself to magically know how to use Excel as well as they did without some practice. Yet, that’s exactly what I expected from myself.
Throughout the two-year program, I was so ashamed about my perceived deficiency in this area that I was unable to tell anyone that I didn’t know how to use Excel, let alone ask for help in learning to do so.. As a result, I spent all that time wrestling with feelings of shame feeling and inadequacy. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Needless to say, my self-esteem took a considerable hit.
The Excel issue didn’t end when I finished graduate school, either. It continued on with the job I started upon finishing school, and didn’t get resolved until recently. The resolution came when I was put in charge of something challenging. Can you guess what it was? That’s right, an Excel file! It was to be used for a midterm plan simulation for a client’s company. At that point, I had no choice but to admit that I didn’t really know how to use Excel.
In the end, revealing this information turned out to be no big deal. I simply got the help I needed, learned to use Excel, and the whole thing ended. Although I can’t say I enjoy using Excel, and I have no intention of using it on a daily basis, I’m now decent at it.
This is just one of many examples of this issue in my life. In fact, this pattern has been repeating itself over and over again. Worse yet, it often acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy: I don’t ask for help because I think I should already know what I’m doing, and feel others will think that, too. I fail to make progress as a result. I fall behind, feel increasingly ashamed of myself, and find it even more challenging to ask for help. This further prevents me from making progress. While others are continuing to learn and grow, I stay stuck where I am, which further fuels the notion that I’m not good enough.
As I wrap up this example, I’d like to note that there is probably an element of pride or perhaps even arrogance in my inability to ask for help. I’m afraid to admit it when I don’t know how to do something, and I’m reluctant to show others that they know more than I do.
Making a Big Deal Out of Everything
Now for the next issue: Not only do I struggle to ask for help, but I also tend to make a big deal out of insignificant things. This is something I’ve grappled with for much of my life. The funny thing is, most of what I worried and stressed over turned out to be no big deal.
I remember spending my teen years worrying about whether I’d ever get a girlfriend. When I was in junior high, I thought I was practically the only guy who didn’t have a girlfriend. I continued to think this when I was in high school. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized I was far from being the only single guy at my school. Sure, plenty of guys had girlfriends, but it turned out that quite a few had just been lying about it.
As I stated before, the Excel issue was yet another instance of making a mountain out of a molehill. I realized how silly it was once I became aware of the fact that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure Excel out.
The truth is, the majority of things that we make a big deal out of aren’t as important as we think they are. Chances are, you’ve experienced something similar and have a few things in your life that seemed like a really big deal… until you found out they weren’t.
Not being good enough
Okay, let’s delve deeper into this fear of not being good enough. While I admit that I have several good qualities, I don’t consider myself a talented person. In fact, I tend view most people around me as far more talented that I am. I’ll admit that this is impossible to prove, but it appears accurate from my perspective. How we perceive things is the whole point of this article and the basis for our negative belief patterns.
This belief has caused me to feel I have to work exponentially harder than those around me to make up for my lack of talent. While there are benefits to the high work ethic this fuels, it has many drawbacks. And let’s be honest, it’s not exactly healthy, either.
For instance, I find it very difficult to take a day off or fully relax, because I can’t stop thinking that I should be working or doing something productive. I end up staying home all weekend to work on my business, only to get very little done due to procrastination or lack of motivation. I’ve realized that it might be more efficient to allow myself some time off during the week. A better alternative might be to work for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday morning and then take time off in the afternoon. This tendency to overwork leads to burn out and isn’t good for anyone.
Another drawback of not feeling good enough is how difficult it makes the marketing process. It’s challenging for me to put myself out there as much as I should and to accept the fact that, yes, I CAN add value to other people’s lives. This may be one of the reasons I’ve become obsessed with delivering as much value as I possibly can. That in and of itself is positive, but the feeling that nothing I do is ever enough certainly isn’t.
Losing Sight of the Big Picture
When I become overly focused on a goal, I tend to lose my sense of perspective. Suddenly, the goal becomes all that matters to me and failing to get fast results leads to intensely negative self-talk, which ultimately fuels self-sabotage. I’ve felt like giving up on many occasions, and it’s only by talking with friends that I managed to realize that these thoughts and feelings come from forgetting the big picture.
The loss of big picture thinking makes it easy to forget all the good things in life. Once I’m reminded of these things, I’m able to start relaxing a little bit and acknowledge all the things I’ve already done and how far I’ve come. It wasn’t until I became fully aware of this pattern (thanks to my friends) that I was able to avoid getting stuck in narrowmindedness and obsessive behaviors.
Believing I’ll be Happy at Some Point in the future
Recently, I’ve become increasingly aware of how much I’ve been living in the future, especially in the past few months. I think that we’re all guilty of this to a certain extent. We live in the future, hoping we’ll “make it” one day. This is even more likely when we aren’t satisfied with our current situation. Actor Jim Carrey made a great point when he said, “I hope everybody will get rich, famous, and have everything they’ve ever dreamed of so they’ll know it’s not the answer.”
I had to be honest with myself and realize the truth: If I can’t be happy and appreciate what I have right now, it’s unlikely I’ll be happy in the future, even when all my dreams come true. There are many things that I could do right now to feel more gratitude and happiness on a daily basis, and that’s what I’ve been working on the past few weeks.
Believing that we’ll finally be happy when a certain event occurs (retiring, finding the love of our life, or creating enough passive income to enjoy full financial freedom) robs us of our ability to enjoy the present moment. It also keeps us from making decisions that will allow us to experience more joy right now, rather than in a hypothetical future.
For more on happiness check out my How To be Happy Series and start boosting your happiness
Expecting Women to Read my Mind
My inability to express my feelings in past relationships has created several recurrent issues. Not telling my partners what I expected of them or how I truly felt about certain situations caused me to resent them. I was subconsciously expecting them to read my mind. I thought they should know what I wanted and how to meet my emotional needs. I didn’t say “I’d really appreciate it if you could do X” or “I’d love it if we could do Y together”.
It was very unfair, because I didn’t give them an opportunity to meet my needs or have theirs met. There would likely have been more effort on both ends, and the quality of the relationship would’ve been enhanced. This never happened, of course, because I never gave them that option. I simply resented them, all while feeling powerless to do anything about the situation.
When you take a closer look at each of these patterns, you’ll realize that they have one thing in common: They’re all in my head and have nothing to do with reality. Yet they’ve created a great deal of real-life suffering. Many of these things become self-fulfilling prophecies. By believing so strongly in something, I make it happen with my thoughts, behaviors, and actions (or lack of action, for that matter). Naturally, I have to suffer the consequences that stem from the negative belief pattern.
Now, I’d like to ask you to take a look at your own life. What thought and behavioral patterns are creating unnecessary suffering in your life? Do they have anything to do with reality, or are they all in your head? How are they preventing you from living the life you truly desire?
I encourage you to start looking more closely at the patterns in your life. Do you get depressed on a regular basis? If so, what triggers it? Are there any recurrent thoughts that bring you pain? Do you keep switching jobs only to find that your new job is just as bad as your last one? Do you find yourself attracting the same type of people no matter what you do?
As you take a closer look at these things, you’ll be surprised by how automated your life is! By shedding light on these patterns and their root causes, you’ll be able to tackle them little by little, take back control, and avoid unnecessary suffering.
Did you enjoy this article? Leave me a comment below and share your thoughts on it, or, if you’re feeling a bit daring, share your own belief patterns that cause unnecessary suffering!
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