To view mind and body as separate entities is a very old fashioned way to think about health. They are more intimately connected than science ever dared imagine. What you see in the mirror is a reflection of your mental landscape, for better or worse. So, if you’re not happy with your body shape or health, trace things back to an inner reality.
Mindset is the prism through which you experience the world. How you process everything that happens to you is refracted through your beliefs. Your beliefs are the medium in which your attitudes and expectations grow, and ultimately how your actions are shaped.
A preoccupation with worry and negative expectations are a sign your belief system may need a service. In such cases, trace those expectations back to the beliefs from which they sprang.
For example: negative expectations
- – I’m trying, but I don’t expect to lose much weight
- – I’m going for a job interview, but I probably won’t get it
- – Looks like a nice day, but I’m sure someone will ruin it
- – I really like this guy, but he won’t be interested in me What are the “satellite” beliefs from which these negative expectations arose?
- – I’ll always be fat no matter how much I try to lose weight
- – Things never turn out well for me
- – I feel like I’m cursed
- – No one will ever love me
And here is the crux of the matter: What is the core belief from which these “satellite” beliefs arose?
– I don’t like myself, I’m worthless.
The satellite beliefs cluster around the core belief, and give rise to your attitudes and expectations. Deeply held negative core beliefs about yourself is tantamount to constructing an alligator infested moat between you and your goals. Willpower is a limited commodity, and it alone won’t be enough to bridge this chasm.
You must start with an honest examination of your beliefs, drilling down to the core. It is often difficult because your beliefs about yourself can be buried so deeply that you don’t even see them as beliefs at all; you see them as simply the way you are, and as such, are invisible and intractable.
It is very empowering to realise core beliefs, like any belief, can be changed instantly. To repeat a simple mantra such as “I’m worth the effort” will help you replace that damaging core belief with its opposite. If you’re thinking ‘oh I could never change this belief’, that too is only a belief, which also can be changed.
Once the core belief is overturned, all the satellite beliefs, being natural concomitants of the core belief, melt away too. A simple but honest belief in your own worth gives rise to a whole set of new satellite beliefs such as
- – All I have to do is try and I know I’ll lose this weight
- – Things are going to work out for me
- – I really like this guy, and I’m sure we’ll connect The top sports psychologists talk about the importance of a winning mindset, which is a belief system geared for success. Without it, you’ll feel the odds are stacked against you, like the character Sisyphus from Greek mythology who was condemned to roll a huge boulder up an unending hill for all eternity. If you want sustained success, you’ve got to believe it’s possible. So, you are not a victim in an uncaring universe; you have intimate control over how your life will turn out, if only you knew it. Ask yourself this question: What is my opinion of myself? Make a list of the good things and the bad things. Be brutally honest. Take your time, and boil down your observations into a single core assessment. One of two trajectories will emerge:
- I’m a good person and good things will happen to me because I deserve it
- I’m worthless, and no matter how much effort I put in, things won’t ever turn out well for me, and they shouldn’t, because I don’t deserve it
If you’ve arrived at the second conclusion, this may explain a good deal about your present life situation. What is liberating about this realisation is that it provides the key to a lock that has kept you from living the life you want to live, and being the person you want to be.
Cognitive Dissonance Vs Cognitive Harmony
Living in a state of cognitive dissonance (believing one thing and acting in a contrary way) is not sustainable. We all default to acting in harmony with our beliefs sooner or later. This is another way in which the insidious nature of negative core beliefs can be so damaging. If you believe you are worthless and that nothing good will ever happen to you, then your actions will mirror that internal configuration. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if you start to lose weight through sheer willpower, such a person will often self-sabotage because deep down they know ‘good things don’t happen to me’. Being fat, missing out on a job opportunity, being rejected by a possible romantic partner, all harmonise perfectly well with the belief of worthlessness.
Once the foundations of your beliefs have been reconfigured, expect your actions to follow suit. The belief, ‘I’m a healthy person who deserves good outcomes’ will naturally perpetuate habits that match the belief.
Again, beliefs (self identity) give rise to expectation, and ultimately to process (action) and goal (outcome) realisation.
Belief (self-identity): I’m a healthy person
Expectation: Healthy people go to early morning exercise classes Process (action): Attend early exercise classes 3 times per week Goal (outcome): lean and healthy
If you want to change yourself, change your habits. To change your habits, start with adjusting your beliefs about who you are and what you want to be. It is only then that you’ll avoid the cognitive dissonance that is guaranteed to cripple your ambitions. Cognitive harmony between beliefs (self-identity) and process (action) is the pathway forward.
It all starts in the mind.
Read more of Jaymes Gleeson’s stories here including his interview with Dr Michael Mosley.