What do you believe?
You probably don’t have time to break down the reasoning behind every belief you hold, as this would be mentally exhausting, and you may not even know why you hold certain opinions.
However, your beliefs create your reality, whether you understand them or not. By learning more about beliefs and how they work, you can look more carefully at your perspective. You may decide that some long-held beliefs are still meaningful, and others don’t serve you well anymore.
Take a closer look at how your beliefs shape your reality every day.
What Is A Belief?
A belief is a powerful component of your mind. It’s the conviction that something is true, even with little to no evidence. Your brain creates and uses beliefs every day to make sense of the world around you, and once you accept a situation as factual and accurate, a belief is born.
Your beliefs create a framework in your mind, a set of expectations your brain can use. It’s like creating formulas or recipes for your brain to follow. When X happens, it means Y, and that means you should Z. Your mind likes to take the easy road by setting up habits and saving energy for more critical mental activities.
Often beliefs are why changing a habit is difficult, or why we are puzzled at why others do what they do day to day.
The Difference Between Belief And Knowledge
A belief is an idea or concept that you think is correct, whether or not it is. You don’t have to prove something to believe it wholeheartedly. On the other hand, knowledge is evidence that is verified.
An idea may remain a belief until you get hard proof.
Example 1: You believe your daughter can get a high grade in her science class. You have seen her study and heard her talk about her classwork.When she gets an A on her midterm test, you have evidence that she knows the information and can score well.
Example 2: You believe you may have diabetes because of your symptoms. Now your recent blood test shows proof whether you do or not. A test result shows your blood sugar level, and then you know and believe.
How Beliefs Effect Thoughts And Feelings
The many decisions you make every day begin with your beliefs. They also color your thoughts and feelings.
Consider the following example of two people seeing a man lying in the street on a night:
One person has a history of volunteering and strongly believes in helping others. Upon seeing the man lying in the street think, “Oh no, he might be hurt; I need to help him now!” They feel concerned and run directly toward the man.
The second person was abused when younger, and they believe they can’t trust anyone. They think, “Oh no, someone dangerous must have hurt him; I need to get out of here!” Their fear and mistrust drive them away from the area as fast as possible.
Your beliefs have a strong influence on your thoughts and feelings.
Thoughts and feelings are connected and they can either help you to achieve your goals or make it difficult for you to reach your potential. If you believe that you can succeed, you are more likely to take the necessary actions to achieve success. On the other hand, if you believe that it is impossible for you to reach your goals, you are likely to give up before you even try.
How Beliefs Affect Behavior
Beliefs help your brain develop habits, which save energy and keep things simple. If you had to think through the pros and cons of every decision, you’d never get out of bed in the morning. You might go against your beliefs once in a while if it seemed to be worth the risk, but in the big picture, beliefs/ideas put many of your decisions on autopilot.
For example, if you believe that the physical safety of your body is a priority, you’ll go through your day with your physical safety in mind. You won’t take unnecessary risks like speeding on the road or running down a flight of stairs. It’s a no-brainer for you to put on a seatbelt and carry scissors with the tip pointed away from you.
Your daily actions will line up with your belief in personal safety with little effort.
What Are Beliefs Based On?
Beliefs arise from the influence and information from all around you. Your views can feel so natural as if they are a part of you and have always been there. In the end, they are creations of your mind.
These bits of information and influence come together to form the viewpoints that guide your life. Below are some places where you gathered information that influences and forms the building blocks of your beliefs.
|Parents and Family||Observations||Experiences|
|Spouse||Science||Logic and thoughts|
|Friends||Expert knowledge from others||Information from your body|
|Media||Legal Information||Emotions and Senses|
|Authority of others||School||Insight|
|Religious Affiliation||Personal Expertise||Purpose and convictions|
What You Believe To Be Accurate And What Is True
You don’t need proof to believe something is true. Your conviction and faith can take an idea and transform it into a powerful belief.
When your viewpoint does not line up with reality you may observe and experience things, but you could still allow another influence to steer your beliefs or new experiences to change your beliefs.
For example, imagine you are in a romantic relationship, and your partner said it was over. You may be shocked and have trouble accepting this at first. Despite what they say, you may believe that your ex-partner still loves you and that you could get them back. Instead of accepting what your partner says, you allow your emotions and conviction to influence your view of the situation.
Beliefs and reality clash sometimes, and it’s understandable when you’re adjusting to a huge change. It’s less upsetting to believe that your ex-partner is still secretly in love with you, especially when the breakup is fresh. As you get more comfortable with being single again, your conviction of your partner’s love for you may gradually soften. When you accept that your partner wants to break up, you can move on from the relationship more quickly. When you struggle to shift your beliefs and hold on to your belief that your ex-partner still loves you, is when you will feel stuck for longer.
Beliefs And Personal Identity
As beliefs are part of our mental framework, they can become part of our identity. They can be so connected to our self-concept, we often resist giving them up. Keeping our positive and healthy beliefs intact is a good thing, but this resistance can also keep us stuck in beliefs that may be harmful or out of date.
Accepting a fresh perspective can feel like hard work, even if it’s a wise thing to do. Changing your identity isn’t always comfortable. Your brain will fight this change unless you are persistent. You may wonder who you are for a while, which can be unsettling at first.
Letting go of your beliefs means being vulnerable, accepting our feelings, and loving ourselves as we are, and it is not easy.
Beliefs Can Be Changed
With the right motivation, you can change any belief. You’ll adjust to your new viewpoint as you gradually let go of the old one. It can feel disorienting at first, but you’ll feel more comfortable after some time.
For example, if you have risky spending habits, you need to face some beliefs about yourself and what money means to you. You may feel some inner conflict when changing your beliefs. The conflict you experience when making a change is normal as you adjust to your new way of thinking.
As with the money example, you may feel pulled by your old beliefs and tempted to spend money the way you used to. If you were a reckless emotional spender, you know the consequences of continuing down that path. Support from friends, family, and a therapist can help you stick with your new way of thinking and encourage healthier spending habits.
A Belief Is A Choice
Your thoughts are the driving force behind your beliefs.
The stream of thoughts running through your mind can sound bossy and disorganized, and this is when one of two things can happen.
- You can lock onto these emotionally charged words and let them pull your mind in all directions, or
- You can observe them from a distance and let them float by.
Whatever you choose will color your viewpoint. Imagine your thoughts as a quickly moving river in front of you. Step back from the banks and watch the flow pass by you from a distance. When you move back from your thoughts, you can decide which ones to follow or to stay away from.
You make a choice.
Belief And Action To Bring About Change
It takes more than challenging your beliefs to bring about change. Change requires action, a mental or physical shift in a different direction. Adjusting to something new always takes some effort, even if it’s a positive change. It will help if you let go of old habits to adopt new ones, which can take some energy and time.
Belief can be the motivation and fire you need to take action. With that motivation, many obstacles can be overcome that would cause a less passionate person to stumble. It can be the get-up-and-go that makes the difference for you.
Beliefs can seem so automatic that you hardly notice them until something hits your emotional buttons. When you understand more about how beliefs affect you, it’s easier to keep or change them. Beliefs move us forward day to day and can be changed if we choose.