You are what you think….

For the longest time ever, I thought that I had the most beautiful eyes in the world.

This thought goes back to when I was around seven. We were visiting friends. I was walking through the kitchen at their house, when I caught a snippet of some conversation; a teenage girl who was sitting at the kitchen table with a group of friends said, “Hasn’t she just got the most beautiful eyes in the world? So from then on, I would always look a little longer into my own eyes, in the mirror.

As I grew up, it dawned on me that there was more to that snippet of conversation. I also vaguely remembered that the group of teenage girls, as I entered the kitchen had also been discussing Indian movies and particularly an actress called Sri Devi…..who hold on…also happens to have the most beautiful eyes in the world……so could it be?…..that they hadn’t been talking about my eyes?  Well by the time I fit in the jigsaw puzzle, a good few years of my childhood had passed and I loved my eyes anyway- so it didn’t matter what anyone else thought!

This incident came to mind because I realize that many of our thoughts are shaped by previous/ very early experiences. We form an image of ourselves, reflected through the eyes of others; or our own eyes, without the benefit of retrospect and hindsight. So it’s great if it leads to a belief that you have lovely eyes- but not so great if it leaves you with self-limiting beliefs formed years ago, that hold you back now.

I meet people who have done very well for themselves; are doing well in their careers, earning well, living well, have beautiful families. They may be the envy of many others who admire them for what they have achieved. But when we get talking, these individuals still don’t feel accomplished enough. See if you relate to any of these:

“I’ve never been academically that great- so I’m still ‘average'”, based on experiences of not getting into competitive exams/ careers of first preference.

“I’m not doing that well”, based on a feeling they get from their close family.

“I can’t speak out in meetings. I’m not senior enough so they won’t listen to me”, based on not feeling confidant enough because of some early career struggles.

“I’m not good-looking enough”, based on brothers/ sisters having gotten more attention, while growing up.

Some of these thoughts play back like old records, even when we think we’ve turned off the volume. There are thoughts about ourselves that serve us well and others that don’t serve us well. What are your thoughts that have crossed their ‘best before date’? It’s not important to always know where/ when the limiting beliefs started. But it is good to know what these beliefs are  and test whether they are still worth believing.  (By all means recognize the beliefs that serve you well, too).

Here is a little exercise that might help. It is important to write the answers to these questions. It will help you reflect.

1. What are some thoughts about yourself/ others that hold you back from being your best self?- Write down what comes to you, without analyzing too much or judging yourself.

Probe question:

  • What are the thoughts/fears/ beliefs that stop me from moving forward?

2. Next, take each statement and play with them, as if they were not your own. Turn each statement around, upside down.

Probe questions:

  • Is that thought true?
  • What would I be without that thought/ fear/ belief? What would I be doing? Who would I be? How would I feel?

3. Write down the opposite statement  in the present tense: “I am…..”, “I can”, ” I have”. These will become affirmations.

4. Keep these affirmations where you can see them regularly. (at your desk, next to your bed, in your wallet). Read the affirmations to yourself or aloud whenever you feel held back.

Hope you have fun playing with these questions. There are some examples below. This often begins a process of letting go- shifting old thoughts and allowing in the new! Oh…and don’t let go of the thoughts that serve you well (I still have the most beautiful eyes in the world ;).
Here are some examples of the above exercise, just to illustrate.
Example 1:
  • I will be ridiculed if I speak out in meetings. So I keep my thoughts to myself and go with popular opinion.
  • Who will I be without this thought? I will be an influencer. My thoughts will be heard. I’ll be a leader.
  • Turning the first thought upside down: “My views and opinions matter and are valued by others. I can lead”
Example 2:
  • “I have not done well. I did not become an engineer, which was my first choice”
  • Is that thought true? I am actually doing well. I have a wonderful career. This career has given me a wonderful life and a lot of comforts too.
  • Turning the first statement around: “I am doing well. I am successful and I can do even better, where I am”
Example 3:
  • I have always been so bright. I should be doing something greater. I have wasted my talent.
  • Playing with the statement: Have I really? I have developed so many other skills. I can use these to make a difference.
  • My positive affirmation: “I make a difference wherever I go. Opportunities to make a difference are all around me”
Example 4:
  • I am a fearful person. I think too much and mostly see obstacles.
  • How will I feel without this statement? I will feel confident and empowered.
  • Turning the statement around: “I am confident enough to take the plunge”

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