Your thoughts create your perception, which creates your reality.
Your thought patterns determine what you think you’re capable of, and therefore, what you choose to pursue.
Every time you grow as a person, or your life improves, it happens because you’ve adjusted or amended a thought pattern. While some of these patterns may be blatantly obvious to you, others are less so. Here are some of the most insidious ideas hindering your potential, often without you ever realizing.
1. “Only so much good can come from my life before it’s balanced out by the bad.”
When we’re young, we lack control over almost every single thing in our lives. We rationalize our near-constant discomfort by believing that life is, in essence, hard.
As we grow up, dramatic and negative events in the world around us affirm this view. We see all the devastating hardships people have to endure and think, Yes, of course, life is hard! We’re more likely to define the last five years by the one or two “bad” things that happened to us than the literal thousands of good things.
This is negativity bias, and it ends up stunting our growth long-term by carrying over into our daily life choices.
We stay at jobs we hate because life is hard. We stay in relationships we are drowning in because life is hard. We think going about our days numb and aggrieved is normal, because again, life is hard.
Life has hard moments, but life is not purgatory. You aren’t supposed to suffer then die.
When our lives begin to tip toward the good, we don’t trust it. We assume, after years of prior conditioning, that we’re only experiencing a few fleeting positive moments until, inevitably, the rug will be pulled out from under us again.
This isn’t so.
When our lives improve — they improve. Good things add up, and we stabilize. The more stable we are, the less likely we are to incur a “negative” experience that’s within our control, and the more likely we are to handle one that’s out of our control.
2. “I can only earn a life I love by doing things I hate.”
The sister belief to “life is hard and I am simply waiting for my next struggle” is the idea that to have to a life we love, we must do things we hate.
If we’re never exposed to someone who lives independently, earns money in an unconventional way, or lives in complete peace and true fulfillment, we think those things are impossible. We return to our mindset of checks and balances: Alright, well, if I want more time and freedom, I need to endure the stress and suffering of work I don’t like.
This is yet another mindset eroding your quality of life.
You cannot hate your way into a life you love. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.
When I first started working for myself, I set up a home office, created self-imposed “hours,” and made myself sit there, doing work that I didn’t like and that didn’t even really make sense for my business long-term. I was essentially re-creating the structure of the 9–5 I wanted to get away from.
I did not yet believe that I could have freedom, money, and simply do what I love. But I can, and you can, too.
3. “I am responsible for any problem in my proximity.”
This is a particularly poignant issue if you’re someone with suppressed anxiety. When you have anxiety, you are constantly scanning your environment for potential threats and hazards. When you find one, it becomes your obsession. You fixate on it until you’ve come up with some kind of emergency plan or otherwise taken control of the situation altogether.
Of course, this works until it doesn’t.
It works until you come across a problem that might affect you but is not within your control. Then, you’re sent into crisis.
Just because you can empathize with someone’s pain does not mean their burden is yours to carry.
Just because you see someone struggling doesn’t mean you have to martyr yourself to fix it.
Just because not everyone around you is thriving does not mean you have to hold yourself back.
In fact, the opposite is true.
If you’re stunted by the potential negative outcomes of those around you, you will only ever hold yourself back more.
Instead, you must discern the difference between problems you’re responsible for and problems you aren’t. The difference depends on what’s within your sphere of influence. If something isn’t — or is, but marginally so — decide on a backup plan (“this is what I will do in that instance”) and move on.
Otherwise, you’ll spend your entire life struggling with problems you can’t solve, because they aren’t really yours.
4. “I cannot ask for an abundant life in a world filled with so much suffering.”
So many of us are trapped in the following mindset: In a world with so much pain and suffering, who am I to ask for a happy and full life?
The answer is: Who are you not to?
By denying yourself fulfillment, are you helping anyone? Are you moving humanity forward? Are you solving the problems that perplex you?
Of course not.
What the world needs are more people with good hearts holding a torch down the paths least taken. We need to prove to each other that happiness is possible, abundance is at our fingertips, and we are allowed to savor every magic moment of our lives.
This isn’t a fantasy. This is how people actually live, and many live this way regardless of their background, income, or privilege.
You will know this because you probably know at least one person who technically has everything they could want and is deeply miserable. You’ve also probably met at least one older person who had very little means throughout their lives and yet was deeply loved and truly happy.
The point is this: We do not need more people held down by the world’s aching. We need more people proving it’s possible to dance in spite of it.
5. “Relationships are hard, and they are designed to be that way.”
Relationships are not supposed to be hard.
They may appear hard because they mirror our behaviors to us. But, in fact, they are our most potent arena for growth and development.
The people in our lives change us, shape us, and create us. If “hell is other people,” then heaven probably is, too. Hard patches are inevitable, but relationships are supposed to be a positive force in your life — and if they aren’t, it probably means something’s awry.
You probably don’t think this is possible because you haven’t yet been in a relationship that is more flow than friction; you haven’t yet met the best friends with whom there’s more connection than drama. These are possible, these relationships exist, and I know many, many people who have both.
If you don’t yet, don’t worry. You will.
But you won’t if you walk around thinking everyone sucks and people are awful and everyone is going to drive you mad and abandon you eventually. Adjust your perception of relationships, and your relationships will change.
6. “I must be successful to be happy; I must be beautiful to be loved.”
I know it seems as though success and happiness are so deeply intertwined that you could not possibly pursue one without creating the other. But our ideas surrounding what it means to be successful in the first place are highly inflated and ultimately pointless.
To be successful is to live on your own terms, to find satisfaction in each day. That’s all. Anything else you acquire on top of that is just gravy. It’s not the point of your life, it’s not a prerequisite for joy.
You do not need to be successful. Similarly, you do not need to be beautiful to be loved.
This is a really harsh way to put it, but objectively un-beautiful people live whole and happy lives and have supportive partners who are passionate about them. Why? Because love is, truly, in the eye of the beholder. Love is so much deeper than surface beauty. And life is so much deeper than success.
Success and beauty, while they fuel the world’s most active and aggressive pursuits, are also capitalistic schemes by some measure. They depend on you feeling not quite good enough, so you’ll keep investing in improvement — not authentic improvement, but surface-level improvement.
It’s a radical act of power to determine that you do not need to be successful, and you do not need to be beautiful. Ironically, accepting this is, in itself, success and beauty in its truest form.
7. “I am the sum of other people’s opinions about me.”
You probably didn’t form your view of yourself independently. In fact, the way you see yourself is probably just the accumulation of the way you think other people perceive you.
Sometimes, you pick up on this through what is said to you or how you’re treated. Other times, it’s a matter of projection — a metaperception (how you imagine other people view you).
Either way, you are a whole and complete individual that exists outside of other people’s perceptions. If you live believing that you’re merely the sum of the way you are seen by others, y
ou are going to have a very empty life.
Be alone for a while — intentionally.
Discover who you are when nobody else is around.
Discover what you like when nobody else is there to tell you what to like.
Discover what you want when nobody else is there to tell you what you want.
Discover how you live when nobody else is there to tell you how you live.
When you know who you fundamentally are, on your own terms, you end up shifting the way that the world sees you. Instead of acting in accordance with other people’s expectations, you start living up to your own.
Author: Brianna Wiest
I write for people who are ready to transform their lives. My book is available here: https://amzn.to/3amn8BP, and I post here: instagram.com/briannawiest.