Warning: Your self-beliefs are not secret!

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr —

In the mid-1980s when I was living in New York City, my girlfriend thought it would be impressive if I were to become a stock broker. To please her, I applied to a local Merrill Lynch office. With a recommendation from a friend, who was a Merrill Lynch broker in my hometown, they put me in a four week internship program.

You are unconsciously broadcasting your success or failure to everyone.

I went through a week of classes, testing, and a simulation – all of which I passed with flying colors. For the next three weeks I was put to work cold-calling prospects and generating leads for the brokers. At the end of the four weeks, I had a meeting with the manager, who would determine if she would offer me a position.

She said, “You are qualified for this job, and you performed all the assigned tasks well, and yet I can’t seem to make a decision about hiring you. There is something about you, I can’t put my finger on it, that is making me hesitate.”

I could’ve told her what it was: I didn’t really want to be there. I didn’t like the work. I didn’t see myself as a stock broker. I saw myself as a writer.

Nevertheless I had worked hard to get the job because I wanted to make my girlfriend happy. It was fascinating to me, that the manager was able to sense my own reticence.

She may have read my body language which is controlled by our subconscious mind. Through subtle changes in our bodies (posture, gestures, facial expression, eye movement, etc.), we project to others our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Some people are better than others at reading these signs. It’s what makes poker players successful, and the TV show Lie to Me so much fun to watch.

It is our self-beliefs – many of which are held subconsciously – that guide our lives. Often without our being aware of it. They affect our work, relationships, even our hobbies and leisure activities. As Carl Jung noted, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Our self-beliefs are extremely powerful. I’ve noticed that when I try to force myself to do something that I fear, don’t want to do, or goes against my morals, my body responds accordingly. I’ve even developed actual physical symptoms (rashes, hair loss, and others) when I’ve attempted to go against my beliefs.

Self-perception will affect the outcome of your pursuits and can determine success or failure. Henry Ford said, “If you believe you can or believe you can’t; you’re right.” A positive self-belief will produce confidence and success. A negative self-belief in our abilities will make us flinch in the moment of opportunity. You may recall in a previous column, I wrote about a talented opera singer who choked during an audition. Helen Williams of Authentic-Self.com observed, “Our self perception determines our behavior – if we think we are inadequate, we act that way. If we think we are splendid, we act that way.”

We unconsciously broadcast our self-belief which affects the way others perceive and treat us. Jane Devin, author of Elephant Girl: A Human Story?, wrote, “I was f**ked-up in some essential way that other people could see, but I couldn’t.”

I’ve written previously how I was bullied as a kid because of my fears. I recall my father telling me, “Son you’ve got to stop wearing your heart on your sleeve.” He was telling me to stop being so sensitive and easy to hurt, that I should hide my feelings when my classmates called me “Baby Bobby.” Easier said than done – the problem was that I believed it. Benjamin Franklin once said, “The sting in any rebuke is the truth.” If there wasn’t any truth, I wouldn’t have believed them; and I would not have reacted so strongly and visibly to my tormentors. If I didn’t believe them, I would’ve found it absurd; and would’ve laughed at their name-calling.

A hindering self-belief of “I am not good enough” might be resolved with positive affirmations, visualization, or praise from others. However, if it is a subconscious belief, as is most often the case, then it may take a therapist to help you change it.

According to Jonathan Darling, a group therapist in South Carolina, “If your self-image is negative, then your treatment outcome will also be negative, and ultimately your life. When working with my patients, I take the emphasis away from the negatives, and remind them that the way forward is through focusing on their positive qualities and not on their failings. You build on that, then come back around with renewed energy to work on the flaws.”

I have a friend who refers to himself as an alcoholic and attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings; yet he occasionally falls off the wagon and binge drinks. AA’s philosophy tells people with drinking problems that they are different from other people, that they have an allergy, genetic condition, or body-chemistry that makes them unable to stop even if they have just one drink. I feel that promulgating the self-belief that a person is helpless when it comes to alcohol is self-defeating, removes responsibility, ignores the underlying causes of alcoholism, and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe a better approach would be to identify the self-beliefs and work on changing them.

Many people decry fashion advertising because it creates a false image in women’s minds of what they should look like. When we compare ourselves to others it can have a positive or a negative effect on our self-belief. Sometimes just knowing that someone else has achieved what you want can motivate you to succeed. Other times it can have the opposite effect. When my coaching clients become discouraged by seeing others’ success, I remind them that the person they are comparing themselves to may have a back story that includes advantages my client has not enjoyed, which makes it an unfair comparison. Orrin Woodward, an author and leadership consultant, has said, “Most people overestimate others’ talents and underestimate their own.”

Staying motivated means keeping focused on your goals while holding your negative thoughts in check. Developing a positive self-perception begins with facing your fears and having compassion for yourself. Begin the process of changing your self-beliefs today.

Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Robert is the author of the inspirational book: Wisdom in the Weirdest Places. Robert is also the author of the humorous children’s book: The Annoying Ghost Kid. For more information on Robert, please visit http://www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com

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