Although the whole world might stand in the way between us and our dreams, the biggest obstacle that stops us in our tracks is often our own self-defeating expectations and lies.
We Are Our Own Biggest Obstacle
Despite the negativity bias1 that we are born with, many people find hope for their future as they imagine their potential for what they can become. As we grow up, we create a vision of what success looks like for ourselves and strive to fulfill our vision to be happy. Yet somewhere along the way, we begin to doubt ourselves and settle for less without trying.
Despite our dreams being far-reaching, there shouldn’t be any reason not to shoot for the stars and become our best selves. Yet the biggest obstacle in our way is our selves! That’s because self-defeating thoughts begin to creep in that make us feel inadequate. Self-defeating thoughts can come in two different ways: baseless or unrealistic expectations and self-defeating lies.
Although some things don’t turn out how we want, that doesn’t mean that life has been a failure. People unknowingly develop subconscious expectations that seem to hold inherent value. Sometimes these subconscious expectations are baseless which means that they are not our own goals, or we don’t have a good reason to let them hang over us. Don’t let these baseless expectations discourage you.
Common types of baseless expectations are related to tradition, religion, lifestyle, academic achievement, relationships, financial success, status etc. Deep down, you might realize that you have let expectations regarding some of these things discourage you, even if they’re not actually important for your own happiness.
Example: Everyone else in my family graduated from University A. However, I was not accepted into University A and I felt crushed, like I had failed. I attended a different university and had a fantastic experience and learned a ton! I eventually realized that I had never decided for myself that I wanted to attend University A, but I had just expected to. Even though I didn’t fulfill my initial expectation to attend University A, that didn’t mean that I was a failure or that there wasn’t another way.
Second-grade teachers are notorious for encouraging us to shoot for the stars and become our best self. Unfortunately, we tend to focus on the “shoot for the stars” part and forget the more important advice to “become our best selves.” We need to remind ourselves that not everyone can have the coolest jobs or discover life-changing cures for illness and that is okay. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to live your dream, but don’t let that dream overshadow the good things that are already going well for you.
Focus on who you are becoming, what you are, and understand what you are not. This will help you see through the unrealistic expectations that might discourage you. Craig D. Lounsbrough put it best: “expectations are the shackles that will not permit something to be what it actually is.”2
Self-defeating lies are those repetitive thoughts that say that you’re inadequate or that you’re not enough. People naturally tend to be a little bit negative, but it’s going too far if those negative thoughts are preventing you from trying to become your best self!
6 Tips to Reprogram Self-Defeating Lies
The following six tips inspired by forbes.com can help you reprogram self-defeating lies:3
1.) Imagine Who You Would Be Without Fear and Doubt
Imagine life without those self-defeating lies that say you’re not enough, then act as if things really are that way! Behave as if you aren’t worried or insecure at all. Over time, you won’t be!
2.) Stop Confusing Honesty for Truth
You can honestly feel something, but that doesn’t mean it is the truth. Honesty is sincerity, it is being genuine about you’re experience or thoughts. Truth is different, it’s objective. You can honestly think that you’re failing in life, but in truth, you could be doing very well despite your insecurities. Understanding the difference can be life-changing.
3.) Do Good Even If You Don’t Feel Great
Most people want their feelings to drive their actions, but it should be the other way around. The way to unwind an emotional spiral is to start doing what you need to do even if you don’t feel like it. Let your long-term goals guide your daily actions.
4.) Don’t Let Your Fear Eclipse Your Ability
When you’re feeling self-conscious, it’s easy to tell yourself that you can’t do something. You probably just don’t want to because it is uncomfortable. Change your thinking. Replace “I can’t” thoughts with “I won’t.” Similarly, replace “I have to” thoughts with “I get to” so you can approach a task with confidence instead of self-doubt or drudging obligation.
5.) Remember That You Are Spotlighting Yourself
Nobody is thinking about you with as much frequency, scrutiny and attention as you are. Why? Because they are all too busy spotlighting themselves.
6.) Work from the Outside In
It’s almost impossible to have true self-assurance or confidence without having gone out into the world and proved yourself. Don’t just sit around trying to mantra and affirm your way into believing in yourself. Go out and get proof!
Watch for PART 3 of this series about observing our thoughts and avoiding self-deception!
If you missed Part 1, no worries! You can catch up by CLICKING HERE.
1 Vaish, A., Grossmann, T., & Woodward, A. (2008). Not all emotions are created equal: The negativity bias in social-emotional development. Psychological Bulletin, 134(3), 383-403. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.383
2 Craig D. Lounsbrough Quotes (Author of An Intimate Collision Encounters with Life and Jesus) (page 5 of 52). (2018). Goodreads.com. Retrieved 5 November 2018, from https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/4172966.Craig_D_Lounsbrough?page=5
3 Wiest, B. (2018). 7 Ways To Reprogram Self-Defeating Thoughts. Forbes. Retrieved 6 November 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/briannawiest/2018/08/07/7-ways-to-reprogram-self-defeating-thoughts-that-are-making-you-less-effective/#2e6901b4f5e2