Have you ever been unable to see something that is under your very nose? Maybe it’s something small, like realizing that sesame seeds are the cause of that weird rash that started when you went on your sushi kick. Or maybe it is something big, like seeing that your best friend actually is the love of your life. Either way, we’d benefit so much from paying more attention to the obvious.
In my case, the obvious wasn’t under my nose, it was on the top of my head! For all of my life, I believed that I had straight hair. I certainly didn’t have the ringlets that my “curly-haired” friends had. My mom would talk about how our family has straight hair, and my hairdresser would tell me that with hair as fine and straight as mine, only certain styles would work. When I blow dried it, it sure looked straight. And so on. I was as sure that I had straight hair as I was that my name was Samantha.
And then in February of this year, my new hairdresser made some offhanded comment that changed my world forever. These were his magic words: “We should try this product in your hair to capture its natural wave.” Say what? “Oh no,” I told him, “I don’t have wavy hair. My hair is straight.” At which point he looked at me as if I was saying that I didn’t breathe oxygen. Fifteen minutes and a bit of product later, he turned my chair around to show me a beautiful set of wavy curls framing my face. It turns out that I do, indeed, have wavy hair.
How could I have been mistaken about something so blatantly obvious? We are not talking about some obscure birthmark on the back of my thigh. We are talking about the hair on my head, which I have gazed at in the mirror every day of my cognizant life. If I had had to tell the truth about it, yes, my hair would flip and twist in funny directions if I didn’t blow it dry. But I reasoned that everyone’s hair must do this. Cowlicks or whatever, right? I clearly couldn’t have wavy hair because I, Samantha Sutton, had straight hair!
I know this may seem like a weird and somewhat petty example, but it illustrates something about us humans that is so common that it deserves being called out: we insist on believing things that defy reason! My Stanford Ph.D. students believe that they aren’t smart. My single clients believe that love happens to other people, not to them. My overweight clients believe that there is something genetically wrong with them that makes them unable to lose weight. Cubs fans believe that this is going to be the year that the Cubs finally win the World Series (I can speak to this one personally). And on and on.
Your turn: what do you believe that defies reason?
It turns out that once we believe something, we will often continue to believe it, even though there may be massive amounts of evidence to the contrary. This can work really well for us when the belief is something positive, like when you believe that a story you wrote will be accepted for publication, even though you have been rejected in the past. Or when you believe that the love of your life is out there, even though you haven’t met him yet. Believing in the Cubs might fall into this category, too. These positive beliefs give us the strength and vision to try again.
But then there are then also negative beliefs that hold us back from having what we want, like believing that you are not smart enough or pretty enough or capable enough to find love, get that job, or lose that weight. These theories demoralize us and ensure that we likely will stop trying at some point.
My wavy hair belief is a small example of this phenomenon, although I must confess that it was a huge deal to me. Instead of trying to force my hair to fit into straight-hair styles that were always a struggle, I have embraced the curl and gone for a wavy, less-tamed look. And I love it. I feel like I am seeing a new side of myself that I never knew existed, and now I get to discover her.
And that is the magic of opening your eyes and choosing a new belief. You get to see the world in new ways, and your possibilities in new ways. Imagine what dating would be like if you chose to believe that there were good men/women all around you? Or what getting that new job would be like if you believed that any company would be lucky to have you? Yes, you have to follow up a new belief with evidence, but what if you went on the prowl to find that evidence? I bet you could.
What belief is sinking you like a pair of cement shoes? Can you see how that might not be “the truth?” Write me a note and share.
Dr. Samantha Sutton is the President of Handel Group Life Coaching® where she leads a team of coaches who help you get what you want in life. Samantha additionally coaches at universities such as Stanford and MIT, which are a return to her technical roots: Samantha received a Ph.D. in Biological Engineering from MIT before joining the Handel Group® to help engineer people’s lives.
p.s. Changing your beliefs is just the first step. The next step is action! Join us to learn how to take action by making (and keeping) promises to yourself at our How to Keep Your Promises teleseminar on Wednesday, December 11th at 12pm EST.