“I know sometimes I'm not easy to deal with. It’s just the way I am.”
How often have you heard sentences like that? Or maybe in some other forms, like:
"You know I'm just a passionate person and I get carried away" or "You know I'm just an honest guy so I'll be blunt with you", etc.?
Well, it's just excuses. Even when wrapped in a sad story that helps you sympathize with the other person, like the result of a rough upbringing, it's just excuses. Ultimately we should own who we are.
Limiting beliefs have more of a negative impact on your life than any other factor. They come from a variety of sources such as our own interpretation of the world around us, our culture and upbringing and past experiences (especially negative experiences). Our brain is built to learn and find patterns, but sometimes we learn things or find patterns that are inaccurate or are only true in a certain context but we keep applying them in different contexts. Many of these beliefs start like this:
- I am / I am not. For example: I am an engineer (so I won't ever be good at arts)
- I can't / I must / I mustn't. "I cannot dance". "I mustn't let others see me vulnerable".
- Others are / this world is. "This world is a cruel place (so I need to be tough)". "Others only care about themselves (so why should I care about them)"
The way most of these beliefs work is that they prune our perceived set of options in certain situations. Since I'm a bad dancer I won't even try to get into situations in which I could improve that skill. While I might not consciously avoid dancing I'll just naturally look for other ways to spend my time.
For one there's this general understanding in people's minds that (after a certain age) we can't change. From experience, I can tell you this is far from the truth. While change is not easy, especially changes to our self-image but it's still all very possible. It depends on our willingness to change which is why statements like above are quite dangerous as they can engrave this false idea of change being impossible and undermine our openness while being a kind of a comforting 'fallback' when facing criticism or feedback.
There's also this 'romantic' notion of "just accept me the way I am" in our society. It shows up in how we picture friendship, relationships and even work situations. You can be seen as a bad friend or lover if you don't accept your peers just as they are. I think the key lies in the term 'accepting'. Accepting should not mean being 100% happy with something! I can accept the fact that there are still wars in the world and still dislike it. I can accept that I'm not easy to deal with and I get emotional fast in heated debates and still work on changing it for the better.
So next time if your gut reaction to someone telling you to chill is "well you know I'm like this" - stop, think and evaluate if their claim is valid or not regardless of what beliefs you hold about yourself. Then you can think about figuring out the kind of person you want to be and work your way there. Thinking we're static and that our personalities an habits are set in stone is a limiting belief itself.
Read more about this topic in my other post called the stories we tell ourselves