Tag Archives: self fulfilling prophecy

Are you approachable?

 

friendly photo

Are you approachable?

Do you ever think about how you are coming across to others? There can be times when we are giving off negative body language to others but are not aware of this. Often, negative body language comes from what we are thinking about. If we are self conscious and self focused, we may feel stressed and this will show in our body language.

Cognitive behavioural therapy deals with many issues and among those is social anxiety, also known as social phobia. When we suffer from social anxiety, we are often plagued by self doubt and worry too much about what others think of us. We focus on how we are coming across and this self focus ends up making us feel even more anxious. Ironically, when we care too much about being liked and/or being popular, we can end up making the situation worse for ourselves by placing too much pressure on our behaviour.

An analogy that helps my clients is to ask them to think about a row of shops. If you are walking down a street full of shops, you will be unlikely to enter into a shop that looks as if it is closed, has the door closed or has the shutters down etc

On the other hand, a shop that has the door open and looks inviting is more likely to get interest from passers by. I call this “shop open” and “shop shut” body language. Regularly monitor yourself to see whether you are giving off approachable “shop open” body language or unfriendly “shop closed” body language. Shop open body language consists of:

smiling, making eye contact, shoulders back etc

Sadly, when we are shy or feel anxious socially, our thoughts tend to be anxious in nature and this affects our body language negatively. What ends up happening is known as a self fulfilling prophecy – the very thing we fear comes true. If you feel anxious, try focusing on something external instead of  focusing on yourself. This is a great trick to lessen anxiety  in social situations. Focus on others, find out more about them…

In the future, remind yourself to give off “shop open” body language and you will immediately see a change in how people treat you and communicate with you.

Mandy X

The danger of Self fulfilling prophecies

 

self fulfilling prophecy

self fulfilling prophecy

The danger of Self fulfilling prophecies

We all have a tendency to use ‘confirmation bias’ to help us make sense of the world around us. Confirmation bias can lead to self fulfilling prophecies. Let me explain. Confirmation bias is the human tendency to look for evidence of our thinking. If we believe that, for example, all tennis players are arrogant, we will be looking out for examples and instances in life that confirm this belief rather than refute it. When we see anything related to a tennis player being arrogant, it makes us feel safe and gives us a sense of security that our beliefs and the way we see the world is accurate.

The problem with confirmation bias is that we tend to overlook/ignore evidence that contradicts our beliefs. In this way, our thinking can lead to self fulfilling prophecies. If we have a belief that we aren’t good in social situations, we will think about all the times we embarrassed ourselves in a social situation and this will reinforce our negative thinking. When we think and believe something, we tend to act in accordance with that belief. Our body language may change and we can give off signals that show us in an unapproachable light. Not making eye contact and avoidance will lead to others not talking to us and this then confirms our negative beliefs and the self fulfilling prophecy will be in full swing.

Watch your thinking, make sure that you challenge beliefs (see the blog post on the “cause of anxiety” for more info on conquering your fears) and don’t allow negative thinking to create self limiting beliefs and unwanted situations that you may inadvertently have created through your own thinking!

Mandy X

 

How to break through mental barriers

 

mental blocks

 

How to break through mental barriers

What’s stopping you from achieving your true potential or attaining your goals? We all have ideas of how we would like to improve our lives but very few of us actually set in motion the practical steps to improve our lot. Most just talk and never do.

Here are common things that get in the way and create obstacles to us achieving what we want:

  1. Negative thoughts/limiting beliefs

We all have stuff that our minds tell us that stop us from moving forward. We think about everything that could possibly go wrong, we lack self belief and we experience fear. All of these ‘nonsense’ thoughts stop us and effectively remain as mental barriers to self actualisation.

2. Unrealistic goals

Goals are sometimes set that are unrealistic or too big for us to achieve. You may lack the skills, time, money, health or other resources to reach your goals.

3. Avoidance of discomfort

Often we are unwilling to make room in our lives for the discomfort a certain challenge will bring.

4. Losing direction

At times we lose our true selves and move away from our core values. When we lose touch with, or forget what is truly important or meaningful we can end up on the wrong path and be unable to reach our goals.

Write down everything that has stopped you from following through:

1)

2)

3)

4)…..

 

Now revisit your reasons and label them as one of the four reasons above. Was it a limiting belief (I will fail; I’ll do it later, I’m too weak) or was it unrealistic? (you lacked money, time etc).

Was it avoidance of discomfort? ie. you were unwilling to make room for the anxiety, frustration, fear of failure or other uncomfortable thoughts/feelings…or finally was it losing direction?

How to fix it:

Go through your barriers one by one and work out how you can deal with them. Name the story (the thoughts you are telling yourself), accept the thoughts are there and acknowledge them for what they are. – They are unhelpful and judgmental. Recognise the critical inner voice and simply let it pass – like cars passing on a highway.

Acceptance strategies: name the feeling, observe it like a curious scientist, rate it on a scale from 1 to 10, commit to allowing it, breathe into it, make room for it, give it a shape and a colour.

Realistic goal setting: If you lack skills, set new goals around learning them. If your goal is too big, break it down into small chunks. If you lack resources, brainstorm how you can get them; if you lack time, what are you willing to give up in order to make the time? If the goal is truly impossible eg. due to health or financial issues, or external barriers over which you have no direct influence, then set a different one.

Embracing values to find direction: connect with what matters to you about this goal. Is it truly meaningful? Is it aligned with your values? Is it truly important? Is it moving your life forward in a direction you wish to go?

Using these ideas, write down how you can respond to the barriers you have listed above.

Finally, ask yourself this question: Am I willing to make room for the difficult thoughts and feelings that show up without getting caught up or struggling with them, and take effective action in order to do what matters?

If so, go ahead and give it a go.

If not, consider these three questions:

  1. Does this really and truly matter to you?
  2. If it does, then what is the cost to you of avoiding it or putting it off?
  3. Would you rather have the vitality-draining pain of staying stuck, or the life-enhancing pain of moving forward??

Mandy X

 

 

4 Tips for dealing with social anxiety

 

social anxiety

 

4 Tips for dealing with social anxiety

Social anxiety is a common issue that affects millions of people. It can be quite debilitating and limit opportunities. People with social anxiety experience excessive nervousness when in the company of others and worry that they might humiliate themselves in some way or do/say something embarrassing. This ‘self focus’ only makes the problem worse.

Those with social anxiety are hypersensitive to criticism from others and worry about how they are coming across. They assume that others are likely to be evaluating them negatively. As a result, people with social anxiety tend to avoid social situations which allows the fears to grow and the social anxiety is reinforced.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a useful effective therapy for social anxiety as it challenges thoughts about social fears and what others might be thinking and also allows opportunities to test out theories by try out ‘behavioural experiments’. These help to test out predictions and minimise fears.

People with social anxiety tend to use ‘safety behaviours’. These are behaviours that help to reduce the anxiety in the short term but in the long term, they actually help to maintain the anxiety. Using safety behaviours prevents a person from learning healthier longer lasting coping skills. Safety behaviours comprise actions such as: staying in the background, avoiding eye contact, making regular trips to the bathroom or having some other type of ritual to cope in the immediate situation.

Safety behaviours can result in ‘self fulfilling’ prophecies. For example, if we stay quiet in a social situation, we may come across as distant and thereby be ignored by others as we  are coming across as unapproachable. This will then reinforce our thoughts that no one likes us and that we are terrible in social situations.

Challenging social anxiety:

  1. Less self focus

Practise focusing externally rather than being overly concerned with yourself. When we feel socially anxious we focus on whether we are blushing or imagine that our nervousness is easy to notice which makes us feel even more anxious. Make an effort to focus your attention on others rather than on yourself.

2. Use approach behaviour

Instead of withdrawing and avoiding, it is essential to start taking small steps towards being around others. The more time we spend with others socially, the more our anxiety will diminish.

3. Challenge negative anxious thoughts

We often tend to ‘mind read’, assuming we know what others are thinking. This is irrational though because unless we ask, we don’t really know what others are thinking. When dealing with clients with social anxiety, they have told me they think others are noticing their imperfections or perceived flaws. Often, they are projecting their own insecurities onto others. For example – if they think they have bad teeth, they will assume others are noticing their teeth and thinking how awful they are. The reality could be completely different. Actually, we are all quite egocentric, in that we are all quite focused on ourselves and so when we assume others are focused on us, they probably aren’t at all.

Always ask if there is evidence to believe a certain thought. Often there won’t be.

4. Reduce safety behaviours

Make a list of safety behaviours such as: I stand in the kitchen at parties; I never talk unless someone speaks to me first, I make regular trips to the bathroom, I avoid social gatherings altogether…

The  rate each behaviour out of 10 in terms of how anxious it might make you feel

The start with the items lower on the list – the 1’s, 2’s and 3’s out of ten – use this behavioural hierarchy to start confronting safety behaviours.

Try talking to someone first, rate your anxiety before and after (out of 10) and then make a not of what you predicted might happen (they would laugh and walk away) and what actually happened (the person spoke to me briefly)..in this way we begin to challenge and remove out fears and pre existing thoughts about social situations.

We all experience anxiety, some of us are just better at covering it up. Getting out there and confronting our social anxiety is the best way forward. Social anxiety can be over come.

Mandy X

The Law of belief

 

belief

The law of belief

The law of belief states that whatever you believe, with feeling, becomes your reality. The more intensely you believe something to be true, the more likely it is that it will be true for you. Your beliefs give you a form of tunnel vision where you edit out events that do no fit with what you don’t believe – psychologists call the “confirmation bias”.

For example if you believe that you are meant to b a great success in life, you are more likely to keep pressing ahead, letting nothing stand in your way. On the other hand, if you believe that success ins a matter of luck the  you will become more easily discouraged. Your beliefs set you up either for success of for failure.

People generally have one of two ways of looking at the world.The first is what is called a benevolent world view. If you have this view you generally believe that the world is a good place to live in and you tend to see the good in people and in situations. You believe that there is room for mistakes and you are primarily optimistic in nature.

The second way of looking at the world is with a malevolent world view. This view involves seeing the world in a negative way with a pessimistic attitude. Which one are you? This type of person sees injustice, oppression and misfortune everywhere. When things go wrong for them, which they usually do,  they blame it on bad luck or bad people. Most people swing between the two and at times we can all see the world in a malevolent way.

To counteract this negative world view – train yourself to look for positive things and acts of kindness in life. You can also start a gratitude journal and list three things at the end of each day that made you smile. This is called “priming” – forcing our focus in order to think differently and notice new things that may contradict our usual pattern of thinking. We can often easily accept that we are limited in some way (too ugly, too stupid, not able enough..we all have our self doubts)and this leads us to ignore any evidence that contradicts what we’ve already chosen to believe about ourselves. Choose your beliefs carefully – you can craft a great set to fall back on – why wouldn’t you choose great ones to further you in life?

Needless to say, people with optimistic beliefs tend to be more positive and cheerful. They have upbeat mental attitudes that enable them to respond positively and constructively to the inevitable ups and downs of life.

Mandy X

Why you must never give up on yourself

 

optimism photo

Why you must never give up on yourself

Self sabotage is common and I have witnessed many people give up at the first hurdle that comes their way. They flounder when things don’t go according to plan. Don’t be taken in by the idea of overnight success. Modern media shoves unrealistic airbrushed images at us on a daily basis and if you’re not careful it is easy to be taken in by the perfection we see around us. It is not necessarily the most talented that succeed –  it is the most determined. The world is full of talented people will never make it because talent is no substitute for staying power.

Expect the best for yourself. Basic confidence in yourself will see you through where others fall behind. Being blessed with an inbuilt faith in yourself . Is often the magic ingredient that will take you further than others. When you’re optimistic, it is easier to maintain hope even when there are setbacks and frustrations. Optimism carries you further.

Optimism can be learned. What is your attitude? Ask yourself about lessons that you learned from your parents. Were they positive? What core beliefs do you hold?

Complete the following sentences:

I am…

Other people are…

The world is…

 

Complete the above sentences without thinking too much about the answers. What is the tone of your answers? Optimistic or pessimistic?

Complete the following sentences:

These thoughts would really empower me…

What do you need to believe about the world and about yourself that will power you forward?

Watch those core beliefs! If you want to give the best of yourself and achieve your true potential ensure that your core beliefs are sound and objective as possible. Positive core beliefs are brilliant to but stay away from pessimistic core beliefs. You will be living life with cracked foundations if you choose to believe pessimistic things about the world.

Choose core beliefs that promote empowerment and help you to feel you have mastery over the events in your life-and outlook psychologists call “self efficacy”. Albert Bandura, a Stanford Psychologist puts it like this “People’s beliefs about their abilities have a profound effect on those abilities. People who have a sense of self efficacy bounce back from failures; they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong”.

Life is better when you’re an optimist. All about being for closing your eyes to the world around you but it is about knowing that you will manage and find a way through. It can take time to grow into the most polished version of yourself. Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of America’s most popular president yet in his early days he was awkward and  not particularly charming. In 1921 he was crippled with polio but he still went on to become a much loved leader. It is never too late succeed.

Obviously something is too much like hard work this is a message in itself. Having the wisdom to know when to cut back or change direction is also important. That aside, if something means enough to you, you have to keep going. You owe it to yourself. This does not mean you have to put daily pressure on yourself but it means you have goals to work towards.

What to do:

Make a list of the things you truly want. Be sure that these goals for you and not ideas other people want for you.

Make a list of small steps that you can take to start achieving these goals. When things don’t go well draw on faith and hope and know that you will find a way through.

Be realistic-remember that success is very rarely linear. When you mess up get back on track. Learn from the failure but never see yourself as a failure.

Lean on others. Try not isolate yourself others are more willing to have the new realise.

Finally watch yourself fulfilling prophecies. Don’t set yourself up to fail. Your abilities are at the mercy of your beliefs. Neither of fixed!

Where there is a will there is a way. You can choose the pace, just keep going in the right direction and believe that you can and will get there.

Mandy X

 

Being a victim

 

unhappy person photo

 

Being a victim

I’ve been experiencing a few ‘poor me’ days lately. Sometimes people act in a dastardly way (not where there is a difference in opinion but rather someone being malicious and unreasonable) and it can affect us more than we’d like it to. Sometimes when people treat us badly or we perceive their behaviour to be unfair and horrid, it can trigger helpless feelings similar to those we experienced in childhood. We have all been victims in some way at some time in our lives. Being a victim leaves us with a sense that we have been wronged in some way.

That feeling of powerless lurks underneath the surface in all of us. I often tell my clients that we can’t control what others do but we can control what we think about it and how we react. Easier said than done in many instances.

Being a victim is part of the ‘push and pull’ of life. Sometimes we feel on top and in control and at other times we feel beaten down and weak. I have felt weaker in the last few days but I always give myself a time limit  on being a victim. It is healthy to have some ‘poor me’ time but after a few days, it’s time to start the pep talks, reject the other person’s control over us and become proactive.

How to stop being a victim

1) Make a list of possible actions

Writing down a list of possible solutions is a good way to feel empowered. Find effective solutions and start working through the list.

2) Don’t catastrophise

Don’t imagine worst case scenarios as this will add to your distress. Try to take life one day at a time and tell yourself  that you will deal with whatever comes your way. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

3) Take action

Don’t keep your head in the sand. Tackling the problem head on is important – confront, get advice and do whatever is necessary. Refer to point 1.

4) Change your mindset

Being a victim can be the easier route as we can remain passive and not take responsibility for our part in the equation. Choose not to see yourself as a victim. See yourself as a fighter, someone who has endless resources to right the wrongs in life. The way you talk to yourself is crucial – if you see yourself as a victim indefinitely (ie. it’s all my parent’s fault, it’s not my fault that there are no jobs out there – it’s beyond my control), this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Refuse to see yourself as a victim and access the strong part of you that won’t rest until the situation has improved or become fairer and more balanced.

5) Self  belief

Part of being a victim involves seeing ourselves as hard done by, misunderstood and unfairly treated.  Tune that part out (after you’ve had your brief wallow in self pity of course) and tune in to the feisty powerful part of you. We all have this inside us, it’s just that some of us don’t believe we are capable of fighting back. Believe in yourself and believe that the general order of the world supports fairness and reasonable behaviour. Never give up on something you believe in.

Don’t allow the unscrupulous bullies and unfairness in life to get the better of you. Don’t allow them to win. Take a rest by all means but fight for what is important to you and above all, never let anyone or anything make you feel less than or lead you to give up on yourself and/or your ideals.

Mandy X

 

Life is a struggle – or is it?

Low side of the road

Low side of the road (Photo credit: Photosightfaces)

Life is a struggle… Or is it? What do you think? Is your life a struggle? Have you been conditioned to believe that life is a struggle? If you think it is, then this is what will unfold and if you don’t, it won’t. But is it that simple?

I believe that your life is the sum total of your thoughts and beliefs about life. If you were taught that life will be a struggle, every experience you have will be framed within this thinking. Instead of being open-minded about what life throws at you, you will automatically be expecting bad things to happen. Of course bad things do happen but we can pre-empt negative occurrences, expecting them to occur-this is called a self fulfilling prophecy. Machiavelli is the philosopher of choice for people who struggle. Typical sayings such as “it’s a dog eat dog world” or “you get nothing for nothing” suggest an attitude of negativity. many people do not realise how much their thinking affects the quality of their life. I’m not saying that life is always easy-life is a challenge. When we struggle against the natural rhythms of life, we create resistance and opposition and this is what leads to struggle.

With struggle there is no joy and rarely any reward. In fact, for some people struggle is the reward. They are a little lost without it. There is comfort in what you know. They struggle through life sacrificing their own needs and falling to bed exhausted every night. They justify this joyless existence by saying things like, “that’s life”. I have had clients who are incredibly successful but at the same time thoroughly miserable. They loathe what they do and what they have become. Often this is what they expected. “This is just how life is. You have to get on with it”.

If you believe that life is meant to be a struggle ask yourself how this belief helps you. Does it make you happier? I doubt it. If you create unnecessary struggle and stress for yourself you are in the majority. As adults, many of us are passing stressful struggle onto our kids.

What to do

1) Identify struggle in your life

Is struggle are programmed response in your life? You may be responding negatively to life without even realising it. Forcing yourself to be a certain way or do a certain job because “that’s just how life is”, will never promote happiness.

2)Increase pleasure and fun

look for beauty everywhere. It could be the sound of birds singing or the sun shining. Treat yourself often. Plan a day every now and then you get to do nothing or do what you love doing.

3) Don’t be so serious

laugh more. See the funny side of life. Laughter releases endorphins and relieves pain whilst boosting your immune system. Spend the evening at a comedy club or watch a comedy on television. Serotonin levels affect our sense of optimism, confidence and self esteem. Learn to lighten up.

4) Analyse your attitude

What is your philosophy in life? Do you see struggle and sweat as noble, natural and inevitable? Is the alternative being lazy and apathetic? If you have been raised on struggle, it may take time to reprogram your attitudes for a more carefree existence. Let go of the idea that relaxed people cannot be super achievers.

Stop trying to blow at the sails of your boat to get across the lake. Take the time to relax and enjoy the scenery. Sooner or later a natural gust of wind will take you where you want to be.

Mandy X

 

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