What are your beliefs? Can you even identify them? How are they impacting your life and driving your decisions?
Beliefs can cloud your judgment. We tend to predict that most people believe the things we believe. I prefer wheat bread; most people prefer wheat bread. I find the ocean soothing; most people prefer to live by the ocean. I like a wide variety of music; most people are eclectic in their music tastes. While I can find statistics to back up my dwelling by the ocean expectation, examples one and three are figments of my imagination.
I hold the belief that wheat bread is better than white. The flavor is rich and nutty; the texture holds up and doesn’t become a glue-like paste stuck to the roof of my mouth. As an unbleached whole grain it is a healthier option. So of course most people will agree with me that wheat bread trumps, right?
Not so fast…I grew up on white bread and for years after switching to wheat, I couldn’t fathom a tomato sandwich on anything other than white bread. And don’t try to fool me with some fresh-from-the-bakery white stuff – I’m talking straight up poisonous fluffy glue in a bag: Wonder bread. It just wasn’t a tomato sandwich without the king of all cheap white breads. My poor hapless husband would proudly present his family with the tomato sandwiches he knew we loved so much only to be met with faces of horror and scorn. A blasphemous tomato sandwich on, gasp, wheat bread!
While our sons sadly cling to their white bread from time to time, I have thankfully seen the light. The last time I ate white bread, it was like expecting a gourmet meal but eating potted meat. Or expecting tea and taking a big swig of coke. Yuck!
I See; You See
When I went to the movies as a teen, I was always frustrated to find a movie playing in a certain theater. When I’d complain of this screen always being blurry and out of focus, my friends would remain oddly silent. The other theaters seemed fine but this one seemed to need a new projector.
Eventually, during one of my bouts of complaining, a friend asked what I was talking about. “What do you mean, what am I talking about? Movies in this theater are always blurry.” “No, they’ve never seemed blurry to me.” Come to find out, my eyesight was worsening and I now needed to wear glasses at distances I hadn’t previously. This was the largest theater, meaning I was sitting farther from the screen than in the smaller theaters. This was an eye opening lesson in more ways than one.
What about the last car you bought? Many of us have experienced this…..you buy a vehicle believing it a not so common make and model. You’re likely familiar with it but seldom see them. Once you own it though, you suddenly see them everywhere. I once bought a Honda CRV, thinking I’d never seen one before. I’d heard of them but couldn’t tell you what they were or even that they were a crossover. I actually thought they were SUVs. From day one, I had the hardest time finding it in a parking lot because there were always so many and somehow they were all blue. One time coming out of the grocery store, I opened the door to my car and turned to realize neither of my kids were with me. In a panic, I scanned the parking lot to find them several isles away holding their hands up and casting me dumbfounded looks of bewilderment. I looked back into the car whose open door I was standing in to suddenly become aware that this was definitely not my car.
If I Don’t See It, Does It Really Exist?
Being privy to my own conversion is fascinating. Sometimes I am my own psychological experiment. I view my past beliefs with a shake of my head. But it also makes me wonder what else I’m not yet awakened to. If we do this with such harmless things as not realizing we need glasses or that half the population owns the same car as we do, what color ‘belief’ glasses are we wearing in other situations? How might our beliefs affect our acceptance of those who are different from us or the way we raise our children or the goals we set….and achieve?
Apply this concept to your current circumstances. Do you believe that you are an inarticulate baboon and are terrified of presenting an idea to your department? First, you have the self-fulfilling prophesy at play. If you believe something enough, it tends to play out. In this example, if you believe you’ll bomb the presentation, chances are higher that you might. Second, you have naive realism, which is the phenomenon we have been discussing. During your presentation, you fumble for words, stutter even though you are not a stutterer, forget your next point…etc. You eventually take your seat, feeling your face burn and wonder if the ensuing fallout will mean the end of your job. Surely, your colleagues have just lost all respect and can’t wait to snicker and whisper behind your back. The few days are long and torturous. You enter the next meeting still burning in shame. And you couldn’t be more floored to discover that the entire team has been hard at work implementing your ideas. All the seemingly secret conversations you’ve been painfully aware of were never about you but about your ideas and how to make them a reality. Maybe your colleagues were aware of your nervousness during your presentation, maybe they weren’t. The fact is, they didn’t care and they were certainly never as aware of your mishaps as you were. It was your belief that you were an inarticulate, stammering baboon; not theirs.