I was capable. Wasn’t I?
I was 23 and lived alone in New York City. For the next 8 years I toured the world, and managed a wholesale travel company.
These were all things I knew how to do and loved doing.
But what happened when I didn’t already know how to do something? Or when something didn’t come easily to me right away?
I’d find someone else to do it … or sometimes, I’d just fail to take it on.
For example, my friend Deborah made my kid’s Halloween costumes when they were little. I didn’t bother because I didn’t feel I was good at it.
Yes, I could travel to foreign countries but I couldn’t figure out how to sew.
Why was I able to take on some challenges, but would be completely blocked by others?
If you’ve read our blogs, emails or videos, then you know the answer.
It has to do with beliefs.
And in this case, the beliefs were blocking the learning process itself.
How do we form beliefs that inhibit learning?
Here’s how it happened to me.
My mom deeply loved me and wanted to make sure that I was happy, so she did her best to keep me from feeling disappointed or hurt.
When I was a child and I was struggling to do something my mom would take it from my hand and lovingly say “I’ll do it mamala” (a Jewish phrase meaning little sweetheart).
While I enjoyed that at the time and it seems sweet, it didn’t help me learn to overcome difficulties. In fact her doing things for me prevented had the opposite effect because I concluded “I’m not capable.”
This explains why I had such a hard time if I wasn’t good at something right away.
Of course some parents go too far the other way and give painful criticism
My father was one of these.
Now I must mention that my dad adored me. I was his angel face.
But when I did something wrong he would say “Enhhh” (like the buzzer sound on a gameshow) “You don’t use your head.”
As a result, I formed beliefs like “Mistakes are bad” and “I’m stupid.” I became afraid to screw up and look stupid.
That impacted my ability to learn because learning is difficult when you’re afraid to fail.
Later on in life my father and I talked about this and he said “I would have ripped my tongue out if I had know how what I said affected you.”
So yes, he cared as most of our parents did. But he didn’t know the impact he was having.
A third behavior many parents have that can interfere with a kid’s learning is evaluative praise.
In the book “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk” the following example is given that makes the point about evaluative praise.
Imagine You have an unexpected guest for dinner. You heat a can of cream of chicken soup, add some leftove chicken, and serve it over Minute Rice.
Your guest says, “You’re a great cook!”
How do you feel? (really think about it before reading on …)
Do you feel like you are really a great cook based on this praise?
Or do you feel like maybe this person’s judgement isn’t too great?
Or maybe she just wants to make you feel good.
Or you might think “If she only knew how little effort I put into this.”
Evaluative praise can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes it will be accepted but other times it may create feelings that produce anything but confidence that we can learn and grow.
Some people form beliefs that make them feel like they are a fraud as a result of hearing praise they thought was over the top from well-meaning parents and others.
So how can we free ourselves from these limiting beliefs?
My husband created a six-step process to do that called the Lefkoe Belief Process.
Here are the steps:
- Get in touch with a belief.
The easiest way to do that is to say the words of the belief out loud and notice how it feels. It will feel true or negative.
- Find the events that lead to the belief.
Ask yourself “What are the earliest experiences that led to my belief?
- Find alternative interpretations.
Come up with 5-6 different ways to interpret those events that you can see now that you are older and have an adult’s perspective.
- Realize you didn’t see the belief.
It seemed as if you could see your belief when you saw the events. Notice that you can’t really see a belief. You can only see concrete events taking place. People saying and doing things. But you can’t see a sentence floating around anywhere.
- Realize there is no interpretation that’s inherent to the events.
Notice that the interpretation existed only in you mind NOT in the events.
- Check and double-check that the belief is gone.
Say the words out loud again. Really look for the same feelings that were there before. If you can’t find them, then the belief is gone.
One way to make this process easier is to try our free belief-elimination program found here. The videos guide you through the process of eliminating a belief.
Something that truly felt true will feel untrue … or just plain empty. Try it today if you haven’t already.
To sum up,
Many of us have formed beliefs that make it hard to learn.
Many of these beliefs were formed from early experiences in the home (but not always).
If our parents did too much for us, or were critical or gave evaluative praise, these experiences may have led to limiting beliefs.
We can get rid of those beliefs using the six steps of the Lefkoe Belief Process.
Eliminating negative beliefs can allow you to regain your love of learning.
After I got rid of the belief “If I can’t do something right away it means I can’t do it”, I was able to be comfortable with not knowing.
And after I got rid of “Mistakes and failures are bad”I was able to not only take feedback but welcome it.
Here’s an example. One of my great passions in life is Latin Dance. I began taking private lessons at the ripe old age of 56 about 11 years ago.
At the beginning I thought I was a really good dancer because I had won some mambo contests when I was younger. I felt that I had a natural rhythm and I knew how to move, so I thought it would be easy to learn.
What I didn’t realize was that I learned EVERYTHING wrong. For example, I moved my hips instead of changing the weight on my feet in order to move my hips.
Every nuance, every distinction I learned from my teacher was new … and I reveled in the learning. I was not only able to take feedback I begged for it. I didn’t beat myself up or feel sad.
I was a true student and loved learning.
The best part was that when I did a performance with my teacher. I knew I was far from where I wanted to be but I put the video up on Youtube because I was so proud of how far I had come.
I tell you this so you know what’s waiting for you when you eliminate your own beliefs.
The joy of learning.
The joy of making progress.
The joy of doing something without the inner struggle.
You gain this joy by eliminating the beliefs that hold you back.