Challenging beliefs

improve self esteemI’ve come across an interesting twist on thinking and how what we believe affects the way we feel. And to reiterate – how we feel and how we view ourselves is at the heart of our self confidence.

In the UK there is a popular TV show called “Who do you think you are?”, in which various celebrities unravel their ancestral history and draw up a family tree. Its quite addictive TV, as often (with much background help from the production team!) they can trace back several generations.

This week they featured actor John Hurt. He had grown up being told by his family that he was descended from an Irish aristocrat. This had always affected him, this belief he had Irish blood in him. When visiting Ireland he felt that “it was his home”.

Unfortunately for John, the programme did not have a happy ending. Far from showing his Irish, aristocratic, ancestry, there was evidence his great grandfather was a bit of a storyteller who created a prestigious (but false) background for himself. He was an English clerk who ended up in a debtors’ prison.

The BBC site describes the tale in more detail, but it doesn’t describe how devastated and crestfallen John Hurt looked when trying to sum up how he felt. He was quite angry when it was suggested it shouldn’t make any difference. After all – he hasn’t changed. His blood has always been the same, without any “Irish” in it.

But what has changed is a belief that had been a foundation of how he saw himself, had been suddenly removed. It was now impossible to sustain any thought that when visiting Ireland, he was “coming home”.

Its worth just reflecting on what beliefs form the foundations of how you see yourself. And how many of those beliefs are formed from irrefutable facts? For John it was a mistake to unravel a belief that was important and helpful to him. But to challenge a belief (“I’m useless”) that is unhelpful and undermines your self confidence could be very beneficial.

Greg Butler September 18, 2007 at 3:41 pm

Yes, it is necessary to always be honest with ourselves and to examine what we have been told. One person I know was never told the truth by her familly about many things and thus did not begin to discover who she was in that familly until she wrote her own story. Thanks for the inspiring example today.

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