Today class, I would like to discuss our internal belief systems, and how they impact our psyche.
In his book; Thrive (possibly the cheesiest title EVER, but the book is pretty good) Rob Kelly highlights what he calls a ‘locus of control.’ Ok before we even begin, this phrase really irritates me because I had to re-read it ten times before I actually understood what it meant! Why can’t psychiatrists, councillors and other leading experts just use NORMAL language? Dear Mr Expert, please be aware that you’re not teaching an academic lecture, you’re preaching to a woman who is on the edge of a cliff whilst drinking gin,(metaphorically speaking… except for the gin.) So please don’t push her any further with your mystery words!!
Basically, locus of control = how much a person believes that he/she can control their own lives. So in affect, the term ‘life control’ would’ve been enough, (albeit slightly dumbed down for me, but whatever.)
Anyway, now that I’ve finished ranting about the use of language we can get back to the point. According to Kelly every person has a locus of control which is either ‘internal’ or ‘external.’ Those who have ‘internal’ believe that they can directly influence events and make positive changes, in order to survive in life. They can bounce back from misfortune and don’t focus on negative experiences. For example; I didn’t do very well in my exam. Therefore I will study harder and do better in the re-sits. Whereas, those who have a strong external locus on control tend to feel powerless. They find it hard to believe that they can make changes to their lives and rely more on external people who make decisions. They also attribute the majority of their successes to luck. E.g. I didn’t do well in my exam because I’m stupid. There is no point doing a re-sit because I’ll only fail again. I’m just an unlucky person. Consequently, thinking this way makes them feel hopeless and their mood levels will plummet accordingly.
Up until 2013 I had a very ‘external locus of control,’ particularly in regards to my anxiety. I thought that unless a miracle drug was invented, (I’m still waiting) then I was doomed to be controlled by my anxiety forever. It was only when I started to jot down the recurring negative thoughts which circulated through my brain, that I considered the possibility of altering them. It was my brain after all, who else could control it? (Except Kit Harrington… I would do anything for Jon Snow.)
So here’s my advice to you. When you have a good twenty minutes of free time, write down the five strongest negative beliefs that you have about yourself. In particular, the ones that prevent you from trying new things or taking chances. They might be something that you heard as a child, or you might’ve thought of them all on your own, it doesn’t matter.
Here are mine:
1. You are stupid/thick/an idiot
2. You are weak and can’t cope with anything
3. Nobody likes you
4. You can’t speak in public, you will humiliate yourself
5. You are going to lose everything
Reading that back is brutal, but it’s incredibly useful. I’ve found that it’s best to get such thoughts out of your head and into the daylight where they can’t hide.
After writing your list go through each belief one at a time and evaluate how truthful it is. For example:
1. THOUGHT: You are stupid/thick/an idiot:
Why do you think that?
Because I am, nobody has ever viewed me as being intelligent.
Do you know that to be an absolute fact?
Where did this belief come from?
A School teacher and my Masters university tutor.
So two women out of all the people that you have met in your life called you stupid and you believe them over everyone else? Do you really think that you should value these people’s opinions so highly?
They labelled you as ‘stupid’ and it hurt your feelings deeply. As a child you were more susceptible to such harsh words. It’s ok to feel wounded as this is human, but it doesn’t mean that they’re accurate. There could’ve been a multitude of external factors, such as; they were having a bad day and took it out on you.
On paper have you succeeded academically?
Yes, I have a BA and an MA degree.
Do you have a job?
Would you describe a person who has two degrees and a job as being stupid?
So let’s just say that this thought is highly flawed and cannot be verified. Instead we’ll label you as a smart and very capable woman, who has successfully achieved two higher education qualifications and secured a job in a coveted industry.
Now, this exercise might seem like the most cringe worthy thing in history, but it’s a solid way to diffuse the negative beliefs that leave you feeling powerless. Again, this might sound cheesy, but if your internal locus of control (self-belief) was as strong as your external one then imagine what you could achieve. Perhaps it’s time that we started to believe in ourselves more?
Fortunately, Mr Rob Kelly asserts that it is easy to improve your locus of control if you put the work in. I won’t relay anymore of his book as I’m worried about copyright infringement! However, I will say that his book is definitely worth a read. Just be patient as he uses quite a few drawn out examples…..
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to fall asleep on the tube. I missed the gym last week and it’s had a massive impact on my energy levels. Dam you self-righteous exercise and your healthy ways!