What is a mistaken belief? I am fully aware that a belief is a belief and in this sense cannot be mistaken as it is what it is. So we perhaps ought to call them unhelpful or limiting beliefs. But for me a mistaken belief is one for which its premise is mistaken, one that has been formed from false or inaccurate knowledge, a belief that’s underpinnings are suspect.
I want to point out I am not going to talk about religious beliefs here, those are for each and everyone of us to explore individually and come to our own conclusions.
The beliefs I am talking about are perhaps even more fundamental to our understanding of ourselves and our place in is world. A personal example. I lived from childhood up into my forties with the belief I was no good at English and cannot write. This I now understand I learnt early on at school due to a teacher heavily marking mistakes in my writing, I am not good with spelling, (praise be for spellcheckers!) I learnt to write only what I knew I could spell, which wasn’t a lot. I remember moving to one school and on the first day was asked to write a story at least a page long, I was in tears at the end of the lesson as I could only manage a quarter of a page, that has stayed with me all this time. I only realised I can express myself on paper when I start writing a journal forty years later.
We can live with such beliefs through all of our lives and we may not notice their effect. If we believe the world is flat or the sun is a fiery chariot in the sky it doesn’t make any difference to our daily lives. But think about the beliefs you hold about yourself, what do you think of yourself? Do you like yourself, are you important to yourself? What do you think you are good at and what do you believe you are bad at? This one belief I held that I cannot do anything that involved English led to avoiding any career that meant I might have to write anything. I ended up working in Computer aided design, I have had a successful career. But I always loved history and reading and the world of ideas. This world felt closed to me until now. What different paths could my life have taken?
From the very moment we are born, we start learning about the world and in our early years we start forming our beliefs about the world and about ourselves and where we fit. We form them from the world around us, our parents, our playmates and other significant people including teachers. We create conclusions from what we experience but we are creating them from a child’s view point, absorbing without the ability or experience to make judgements, if you hear that your not as clever as your sibling, you may carry that thought through the rest of your life or the only way you get attention as a child is to be naughty, that’s a lesson in how to get what you need in life.
The belief we form in childhood, we carry through the rest of our lives, they are held at the core of us and drive how we react to the world we inhabit, whether we boldly face it or turn away, whether we greedily grab at everything or keep things at a distance. What are the beliefs we hold that keep us from living our lives as we desire, are their premises correct or mistaken? As adults is it not worth looking at these beliefs and explore them, look at how they impact our lives, do they hold us back or push us forward are we holding onto beliefs that were helpful as a child but now have become a hindrance. What should we hold on to and what should we let go?