Reclaiming Your Authentic Self: Transforming Subconscious Beliefs for Wellbeing
If someone said to you that you will live your life based on the experiences you had and subconscious beliefs you formed when you were less than 6/7 years of age, how would you feel?
Interestingly, this is in fact what the majority of us do as adults, from our personality patterns, our beliefs, thought patterns and relationship to emotions – they’re all formed by circa 6/7 years of age.
To use a relevant analogy, it would be like working from the software version that was in place anywhere between 20 – 50 years ago for most of us.
As you can imagine, this might be somewhat outdated given all of the life experiences, skills, knowledge and resources we have amassed in that time. The challenges we’ve faced and come through, the learning and insight we’ve gained, the emotions we’ve felt, and the changes we’ve lived through are all in our psyche somewhere. However, unless we have reason to or decide to dive deep into why we think, feel and act the way we do, they’d just be sitting on top of our ‘old programming’ that’s hardwired into our subconscious.
The relationship we have with ourselves and with others also stems from this time. We all have a few really core emotional needs as human beings, and these are: love, safety and boundaries. These are deeply imprinted on our subconscious and shape a whole manner of things in our makeup, such as our self-esteem, self-image, our world view, how we relate to others, the decisions and paths we take in life and how we show up. You’ve probably heard of ‘attachment theory’ – simply put, this is how our primary caregivers related to us and those immediately around us when we were growing up and this is the basis upon which we will form relationships during our life from this point on (unless something significant changes this).
Some people will have been fortunate to have these core emotional needs met. However, its a sad fact that many of us didn’t get these needs met in the way we needed. That’s not to apportion blame to anyone – families did the best they could with the resources they had and the blueprint they were given by the generation before them and the generation before them and so on. It doesn’t mean that we had bad childhoods, it simply means that there is still work to do for ourselves, to take ownership for fully meeting those needs now in our adult lives. Gaining awareness and building these emotional muscles in ourselves is a fundamental step in being as psychologically and emotionally well as we possibly can be.
How often have you caught yourself replaying old patterns, even when they don’t feel helpful or we dislike the behaviours that show up in ourselves and we wonder why we are doing this?
Maybe its about overworking or overgiving to feel worthy, loved or appreciated. Or perhaps its about having to get things right or perfect or to be the best to be seen or heard. Or we keep choosing the same kind of person over and over again in relationships that don’t work out and/or make us feel bad or feel there’s something wrong with us. Or maybe emotions are really uncomfortable or overwhelming for us to feel, especially those like sadness, anger, despair, grief, disappointment, rejection or shame, and it wasn’t ok to show them or discuss them in our family environment.
Or maybe we avoid, ignore, disconnect from or push down our own needs and put everyone else before us, because it feels selfish to focus on ourselves. Or that we never felt we fitted in or sought comfort in other ways to feel able to cope, but these aren’t making us truly happy.
How does this impact our wellbeing?
Often we don’t stop to look back at our ways of being and living long enough to really explore how well these strategies are working for us now. It is often through life-changing events, such as major career changes, significant health issues, family changes or deep loss that we stop, or are stopped, to take a fresh, hard look at what is going on beneath the surface of day to day life.
It usually means a major turning point, where we catch the unconscious ‘programmes’ or messaging and realise the impact this is having on us, our wellbeing and happiness. And the opportunity it can present, if we are able to take it, to actually change the narrative and therefore alter the course of our lives for the better, even if we wouldn’t have chosen the reason for the ‘hard stop’ in the first place.
Recognising the ‘cost’ of certain thought patterns, limiting beliefs, views of ourselves and/or the world around us, i.e. what impact they may be having physically, mentally or emotionally can be really helpful to know what to address and to harness the impetus for change.
Well, when we ask ourselves the question “is this behaviour / way of thinking / strategy helping me to be a healthier, happier version of myself or not?” it can help to shine a light on what we need to keep or let go of. It will have helped us to an extent for a period of time, otherwise we wouldn’t have kept using it.
As we learn new ways of being in the world, we update our resources, skills and knowledge and develop new strategies that may actually serve us better now. And we want to be able to replace the old ‘programme’ (thought pattern, belief or behaviour) with the new one, to help us evolve and grow as more self-aware and enlightened human beings.
What can we do about this?
The good news is that we all have the ability and importantly, the choice to change those beliefs and behaviour patterns that once upon a time were helpful and served us, but now hold us back from fulfilling our true authentic selves and living our fullest lives. Even when it feels as though there’s no choice, there always is. It may not be an easy choice and it may mean there is work involved, but these changes can be necessary, to really become who we were always supposed to be.
We can bring those personality patterns back into balance, harnessing the unique strengths we all have that may have been overplayed or just need a bit of redirection to ensure they’re pointing the way we want to go. We can make healthier choices that actually serve us better in the long run. We can transfer knowledge, learnings and insight and choose different, more resourceful ways of being to better align and support ourselves.
The analogy is often used about peeling back layers of the onion. Often it is a case of, removing the labels, roles, hats or masks that we’ve worn or played for many years, one by one, and unbecoming all that is not us, to realise who we have always been underneath. Our lives are busy and full now, we can’t add more hours to the day, but we can free up space, energy or capacity to spend it differently.
This is the journey back to our true, authentic selves. It is the life’s work too, so we don’t need to let the inner critic beat us up for not having this all figured out already! It’s a process, not a task to complete once and we’re done. We can all cultivate the mindset we need to serve our own purpose in life. Getting to know what is important to us is key: what we care about, what we’d make a stand for, what resonates so much it, it lights a fire in us and physically vibrates or pings.
We also don’t have to do this on our own, there are many people whose purpose in life is about helping others to go along this self-discovery journey with us. Professionals including coaches, therapists, and counsellors, can provide independent and safe support to work through these areas with you. In addition informal support can be really helpful from mentors, good friends, partners, groups you may belong to of like-minded and like-hearted people – there is plenty of help there, sometimes the hardest step is to recognise we need it and to ask for it.
We can often gain a lot from just writing down what is in our mind, without judgment or analysis, journalling or ‘flow writing’ can help to surface what may be just beneath in the subconscious. Once its in our conscious awareness, we can then explore it and work on transforming the unhelpful patterns into more helpful, resourceful perspectives, thoughts and beliefs that align and support where we want to move to.
Where to start?
1. The first step is to look at your life now and asking:-
- Where is there imbalance or unhappiness? Where is my life not working or not bringing me fulfilment?
- What thoughts and beliefs do I have about this?
- Which patterns am I playing out that aren’t helping me?
- Which beliefs am I holding onto that could be holding me back?
- What would I change if there were no restrictions and nothing else to consider?
- What am I not making use of, that I know I have experienced, learned or gained at some point in my life?
- What gift do I need to give myself, that I would readily give to, or advise, others to do?
- What do I know deep down I need to change to be happier and healthier and more fulfilled in my life?
- What’s making me happy and why? Where else could I apply this in my life?
2. Then think about what internal resources you have available to you already that may help?
3. What external support would be useful?
In conclusion, our upbringing and early experiences shape our beliefs, thought patterns, and behaviours, often leaving us with outdated programming that no longer serves us. Recognising the impact of our subconscious beliefs and patterns is crucial for our psychological and emotional wellbeing. We can begin the journey of personal growth and change through self-reflection and the willingness to dive deep into our psyche.
The good news is that we have the power and choice to transform these outdated patterns and beliefs. We can bring balance to our personalities, make healthier choices, and align ourselves with our true authentic selves. This journey of self-discovery is a lifelong process, but with the right mindset and support, we can make meaningful progress.