A journey I just don’t have a map for
As you all know by now, I love quotes. In one of his songs, Darren Hayes (Savage Garden) sings about “a journey I just don’t have a map for”. I realized that I also talk about “the journey of life” and about finding the map to navigate through it.
I think this phrase describes the way most people feel about life and what they believe about themselves – confused, like they are on a journey without a map, with circumstances that control their lives, without the ability to choose their path.
Every person in the universe is searching for happiness. Our thoughts about ourselves, our self esteem, are part of that one “map” that everyone is looking for, the one we think fits us all. But we all have different experiences and mindsets. Therefore, we each use a different map to guide us to our own happiness.
On our journey toward happiness, we take roads, stop at stop lights, drive through dirt roads and encounter round-a-bouts. Some roads are longer than others, some are shorter. In some, we face junctions, some in which we get stuck at, not knowing what is stopping us.
Our internal map is made up of things that happen to us during our lifetime. This is why there are as many maps as there are people on Earth. Our beliefs are the roads on this map. Our beliefs about ourselves are highways.
If I believe that “people can’t be trusted”, then I will ignore the road called “people are doing the best they can” and never set foot on it. If I believe that “I have wonderful children”, I will ignore the road called “my daughter wasn’t nice to my son”, even if I cross it many times.
People like to take the roads they know, even if they are slow, long or even painful. And the more they take a particular road, the more they ignore other roads.
We each start drawing our maps from childhood. We draw both nice and not-so-nice roads, long and short roads and we use our beliefs as the pencil. We draw roads and signs to allow us to navigate our lives in the future. It is the certainty we draw, the same confidence you have when you hold a map and try to find a friends house in an unknown city.
The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in determination
How do we actually form our beliefs?
There are 5 sources we take our beliefs from: Education, Environment, Media, Past Outcome and Creative Thinking. Our highways – The thick, fast roads of our self-esteem are formed the same way.
Mom, dad or a teacher said something when we were young and thought they were ‘gods’, so we created a belief – a road or a highway. The more they said it, the more defined the road became. “You are a very responsible child”, they said and, sure enough, whenever we had to choose between being responsible or not, we took the highway of “responsibility”.
If they said “you’re forgetful”, many years later, the highway of forgetting would be the fast road we would take it, without stopping to really choose. It just seemed like the only one there.
We look at the people around us, the way they dress or do their hair and we create roads like “only girls have long hair”. We eliminate any trace of “long hair looks good on guys too”.
We grow up in a certain type of neighborhood, where the houses are made of timber, and learn to believe that it’s like that everywhere, not ever being able to imagine tall buildings made of bricks and concrete. We hear a certain language spoken by everyone and expect strangers to be speaking the same language when we meet them.
TV and newspapers have the ability to shape many of our beliefs. Millions of people take roads they only see on TV, like drinking roads or smoking roads, some of them are highways.
Do you know how many women around the world take the road “If I use Revlon’s moisturizer, I’m going to look as pretty as the model on TV”? Other roads like “all moisturizers just add water to the surface and a $3 moisturizer can do the same” are ignored, since the companies selling the $3 product do not advertise on TV (If they did, their product would not cost $3, would it?).
Media has a huge effect on our belief systems. We are taken on certain roads so many times that, after a while, these roads become familiar and comfortable to us.
Remember, all the roads about your beliefs about yourself are highways, once you set foot on them, you go 100 kilometers an hour.
Past outcome is one source of beliefs that goes straight to our highways and shapes our self esteem significantly. If we went through positive experiences we will have high self-esteem, if we went through negative experiences we will have low self-esteem.
During our life, we experience many things ourselves and draw conclusions from them. We smile at people and they smile back, so we decide “if I smile at somebody, they will smile back at me”. We say some nasty things to our sister and get chased around the house and finally caught and we decide “it hurts to be nasty to big sisters”.
In much the same way we form beliefs about what we are good at, what we can and cannot do, how others respond to things we do and so on. Unfortunately, most of our experiences are singular events and are not an indication they will happen again, but we still hold them tight and choose to use those roads or highways again.
Our goals for example, come from our creative thinking. This is a source where we create the beliefs in our own minds. We imagine it will happen and force our subconscious in that direction.
Many athletes successfully use this technique in their training. Since the brain cannot distinguish 100% between imagination and reality, we use our imagination to pretend it is a road that is possible to take.
Unfortunately, feelings of anxiety also come from our creative mind. For example, we have never gone to an interview like the one we are faced with (in the company or with the same exact knowledge) but we are afraid we won’t make it. The thought itself can kill our self-esteem and shrink it long before we sit down before our interviewer.
The only thing that stands between a man and what he wants in life is often merely the will to try it and the faith to believe that it’s possible
We form many of the beliefs without being aware of having formed them. We adopt them from our parents, teachers, circumstances, observations and imagination.
If we look into them and the time when we adopted them, we’ll find that at the time we were young, with a different mindset, in different circumstances and with less knowledge. It may have been in a different culture or a different financial situation.
The circumstances may not be the same now, but that is irrelevant, because every belief we make, we keep until we choose to change it. For example, when I was young and it rained, it was cold and I formed the belief that it is always cold when it rains.
Now that I live in Brisbane, it is hot when it rains and yet I still dress warmly. (The first time it happened to me, I was in Texas, coming out of a Walmart store, when and it started raining. I was wearing a short skirt and a singlet and my body was confused).
Some of our beliefs are so strong that we do not notice other roads, which could set us free. To explain what I mean, I will tell you a story (I love telling stories):
The Little Elephant
One day, a boy went to the circus with his father and saw a huge elephant tied to a tiny stake with a rope.
“Daddy”, asked the boy, “This Elephant is so big and strong and the stake is so small and short, he could set himself free just by taking two steps to the side. Why doesn’t he do it?”
And his father said, “My son, when this elephant was very small, just a baby, he did try to break away from this stake, but he wasn’t strong enough. He tried and tried for months, until he finally gave up, believing that it is impossible to break free.”
He continued, “Now, he doesn’t try anymore, because he doesn’t believe it’s possible. We are the same, my son. Many things happen to us at childhood, which we try to change, but then stop trying. Many of us are still tied with ropes to tiny stakes, just like this big elephant”.
I’m sure you are asking yourself, “Well, does it mean we have to try again and again? When do we learn that certain things are simply impossible and shift our energy to other things?” The answer to that is “Never! As long as something is important to you, it’s possible and you should try to get it again and again”.
You see, Thomas Edison tried 1,500 different types of wire to use on the light bulb. 1,500! Do you understand that if Edison thought like us, we would never have light? In a sense, if we do not think like Edison, we stay in the dark.
Success is determined by those who prove the impossible possible
James W. Pence
In coaching, we learn to examine our belief systems and mainly focus on our highways and sort out our self esteem. High self esteem is thick, solid, modern, fast highways, that get us fast from one place to another.
Low self-esteem is when our highways are wide roads that we take but it has many obstacles, it is old, has deep many cracks and a major traffic jam. Low self-esteem is a highway in peak hours all day long.
If we want to improve our self esteem we need to review our beliefs and leave only the ones that are good for us to have. We need to revise them to suit our new age, culture, role, circumstances and mindset. In other words, we bring our beliefs up to date.
To have high self esteem we need to choose the roads of acceptance, love and motivation, highways that are easy to navigate, where happiness is part of our daily life. We choose roads full of light!
May the light shine on you and may you find your way even in the darkest moments.
Even the sky is NOT the limit
This post is part of the series Self Esteem Mini-Course:
- What Is Self Esteem?
- How School Promotes Low Self Esteem
- Beliefs and Where They Come From
- Social Identity
- Service Your Self-Esteem
- Your Self-Esteem Checklist
- How to Get Rid of Doubts
- Assertiveness and Self Esteem
- How to Be Assertive
- Beliefs of Assertive People
- Ronit Baras’ Success Experience Theory
- Ms Self Esteem has an Identity Crisis
- Conflict Resolution
- Watch Your language or Lose Your Kids’ Trust
- War Between Two Minds
- What if
- What do I Think?
- Awareness is Half the Solution
- Damaging Kids’ Self Esteem
- Boosting Kids’ Self Esteem