“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” Albert Einstein
The other day my 5-year-old declared to me: “When I grow up, I want to be a Jedi, a knight, a ninja and a power ranger.” I love the wonderment of this age! He actively believes he can be all of these things. (Of course, all four jobs sound fairly awesome!) I would never tell him otherwise because his imagination and beliefs are cementing at a rapid rate. So, what happens to us at a later age that we doubt ourselves and our abilities?
What is a Belief?
Simply said, beliefs are our personal truths, that may or may not be backed by factual certainty. Yes! Just because you believe it to be so, doesn’t mean you learned it from a book or a legitimate source. They can easily (and often) come from how we perceive an experience or environment.
Beliefs form the basis for our thinking, shape our emotional responses and result in actions, in and out of our conscious awareness. Beliefs steer our relationships, our choices and every decision we make. They are a big deal! Philosophers have studied beliefs for millennia.
Psychologists and neuroscientists feel the imprinting stage—where our beliefs are set—occurs somewhere between age five and age 8. During this period, we are sponges, absorbing what’s around us and accepting nearly all of it as true. Let’s say that you were told you were “bad” when you were 6. You may have taken this literally without putting it into context. Are you a bad person? Or did your mom really mean that your behavior was bad? Phobias often originate during this same time, generally from the years of 3 to 7.
Many sick behaviors form during this time as well. What is your “sick routine?” Do you believe chicken soup heals? Do you only drink ginger ale when your tummy is upset? Most of these ideas and beliefs about your sick health came from your childhood! Your views on sex and sexuality, your weight, how you care for yourself, all originate from this tender age group. Most often parents don’t even realize they are passing on these beliefs to their children (please don’t call your mothers to retract any Mother’s Day gifts—their beliefs are set from their parents, too). By the time you arrived at the tender age of ten, most of your core values – which stem from your beliefs – had been formed.
Our beliefs can empower us – or limit us.
The choice is completely ours to make. While many of the beliefs we acquired as children served us well – some are simply habituated patterns that sap our energies and continue to produce the same unwanted outcomes. Even the remotest of experiences can create a negative belief. Can you think of any that you have?
I hope you would never think about dashing the hopes and dreams of a small child. Dig in and find your 5-year-old self inside. Are you living the life you hoped? Maybe you’re not a knight, or an Olympian or a princess. But are you living the ideals you dreamed? And what negative beliefs can you pick out in everyday life?