Defeating the Self-Perpetuating “Truth”


On our team, we talk a lot about limiting beliefs.

A limiting belief is anything that you hold to be true—whether that is the case or not—that you then base you actions upon, and often they preclude you from doing what you are capable of or need to do.

There is a particularly sinister type of limiting belief that I’ve run up against recently that I’m going to talk about today:

The self-perpetuating truth.

The self-perpetuating truth is a belief that is only true because you believe it. Or to say it another way: if you didn’t believe it, it wouldn’t be true.

I’ll give you an example.

My friend told me that for years and years, she was certain that she was born un-athletic. She was very matter-of-fact about it, and took it in stride. But she made decisions based on that. I’m un-athletic, so there’s no point to working out or trying out for teams or running. That’s just not who I am.

Eventually this friend recognized that to be an assumption, not a truth, something that, because she had taken it as truth, had never been tested. So she decided to test it. She started running. And kept running. Then she ran a half marathon like nobody’s business.

So here’s what this trap looks like:

1. I believe that this truth must be true  (I’m not athletic)

2. I make decisions based on this truth (Therefore I won’t be playing any sports or working out.)

3. The decisions create the truth (I’m out of shape because I never try to work out.)

4. The results of the decisions affirm the truth as true (See? I told you I’m not athletic! Look at me!)

5. Based on this affirmation, I believe that this truth must be true (Start back at step 1.)

Another example of a self-perpetuating truth is the belief that your “station” in life is somehow inherent. That has been my struggle in the past. The belief that somehow, as an inherent trait, as a birthright, I am a have-not. Some people just have it. I don’t.

When you believe that, you’re the victim—there is nothing that you can do! Why would you try to build wealth and break out of the hamster wheel if there is NO POINT!? Why try? No one wants to strive in vain. If your effort is guaranteed to come to naught (after all, who can fight off an inherent trait like that?) then why expend the energy and undergo the pain of failure?

Another one I’m running up against a lot—brace yourselves, this is mildly political—is the idea that “If you don’t vote for one of these two candidates, it’s a wasted vote!” The irony is, that is only true because people believe that it is true. If they didn’t believe it to be unquestionably true, (and I’ll refrain from expounding on who I believe is propagating that truth) and decided to vote in line with their beliefs, that very act of defying that “truth,” would unseat it.

It is the fact that people believe that it is true that causes it to be true. It is self-perpetuating.

We can use this idea of a self-perpetuating truth in the positive direction as well.

Did you notice, in the list of 5 steps above, that it is a cycle? What if the cycle went like this:

1) I believe that I am a healthy person.

2) Since I’m a healthy person, I’m going to eat like one, exercise like one, act like one.

3) Since I’ve been eating so well and exercising so regularly, I’ve gotten a lot stronger and my body fat is way down.

4) Loot at how strong and lean I am! I believed I was a healthy person, and this proves that I was right.

5) I’m a healthy person.

What if we used this as a tool? What if we specifically began to choose what we believe rather than accepting “truth” that is fed to us?

What self-perpetuating truth has you under the thumb right now? What do you believe is true about yourself that you’ve never had the courage to question or challenge?

Conversely, what self-perpetuating truth do you want to put into place? What will you choose to believe, to the degree that you’ll allow it to affect your actions?

The way to defeat a self-perpetuating truth is to identify that it is not a truth, it is an assumption and a lie. It is a limiting belief.

No more accepting lies that we are fed as truth. Time to test what we’re sold, and choose what we believe to be true.

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