Tiny Wisdom: When Beliefs Are Not Facts

“The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.” -Pema Chodron

Most people have areas where they’re willing to accept new information and others where they just won’t budge.

An overweight friend of mine used to believe she needed a relationship to be happy, but that no one could love someone her size. She also believed she was too mentally weak to stick to a diet. The sum of her beliefs: She was stuck in a situation she couldn't change, and, therefore, would always be alone–and as a consequence, unhappy.

Because she believed all those things were facts, she never tried to make any of the positive changes she really wanted. She just accepted that they weren't possible.

I suspect we do this to ourselves all the time. I know I have. For a long time, I believed that I needed to hide my flaws or people wouldn't respect me. As a result, I failed to give anyone the chance–and in the process, made it really difficult to respect myself.

Our beliefs can often limit us, sometimes in small ways, and other times on a much larger scale. Religious beliefs have vastly limited our ability to connect with, hear, and learn from others who happen to see things differently. They’ve even led us to harm them.

Oftentimes, we'd rather cling to what we think is right and cut off 95% of the possibilities available to us than admit we could be wrong. We could always be wrong.

Very little in life is immutable, least of all your limiting beliefs about who you are and what you can become.

Today when you come up against a belief that limits you or the people around you, ask yourself:  What possibilities would I open up if I accepted that this might not be true?

This is an updated version of a post from September, 2009. Photo by The Fayj.

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha's Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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  • Thanks for this post, especially the part “For a long time, I believed that I needed to hide my flaws or people wouldn’t respect me.” I think we can all relate to that! It reminded me of a TED talk I watched recently about the power of vulnerability – .

  • Elizabeth

    I was going to comment on this sentence as well. I did this to such an extreme, I even hid them from myself. I spent decades not really knowing myself or letting anyone in, and instead trying to simulate the person I thought other people would like. This kept me from developing authentic relationships and harmed my marriage until I learned that the reverse was true. Being 100% authentically yourself is essential for true intimacy.

  • Al

    Over the centuries of recorded history, religion has surely caused more war than any other force. And Christianity and Islam are likely the bloodiest.

  • Awesome post, except for the title.  😉

    There is never a time when beliefs are facts.  Beliefs are about facts.

    At least, that’s what I believe.  😉

  • Cavruch

    The wars of the 20th century were sold to the American public based on the idea of the “evil enemy.”  While the root reasons for the US to enter war may have been political ideological differences, in order to gain public support politicians appealed to our country’s patriotism in the form of moral superiority over evil.  sounds like religion to me…

  • Anonymous

    I posted something similar on my blog some time ago. I’m a firm believer that we, at least in our physical form, simply don’t know everything. Truth is relative. We all may have our own “truths”; things that we have experienced or things that we can readily associate ourselves with or relate to.

    Personally, I have seen how some people’s religious beliefs can limit their understanding of the world around them. I’m never one to put down anybody’s religious beliefs, however a lot of the people who I have seen “practice” these religions, don’t fully understand what it is that they are following. They do because they’ve been told to or it’s family tradition or out of fear of not being accepted by others.

    To me, belief is something that a person feels strongly convicted by; something that they hold to be the truth. Belief is something that is an individual practice. I understand the benefits of practicing beliefs with others, but in my heart of hearts it’s more of a personal, intimate relationship and understanding.

    Ultimately, nobody can/should tell you what’s in your heart or what you should believe in but you. That’s a decision that should be reached on your own, through your own experience. What works for one person may not jive for the other. 

    So rather than shut a person out because you don’t like what they “believe in”, try to open up and understand what it is that they believe in and how they came to that understanding. I can assure people that there are more similarities than differences as it pertains to most of the belief systems in this world.

  • Ecoleras

    Honestly, I’m usually right 95% of the time, which sucks, so I actually LOVE being wrong, it gives me an opportunity to learn something new and be right the next time.

  • Lev

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time.  I have had a very rough few years, and with the help of a very good counselor, recognized that most of my problems are because I just will not let go of certain beliefs/fears.  I am now in the process of using positive affirmations instead of always thinking negatively.

    Like with losing weight and getting fit. Instead of  “Oh my gosh I couldn’t even do HALF of those exercises” I now think “Look at what I DID do this time. Next week I will be better and stronger. I am getting stronger and I will continue to get stronger. I CAN do this little by little.”

    I agree that when we get our minds set in s certain direction … if it is good or bad… we tend to have blinders on and only go that ONE direction rather than standing back and looking around.

    Thank you for this post.

  • You’re most welcome! That’s great that you’ve started to re-frame your fitness progress. It’s also helped me to focus more on what I did right than what I did wrong. It’s so tempting to focus on shortcomings instead of successes, but I find when I focus on the the latter I’m better able to create more of them.

  • I know what you mean. The day I decided that acknowledging I was wrong could be a good thing, my whole world opened up. I also released a whole lot of pain. Being wrong stopped being shameful, and instead became a gateway to personal growth.

  • Elizabeth

    Carol – I watched the TED talk you linked to. Wow. Very apropos to my life. Thanks for sharing.

  • Good point, Travis. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

  • Thanks for link, Carol! I actually posted that video on Tiny Buddha a few weeks ago because it had a profound effect on me. I love Brene Brown! I love that her research inspires us to embrace who we really are and fully connect with each other.

  • Well-said! I had a hard time with religion when I was younger because I didn’t understand how I could inherit beliefs. There was just so much that didn’t make sense to me that my family members presented as truth. I think we end up forming a lot of beliefs to avoid the pain of acknowledging how much we don’t know and understand. For me personally, it’s a lot more freeing to live in the uncertainty because that is something I DO know–that I don’t know much!

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  • Greg Gurnett

    Thats very true of me, at least it was.

  • Pete Bax

    Humans needed beliefs to cope with the mysteries that surrounded them they still do but beliefs are not facts. We would not have progressed without them they held the family together.
    Today scientific facts are destroying these beliefs and no one can accept it even most scientists cling to beliefs destroyed by facts, so what hope others?
    When you destroy beliefs you get an Iraq style situation and terrorism.
    Destroying beliefs without replacing them with something better is criminal.

  • Ziad Muhammad

    it is not about religious issue it is the bad use of some people for the religion to gain money or political profits and the bad understanding of others who just obey without thinking , the true measures of religion is to respect humanity and be away from wars. you must read gain more information then judge