I asked Anne Miner, "How do you know who you are?" After a brief pause to consider, Anne told me a story about what we learn, what we believe and the agreements we make with ourselves.
Throughout our lives, we form beliefs based on what we learn. We learn from our parents, family, school teachers, friends, neighbours, co-workers when they praise, criticize, punish and reward us. The inputs we accept become the agreements we hold about ourselves. What kind of person we are. Whether we are beautiful. What we can and cannot do. Whether we are likeable. Whether we are loveable. Whether we are "good enough."
What we believe about ourselves empowers us, gives us courage, guides our behaviours; beliefs can also hold us back. Self-limiting beliefs rob us of our confidence and prevent us from achieving our highest and best.
Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, outlines four specific rules or agreements we should make with ourselves and with others, in order to have a life free from self-limiting beliefs.
Allow me to explain...
Agreement #1. Be impeccable with your word.
When one is impeccable they have integrity. When one has integrity with their word, they speak truthfully, mean what they say, and keep their promises.
Think of this agreement as a promise to yourself that:
You will think carefully before you speak and only promise that which you know you can deliver
If you are not able to deliver, what or when or how you promised, own it. Don't pretend you didn't promise or that others misunderstood, be accountable
You will only speak what you believe to be the truth (validate what you hear with facts before you repeat it)
Agreement #2. Make no assumptions.
When we assume something, we accept it without evidence, facts or proof. When we fill in missing information with assumptions; these assumptions can, and often do, lead to false or erroneous conclusions.
For example, we may assume that someone is ignoring us when they don't return our phone call or answer our email or text message. And, that assumption may lead us to thoughts, acts or conclusions that are not appropriate, applicable or helpful.
Consider the possibility that your message may have been lost; lost in the ether or lost in their junk/spam folder, in either case, the recipient hasn't had an opportunity to receive your message and thus cannot be ignoring you. Or, something may have happened in the recipient's life that is preventing them from responding: a sick child or a car accident.
Give other people the benefit of the doubt and you will be happier.
Agreement #3. Take nothing personally.
Often we allow ourselves to be offended by comments or actions that other people make. Similar to the point above about making assumptions, we attach malicious intent to what may simply be a thoughtless comment or a result of lack of awareness that you could be hurt.
I often advise, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by ignorance." Now, this quote is sometimes to attributed to Robert J. Hanlon as Hanlon's Razor; which is generally stated as: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." Sometimes "incompetence" is used instead of "stupidity". I don't use Hanlon's version as it expresses a negative assessment whereas in my version, the person is neither stupid or incompetent, they simply don't know any better.
What other people think about us is beyond our control and it really is "none of our business."
Agreement #4. Always do your best.
Our best is the best we can do, in the moment, with the resources available to us including time, energy, money, knowledge, skills, and abilities. We must give what we have to give with the knowledge that in another moment, when we have more resources, when we know more, or have acquired new skills, or have more time, we will do better.
Remember, we are Thursday People! And, Thursday People subscribe to Maya Angelou's belief that when we know better, we will do better. And, we will forgive ourselves and everyone else for what we did before we knew better!
I have found these four agreements to be both powerful and empowering. The first and the fourth agreements have been much easier for me to abide by than the second and the third. And, like you, I am a work-in-progress!